The holiday season seems to either elicit generosity or triggers desire for all those things we are told we need.  Marketing convinces children that they need all sorts of toys or video games in order to be happy. Adults are not immune.  Our technology is moving so fast that we are constantly convincing ourselves we need to keep up and buy the latest cell phone, mp3 player, computer, TV, camera, etc.   And of course all these extras cost money and I wonder how people pay for all the services attached to the latest devices.  And, not only is it the extra money that is of concern but it is trying to understand how everything works. Many of my friends have the latest iphone or ipad or lap top.  If I allow myself to get caught up in it, I start to panic that I will be left behind.  I start to think that I need this stuff.   This is a slippery slope to setting myself up for feeling unhappy. (I define being happy as feeling at peace no matter what is happening around me.)  So given the season, I thought it appropriate to have a discussion about the difference between wanting something and needing something.

Barry Neil Kaufman (Bears) director of the Option Institute and author of the best-selling book, Happiness is a Choice says that we can have lots of wants but turning a want into a need causes unhappiness.  For example, I see a beautiful dress in a store.  I start to visualize how glamorous I will look in the dress.  I decide it would be perfect for the holiday party I am attending.  I decide that I would not look as good in the old dress I was going to wear.  I convince myself that the new dress will help me feel good at the party, that I need it.  So I decide to try it on but the store does not have my size.  I am greatly disappointed and temporarily unhappy because I decided I needed the dress in order to be happy at the party.

Children can rapidly turn wants into needs.  We teach this to them.  How many times have we bought a toy or item for our child in a store just to avoid a scene?  My son, Tyler, would convince himself that he needed a plastic sword or a basketball shirt, etc.  It was usually a toy or item associated with his latest obsession. He would need it to make him feel good about himself.  When I would say no, he would be terribly upset because the item became essential to who he thought he needed to be.

This turning wants into needs works in every aspect of our lives.  When it gets big we have more difficulty letting go.  For example, we are moving to New Mexico in the summer.  We need to sell our house in order to have the money to complete the building of the house in NM.   I can feel myself beginning to panic if on some slim chance our house does not sell. We are so far down the road preparing to move, it has become a financial necessity to move.  This just ups the ante of making the move to New Mexico a need instead of just a want.  Therefore, I will be unhappy if it does not happen.  Even though I know inside that where I live does not determine whether or not I can be happy, at times I allow myself to panic (feel unhappy) with the thought of what would happen if all of this does not work as we want.

This works in relationships also.  One of the reasons we struggle in relationships is because we decide a person needs to be a certain way for us to be happy.  We have been taught that it is someone out there or something out there which will allow us to be happy. We judge and blame our spouse, partner, children, parents, or friends for our unhappiness. Making wants into needs in relationships becomes especially acute when our children get labeled with a disability or disorder.  The label becomes a focus of our unhappiness.  We decided before the child was born that we needed a normal child for us to be a happy.   We need our child to be this and that for us to be happy.  But when we do this we deny the essence of our child.  We teach our child that their label is more important than who they are.  The label becomes more important than their gifts and strengths so they can feel unloved, unwanted and defective.  And all of this started by believing we had to have a “normal” child in order to be happy.

The question to ask when this happens is why you would give your power to be happy to someone or something else. Does this serve you?  I cannot control another; I am not responsible for their spiritual path or their life.  That is their responsibility.  I am responsible for my own happiness, no one else.  Happiness or peace comes from within not from some person, or event, or item which exists out there.

So I see all of this as part of my life lessons in this spiritual classroom, to trust that no matter what happens I am OK.  When I look back at times of crisis or difficulties, the outcomes have always been for my higher good, although they may not have seemed so during the crisis.  And it feels like a paradox but when we release the need for a certain outcome everything falls into place in the best way possible. Therefore there is no reason to turn wants into needs because I have the ability to always be at peace wherever I am not matter what is happening around me.

Categories General Spiritual Musings | Tags: | Posted on April 15, 2011

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