A Question of Need

Need. People throw around this word all the time.

I need… You need to… I may need…. Do you think I need….?

Sometimes it is innocuous enough–when we don’t mean it literally and the person we are talking to knows this–but other times it means a great deal. This, I think, is where it can be dangerous. So I have tried consciously to remove it from my vocabulary.

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A Question of Need

Did you ever stop to wonder what we are saying when we use it? “Need” is a definitive term. When we say it we start to believe the truth of what comes after it. I need to buy that. He needs help. I need to go. I need to talk to you. This is a huge problem. If we need something, it means we are inadequate or incapable the way we are, by definition. No wiggle room.

I need to talk to you, or else.

Or else what?

‘Or else’ is not an option I need to talk to you, period.

“Need” more describes what we want rather than a necessity for survival. In essence, we’ve  eliminated any alternative option (even if it is subconsciously) since we chose what we want, and so we have created that choice to be the only one available. For example, I need to go to the funeral, means you would consider no other choice besides going since you want to be there, are available, and/or feel like you should. So when we express our choices using the word “need,” we create whatever it is as a locked-in-definitive. And forget we have had a choice in the matter. This can be disempowering and is the source of a great deal of stress in our lives.

When we think in terms of need, we lose track of our agency. (That we are an agent in our life, can affect our world with our responses, and that we have choices.) I am not suggesting not going to the funeral. You can still chose want you “needed” (wanted, chose), but notice it is your choice. When we see our choice, we feel empowered, rather than disempowered.

When we don’t see our choice we feel a bit out of control of our lives. As if, we don’t have access to something other people have. Something is missing, or absent. When we see our choice, we feel robust, energized, and perhaps even more willing, which translates into less anxiety and stress. (Always a good thing!)

Question Need: Try this

Try to catch yourself when you use the word “need” for the next few days. Notice how often we utter it.

See if you can substitute a more fitting, empowered word. I want to, I have decided to, You can, She would like, I will try, He can benefit from, etc. Observe and notice your relationship to those things changing. See if your stress level changes.

We need to heal the negative effects of the word “need.” Oops! (Maybe if I put quotes around it, I am not really using it.)

Seriously, what do you people think? 

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24 thoughts on “A Question of Need”

  1. Harleena Singh@Freelance Writer

    Interesting Jodi!

    Yes indeed, when we use the word – need – we lay more stress on doing something that needs to be done. It’s kind of affirmation that lays stress on things that have no option, but to get them done.

    This word doesn’t leave us an option or a second chance to take up or do something else, which is why I am careful while using it too. It’s better to use the terms I want, desire, or will try that give you an option or a chance to think.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. But ‘need’ stresses the urgency of what we…need. 🙂 It’s not a want or something we would like to happen. Need says it must happen. But I get that it’s used in a fairly loose fashion.

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      I know what you mean, we do use it for that, but that is also my point! Metaphorically is works to express this passion, but when it’s the truth, there is judgment there. 🙂 thanks for coming over, Tots!

  3. I didn’t notice before reading this post how often I used the word “need”. I need a break, i need help, I need to eat something, I need to say something. I understand now the difference with i want although i didn’t think of it before.
    Maybe the ‘need’ gives less guilt than “wanting”???
    Saying I want something gives me full responsibility, then if it turns bad, I am the only one to blame, whereas when it’s a need, it gives the option of ‘i had no other choice”?
    I think it’s easier for me now to say i needed to do what i did for the children’s sake rather than saying it’s what i wanted.
    Maybe I’m wrong, i don’t know, but now I see the difference. Thank you <3
    Nikky44 recently posted..I died at the age of 44My Profile

    1. Nikky…I love this one from your comment…”Maybe the ‘need’ gives less guilt than ‘wanting’???”

      That’s another bright shiny light on my possible motives…awesome! Thank you!

    2. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      No, Nikky, you get it! Need is both an excuse for judgement and an invitation to it. You decided it was the best for the children! <3

  4. The words we use are so powerful. I experimented once with changing “I have to…” to “I get to….” Big difference. Same with “need.” Especially when the subject is You, as in “You know what you need to do? You need to….” I’m going to take your suggestion and try to pay attention to my use of this word. Thank you !
    Galen Pearl recently posted..The Dance of FearMy Profile

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      I love the idea of changing to I get to! I’m going to try that! Words create meaning, and are so limited! It’s gret to be aware! Thanks, Galen!

  5. Solid gold creativity

    Great point, Jodi. The only things we actually need are water, food, air and sleep, because if we don’t get them we can’t survive. Using the word “need” is usually about trying to dominate a situation or person (including ourselves).

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      I love that interpretation. It is very much about trying to get power! You said what I was trying to say!
      Thank you for the comment! Great food for thought!

  6. Wow Jodi. I wonder how many times I have “innocently” taken away my own power in a situation. Thanks for pulling away the blinders on such a key idea. I choose to keep any eye on myself over the next few days and see how much I will need to change that habit. And in that case, I think “need” might have been the most appropriate choice.

  7. I’m thinking that not using the word “need” so often will help strengthen my relationships with other people. Here’s a small example… The phrase “You need…”, even when it’s something positive, like “You need a hug!” or “You need a vacation!” Can be interpreted by the recipient as being judgemental, and depriving them of options. So, imagine when it really isn’t very positive; how that can hurt!

    When I turn to myself and say, “I need…” I am putting myself up against the same feeling of being criticized, and feeling choice-less.

    Most often it just FEELS so much better to use an alternative word! Thanks for the great ideas!
    Amy Colburn recently posted..My Biggest {Littlest?} DistractionMy Profile

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