Musings on Needs and Wants

by Simon Goland, December 15, 2020

I was recently challenged by my coach to look into the theme of my needs and wants, within the context of my primary relationship. Simple, right?! How difficult it can be to know what one needs and wants? Well… let me count the ways…

A bit of background first, which – as it often is – goes to my upbringing, and like many other things in my life these days, looking at it through the lens of the Enneagram helps deepen the understanding of the struggles, challenges, and occasional insights. This past musing can help with extra clarity around some of the basic Enneagram concepts.

My early-to-mid years included a blend of unfulfilled promises and moving targets that I could never meet, all through the lens of a translated-from-Russian upbringing motto of “quieter than water, lower than grass” (similar to the English version of “children should be seen and not heard”). What it meant is that there really was no point in having any needs or wants, because these were never considered and usually ignored. Or worse, being punished for having expressed any of them. Promises made by my parents, primarily father, were like loose statements that would always/almost-always) change or be “forgotten,” and the conditions to achieving them constantly moved. Like the magician’s “now you see it, now you don’t” tricks, time and time again, my young and growing self learned to protect itself from yet another disappointment by developing what appears to be a very logical strategy – not trust anything that was not initiated by me. These long years and experiences were instrumental in the evolution of my very strong self-sufficient and self-reliant orientation – or personality – to life. Very appropriate for a Type 8 on the Enneagram, who will “do life” his way, because – well – nobody else will be able, willing, or want to. Over time, it simply became safer to keep everything to myself. And then, forget about it and start believing that this is life and this is who I am. This, too, has been my personality whispering and running the show.

“There is a saying that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. The teacher comes when the soul, not the ego, is ready. The teacher comes when the soul calls, and thank goodness—for the ego is never fully ready.” – Clarissa Pinkola Estes

As I embarked on this recent journey into this rabbit hole, I started getting present to how this mechanism still holds me in its tight grip. How challenging it actually is to connect with and start seeing what I am after. It is no wonder, really. In this case, contrary to what “they” say, the devil is not in the details but in the philosophical idea that the great accomplishment of the devil was convincing everybody that he doesn’t exist. Hence, why bother looking? Which means, my personality and this particular element I am inquiring into really does not want to be discovered and brought to light.

There is a visual metaphor for me, which is a ball of colourful yarn that I am needing and wanting (no pun intended) to unravel. I am searching for a loose strand, something that will give me a tangible starting point. During a recent gathering of several close and dear men, all part of the Mankind Project, one offered a perspective that proved to be very valuable for me. “To me,” he said, “needs are something that is non-negotiable, whereas ‘wants’ are things I can be flexible with.”

“A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.” – Jorge Luis Borges

Now I am called to remember, to learn to tap into what I want and need, and then be able to express it. And, again, where do I start? As I am currently facilitating a follow-up inquiry to the Right Livelihood Quest, I thought that I might start with one of the Why Me?© Framework dimensions we use with the participants, the Deepest Pain (also known as the Sacred Wound in some psychological healing modalities). After “taking some of my own medicine,” I came up with the need to be accepted, as is, within the context of our relationship. It felt good for about a day, until my beloved provided me with some observations and feedback on a particular behaviour of mine, and I realized that feedback and the “need to be accepted as is” do not reconcile. Great.

Yet, the conversation led me somewhere, and what emerged is the need to be seen. Fully, in the brightest light and the darkest shadows. This one feels true, deep, and vulnerable. Now, there is plenty more to unravel in this ball of yarn, yet at least I am holding to a beginning of a thread. Deep breath, and onward… meaning, inward.