Dr. Gregory Jantz

Do Your Wants Masquerade As Needs?

June 29, 2019

Who hasn’t viewed an irate toddler in a store, yelling at the top of his tiny lungs, demanding the object of his heart’s desire? In the mind of that boy, he needs the candy, the toy, the bag, the box, or whatever. In his mind, what he wants is what he needs.

I found myself in the grocery store at the end of a long day, needing to pick up a few items on my way home from work. I was tired, distracted, and just wanted to be home. It turns out I wasn’t the only unhappy person in that store. A couple of aisles over, a little girl began keening loudly. I admit, grocery stores are incubators of human nature that I find irresistible. So, I walked over to observe.

Usually, I’m most interested in how the adult in the situation deals with the child. Believe me, over the years, I’ve seen a variety of styles — some that have made me smile, and some that have made me cringe. This time, however, I was focused on the child.

This two-year-old was gesturing desperately, fingers extended, at some object just out of reach. The important thing to me wasn’t what she was looking at, but rather how she was seeing it. In her mind, the object wasn’t a mere want, it had become a need. When her mother denied it to her, she became absolutely bereft, carrying on in a way only a despondent, denied toddler can.

As I made my way through the checkout line, and back to my car, I kept thinking about how this kind of behavior is typical of small children. But I had to ask myself, do we ever really get over that?

You’ll find the same thing in adulthood: wants masquerading as needs. When we were two, we cried out to a parent to fill our heartfelt desired; as adults we endeavor to fill them ourselves. Once a desire has been categorized as a need, we’re pretty resourceful at finding a way to fill it, even when our methods are addictive, damaging, or hurtful.

Add to that our concept of “rights.” Once we have identified a desire as a need, we tend to demand the right to fill that need. Deep down, we seem to acknowledge that a desire doesn’t quite meet the level of a basic need. Desires can be selfish, but a need is always a moral necessity. Once our desire gets translated into a need, it becomes a necessity in our lives. We are pretty militant about getting that newly defined need met.

Are you ready to take a deep, hard look at your own self-identified needs? If yes, I encourage you to evaluate the excess in your life and read this post. There is a questionnaire available for you to download.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE in Edmonds, Washington, voted a top ten facility for the treatment of depression in the United States. Dr. Jantz pioneered Whole Person Care in the 1980’s and is a world-renowned expert on eating disorders, depression, anxiety, technology addiction, and abuse. He is a leading voice and innovator in Mental Health utilizing a variety of therapies including nutrition, sleep therapy, spiritual counseling, and advanced DBT techniques. Dr. Jantz is a best-selling author of 37 books and has appeared on CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN.