• Anything that is necessary but lacking
  • The psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behaviour
  • Require as useful, just, or proper

Part 1 – Objects

What do you need? I mean really need? You may answer: A new car, to help you get to work every day, or a new washing machine to clean your clothes, as your old one is broken.

You need a bigger house as your family is growing. You need a pay rise because you can’t afford to pay your bills. You need a holiday because your work is too stressful.

But would you say you actually needed all these items?
These are all modern day requirements (anything indispensable), but would you say you needed to have them? Maybe we should use the words “nice to have.” It would be nice to have a new car to help you get to work every day, or nice to have a new washing machine to clean your clothes as your old one is broken, or nice to have a bigger house as your family is growing. When we discuss need though, what are we talking about? Is it something that is necessary for the healthy functioning of the system like food and water, or are we talking about this “nice to have?”

Let’s start by saying that in order to survive, we need food and water, but we also need clothing, shoes, shelter, and warmth. To avoid disease, we need a sanitary system to dispose of the waste products, and we need to have a job to earn money to pay for these things. You see, in the beginning, when we lived in caves, wore animal skins, hunted or gathered our meal every day, and went to the toilet outdoors – as animals continue to do today – our needs were limited. But as we, and as a result, society became more complex, we began to need things not necessary in cave dwelling times.

Urban communities

Modern post-industrial revolution society has been organised into high density living areas, close to places of work, where people with little in common, live very closely. Most of us do not know our adjacent neighbours at all, apart from brief hello’s, and maybe invites for dinner, and certainly don’t know anyone who lives more than 200 metres away or on another street, unless it is a friend we work with, went to school with, or play sport with. As a result, this has lead us into creating compartmentalised lives, relying on no one in the outside world – becoming insular in our approach to the rest of society.

It makes sense that we have had to acquire items which allow us to operate on our own without the need to rely on other people, or we employ companies to do work that needs doing, like plumbing or electrics. In fact, most of us feel embarrassed or unwilling to ask a neighbour for help with something, even if it means making our lives more difficult.

How many of us would ask a neighbour if we could use their washing machine or toilet, as ours is broken, or share a lift with them to work, as we don’t have a car? Few if any, I’d guess, and even if they were asked, neighbours would grumble and complain about the inconvenience of it. “Do you know they had the cheek to ask me to take their kids to school the other day,” even if your children go to the same school.

As communities have broken down, and been replaced with independent people who just happen to live next door to each other, the need has increased to be self-reliant. So when you, or I, who live in an urbanised setting says he needs a car to get to work, there is a genuine requirement for this, as you need to get to work to pay your bills!

Rural communities

Let’s look at the rural community for a moment, and take a small village as our example. There are, say, 150 people living there, all with different skills; a small school, or village hall and a local pub.

How many of you have tried to move to the “country” and found they didn’t fit in? This happens quite often, as people with money decide they want more space and a bigger house, and to live in a nice environment. The only problem being, that you bring your independent, self-reliant attitude with you, where you don’t need help, and you don’t think anyone should ask you! But you see, rural communities aren’t organised like that.

How many of your neighbours in the city would drop round with some eggs, or apples because they had too many? How many would help out because your car had broken down, or ask around to see if anyone had any work because you had just been made redundant? People in rural communities share more, even if it is only time they are giving you.

They meet regularly to discuss the village, they will provide assistance willingly. The whole village becomes like an extended family. They are different because they want to be involved with each other, they are contributing to the well being of the village in addition to making money for themselves. I am not suggesting rural communities have the best way of life, I am illustrating the differences between rural and urban communities.

Who knows, perhaps things have changed in rural communities and they have become like their urban cousins?

But let’s get back to discussing need vs. nice to have.

I think all of us would agree, that if it came to it, we could live in mud huts, wash our clothes in the same water we bath in, go to the toilet in the ground, and gather food every day, but that is merely surviving, not living, isn’t it? And as we have come so far, it seems a pity to have to go back hundreds of years. Let’s say that the basic needs for “living” in today’s world as opposed to just “surviving” are the following:

  • A house or flat with hot and cold running water, electricity for lighting, and cooking, a kitchen area to prepare food cooking utensils, a room for sleeping and a room for living and a flushable toilet.
  • Several items of clothing and shoes.
  • Basic toiletries, like toothpaste and soap.
  • Some form of heating if you live in a cold country.
  • A job that pays for the above.
  • Access to health care.
  • Access to education.
  • A telephone for communication.
  • Access to basic foodstuffs for sale.
  • Access to a washing machine to clean clothes and linen.
  • Access to public transportation.

