Most of the times I have difficulties expressing my needs. I always had it this way. But only recently I realised that it was the case. And most importantly how fundamental this ability is, it affects me and relationships. In my experience in individualist Western society, needs are associated with weakness, neediness, dependency, shame and vulnerability. And all of these are undesirable qualities because they increase the probability of failure. And as we know failure is a no-go. We only hear everywhere that it is ok to fail but when it comes to actual reality, it is not allowed. It seems that on rational level we understand that this is the way to go but when we need to embrace it for real, emotions stand in the way and don’t allow to practice failure. Failure is a very interesting topic to explore one day, but for now let me stay with the needs.
I love etymology as one might notice. My inner etymologist is an indivisible part of my personality. When I was thinking about needs, I discovered that the word has an interesting story to tell. It apparently comes from the root nauti meaning death, to be exhausted and later it transformed into what is required, wanted, or desired; necessity, etc. This discovery, you can imagine felt like a real treasure. I couldn’t wrap my head around the connection. And came up with two possible interpretations. And please allow me a speculation. I want to emphasise that my arguments are probably quite thin but it feels appealing to use the opportunity to use death and need to throw in interesting some ideas into the dish I am cooking. I kept questioning if this connection points to our incarnated death drive and every need we have is a set towards it. So, the intrinsic desire for self-destruction creates a need which we need to satisfy to move closed to our full disappearance. In that case, can we use the experience when our needs are not met to learn how to except the transience. So in a way recognising that your need can never be fully fulfilled can be liberating.
If I look at the relation between etymological concepts from a different angle, though, I arrive at the opposite interpretation. Need comes from the desire to escape death. So we need something so strongly that we feel if we don't get it, we will die. I found both interpretations very interesting to play with. There is a certain danger and tension. And I like that. Tension mostly reveals truth.
When thinking of needs, the concept needs as gifts comes to mind. It is used in nonviolent communication approach in person-centred psychology and designed to increase empathy. The concept of fundamental need and necessity of their gratification is at the core of their methodology. When talking about needs as a gift, the main idea is that when we express our needs, we create a purpose for he other person to be. By saying what we need, obviously without demand and judgement, a connection can be forged. Perhaps, these threads of exchange, where we can be in service of each other, can create collective purpose-making machinery. This train of thought, throwing purpose into the mix, got me to the interesting insight about how we outsource responsibility for our purpose on others. The world constantly has to prove to us that we are useful, thus important. Such an unusual realisation, isn’t it? I wonder how does the Other feel in relation to us, when she has to create meaning for us? My best proposition is, to create sense of surprise for each other so we can move together. And that is why the ability to express needs is crucial for the purpose-making process. Without being able to say it openly we end up with a purpose alien to us. Not sure now how to weave death and desire into the purpose but I definitely felt the need to bring up those guys into today’s story.