Real & False Needs

We go through life very conscious of what we need – or what we think we need. Which is a real need, and which is a false need? Which needs should be gratified, and how should we go about this?

What are real needs and what are false needs? In the first place, whatever is real at one period of a person’s life may be utterly false and unreal at a later period. What is a real need for a child is not at all a real need for an adult. When the growing person denies the pain of an unfulfilled real need, this need does not disappear. On the contrary, the denial of the pain of its unfulfillment perpetuates the need and projects it into a later time and onto other people, so that it becomes a false need.

Let us take a specific example. A child needs to be taken care of, needs solely to receive care, nursing, good feelings, attention, and appreciation of its own uniqueness. If these needs are not fulfilled, the child must suffer. If this suffering is accepted and worked through on the conscious level, the person does not remain crippled, in spite of what many would want to believe. What does create a crippled state is the belief that this pain can only be eliminated when the person is finally given all that was lacking, even years later. This can never happen, of course. For even if it were possible for an adult to finally obtain substitute parents, ideal and perfect according to the notions of the deprived child, for the adult all this giving, coming from outside the self, could never bring real fulfillment.

The fulfillment so painfully longed for can be attained only when you, as an adult, proceed to search within yourself for all that you still look for outside of yourself. This must begin with self responsibility. If you remain stuck on blaming your parents, making them and life responsible, you deprive yourself of the vital center of all good within you. Only when you search to alter your own attitude and discover that your suffering is induced by your attitude now, can you begin to find security — the security you once looked for in the sustenance given you by others. Anxiety will disappear to the exact degree you search within yourself for the cause of your present suffering.

And this suffering is the denial of the original pain and the consequent negative and destructive patterns of feeling and thinking. When people begin to assume true self-responsibility, they will gradually also cease  to wait for the good feelings to come from outside. They will be less dependent on being praised and loved because they will be able to give themselves the self-esteem they could not feel when remaining demanding, resentful children. This is yet another step toward being centered within the real self, rather than hanging on to another. This, in turn, increases the ability to have a strong flow of good, warm feelings, and nourishes the desire to share them rather than spitefully withhold them. The ability to experience pleasure from within the body and soul, and offer it to others, becomes a real alternative to greedily insisting on receiving. All these increased abilities will fill the emptiness created by the child’s unfulfilled need.

The more the pain of the unfulfilled legitimate need remains unfelt, or only half experienced, the more false needs will fill the personality which then is bound to make demands on others. When these demands are not being fulfilled, the resentments — and often the venom with which cases are being built against life and others — increase one’s sense of deprivation, so that a continuous vicious circle seems to entrap the person in a state of hopelessness. It is not too difficult to rationalize a case and produce a blaming accusation. One can always find actual, imagined, or exaggerated and distorted reasons for focusing the weight of responsibility outside of the self. Since all this is subtle and concealed, it requires specific attention in self-observation and self-honesty to see this process at work.

Only when you are capable of admitting your irrational demands and of seeing how you want to deal out punishment to those you blame can you truly understand the connections I make here. What are the real needs of an adult? They are self-expression, growth, development, reaching one’s spiritual potential and everything that accrues from that. This means pleasure, love, fulfillment, good relationships, and a meaningful contribution to the great plan in which everyone has his or her task. When a certain amount of growth has taken place, this task begins to be felt and inwardly experienced until it becomes a reality.

Download Lecture 192: “Real and False Needs”

The practice: Meditate to know your irrational demands on life. Think about how and why you suffer – and try to find the inner cause of your suffering. Know that you can give yourself the self-esteem you need, and pray for the inner resources to do it.