What do you think, is that a fair list? I’m sure a lot of you would like to add tv to that list, but I think that’s a “nice to have” don’t you? Everything else must be a “nice to have,” from holidays, to pay rises, although anyone in a low paid or stressful job may disagree. What one person needs, another just wants to have.

For me, the concern is that we are starting to confuse desire (an inclination to want things) with need (anything that is necessary but lacking). If you replace the word desire, when you say: “I want a new tv,” to “I desire a new tv;” “I desire more money;” “I desire a bigger house;” it suddenly feels sordid, as if you are doing something bad, and “immoral”, but I think we have come to a point in our acquisitiveness that to replace need with desire would be much more grammatically correct.

People in africa need fresh clean running water
I need a new tv
People who have lost their homes in floods need somewhere to sleep
I need a new dishwasher
Children who are starving need food I need somewhere to sleep
I need a new king size bed for my bedroom
I need new tools to farm my land
I need some new power tools


People in africa need fresh clean running water
I desire a new tv
People who have lost their homes in floods need somewhere to sleep
I desire a new dishwasher
Children who are starving need food

I need somewhere to sleep
I desire a new king size bed for my bedroom
I need new tools to farm my land
I desire some new power tools

This does not mean that desiring a new tv is a good or bad thing. I just believe that it is important to differentiate need and desire. It is important to show them as two opposing states, and maybe when we start to transpose desire over need, we will begin to think about what it really is we need in life – what the ultimate need that will make us happy is. Although we all feel happy when we get a new tv. Right?

Part 2 – Emotional needs

We have discussed need as a physical expression. We have explored whether the need is necessary for human survival, or if it is just nice to have – which we have labelled desire. But there is another human need; one very basic, and one you can’t buy, no matter how much money you have. It is the need to feel love. To love another human being and to feel loved yourself.

We talk about people having emotional needs. A need to satisfy something you can’t find physically in the body. A need that one cannot see, or show to another; a need for something invisible but very real to the person experiencing it.

I need you, I really need you. How many of us have used that expression? Who do we use it to?

Certainly not a co-worker, friend, or family member. We use this to someone we care deeply about, someone we love, whom we share a special relationship with. Someone who makes us feel happy whenever they’re around. So need, in this case, is perhaps an expression of love. Not need, as in possession, but need in the sense of I want to be close to you and show you how much I love you.

I think we can all agree we “need” to feel something. A need to not only feel but express our emotions, ranging from fear, to hate; from anger, to love; from joy to sadness.
Expressing complex emotions makes us human. It shows the world we are not just a machine but emotions can be all encompassing, engulfing. We can be overwhelmed by them, unable to cope, unable to deal with life; or filled with energy, with love, and with joy.

Have you seen the face of a man at a birth
filled with joy, light beaming from his eyes
How he loves the child, he would do anything for her
His life is complete, he feels at peace

Have you ever seen the face of a man who has lost a child
tortured with sadness, inconsolable with grief
How he loved that child he would have given his own life
Just for one more minute with him

When we are talking about the need to feel. Some people would say that feeling any emotions is better than feeling none at all, but I would say we only need to feel love. I don’t wake up in the morning and think: “I need to feel anger,” or “I need to feel jealousy!” I may wake up in the morning and think I feel jealous, or I feel angry, but I don’t actively need to feel these emotions. Why? Because they are negative. I only need to feel positive emotions, that’s why I need to feel love. I need to feel loved.

As a child, how would you feel if you could not feel love from your parents? How many children around the world have this need denied to them by coming from broken or violent homes?

When a child’s emotional needs are fulfilled, he grows up complete, ready to express the same love to his children. But when they are not, he still needs to feel love from someone, but is unable to give it in return.

I need love, nothing else.
When I love and am loved
I am complete.

BY alan macmillan orr

‘the natural mind – waking up’



Posted in

, ,

If you find alan’s work helpful consider Making a small one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount


Or enter a custom amount


Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly
Chinese (Simplified)