Thursday, December 22, 2011

Needs vs. Wants

I had a basic phone, but then I conformed into the New York blackberry/iphone world
I had an ipod shuffle for 5 years before getting an 8GB Ipod nano

 I had one tote bag, but had to buy a new one for fashion purposes.

What do I have now?

I have a laptop

I have an ipod

I do not have a phone and do not want one

Before leaving New York, I reflected on how many unnecessary things I had and what I really needed to live. I wanted to make a change in my lifestyle of buying a new outfit for each outing, excess shoes, clothes, and purses.  I practically gave away my whole wardrobe to  the thrift store or just threw away most of it and traded it in for a pair of gym shoes, sandals, a few pairs of pants, and some shirts.  It was time for a change and I feel liberated with a backpack on my shoulders and few items of clothing.  Moving from LA to New York, I gradually started to improve my behavior by using a few purses, keeping a few pairs of shoes, but I still continued to buy new clothing frequently.  I love fashion and clothing, but there is such beauty in letting go.

Needs and wants are two things that I reflect on increasingly as I work on self improvement, but also addressed with clients in a reflective, psycho-educational manner.  As we get older, our needs and wants shift depending on a variety of factors including: income, lifestyle, environment, family, and relationships.  A person may live simply and be happy, but then win the lottery and live in luxury.  A person may live close to the poverty line, but always be shopping for new clothes. A  person on welfare may not have no money for food, but still buy cigarettes. 

As human beings , we can psychologically train ourselves to let go of our wants and focus on our needs with behavioral modification.  For examples, the things I need are basic food, water, and shelter and God.  My wants are usually involving food and some sort of sugar.  I can address these wants by self regulating them i.e. putting myself on a rewards system.  Of course, it is not easy to let go of wants that we have become accustomed to receiving for years and years.  But we CAN shape our behavior by monitoring the needs that are coming into our lives. 

Our society impacts what we want/need significantly.  In USA, we think that we need expensive electronics, phones, computers, and televisions and we also have a focus on having an excess of things.  In Western culture,  "Bigger is better" whether it is a food portion, a car, a phone, or a hotel stay. With material possessions, many feel better with these possessions and maybe using these possessions as a defense mechanism to what they really need and crave.  It maybe spirtuality, a greater sense of well being, or a quest for love/attention that they really need or desire. 
A person may conform to societies needs or have the self discipline to focus on what is truly important to you.  I had a blackberry and I realized it was not important.  I downgraded to a normal phone that still had internet, but I realized that was not important.  And then I realized a phone in general was not that important and this need turned into a want.

Some  electronics are more difficult than others to label as needs vs wants.   For instance I love my computer to write and I love my IPOD to listen to music.  These are still wants, but I feel so attached to them it makes them feel like a need.  The feeling of attachment or necessity can turn something into a need, but is may just be a want at the end of the day. 

Also, overtime society has turned wants into needs i.e. a television and cable.  One may think that this is a want, but has developed into a need.  In Cambodia, a person maybe living in a floating village with little amenities, but they still have a television.  With the wave of technology, there has been a shift with our needs.  It is interesting how cultures in developed and undeveloped countries value a television with cable.  I recall an interesting debate in social work school where a student who encountered many hardships listed that a cable was a necessity for her.  This put the class in shock and created a debate on the necessity of television for low income populations.  In my mind, it is still a want vs. a need, but this is debatable. What do you think?

When addressing wants/needs with clients-those of lower socio-economic status and many utilizing state welfare and medical benefits.  It is always interesting what comes up with this topic.  Cigarettes, television, and fried foods were needs while a mansion and a fancy car were wants.  Due to their environment and their own mental health state-they shape many wants into needs and always come up with justification of some sort for their decision.  It is quite interesting and englihtening as to what Western culture makes us feel dependent on.  Any thoughts on this topic?

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