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Ashwood Therapy Blog

Want vs Need

Getting what we want is high on most people’s list of priorities.  After all, if we put the hard work in, make the sacrifices, show commitment and focus, what’s wrong with getting what we want?


I guess the answer to the above question could be “there’s nothing wrong at all”, yet sometimes I wonder whether it always does us good to get what we want, when we might benefit more from getting what we need.  Here in the U.K., most people will be familiar with the phrase ‘5 a day’, referring to the recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables which we are advised to eat between waking up and going to bed.  There is some controversy around exactly whether five is the right number, yet most would agree that eating that kind of food is generally better for us than other fare.  Why, then, do some of us want a pretty big slice of chocolate cake more than a bag of healthy carrot sticks?  We might treat ourselves with the cake for having achieved something difficult, or might indulge on a special occasion such as our birthday.  It’s not the best thing for us to be eating, sure, but once in a while it probably won’t do us too much harm.  As part of a balanced diet, a little of what we want will do us good.  That is, as long as we are also getting what we need.


So, does this translate into the psychological world too?  I would argue that yes, it certainly does.  People who can tell the difference between what they want and what they need seem to show more resilience and a greater level of wellbeing than those who can’t.  Although, for instance, we may find relaxing difficult, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to do it.  Some pride themselves on being ‘workaholics’, yet such people can become unstuck when a particularly stressful event or situation pushes them beyond their limits.  If you like the buzz and adrenalin rush of being in a demanding job, that may certainly be what you want, yet it doesn’t mean that you don’t need to take a step back regularly to recharge and rest.  Learning how to let go and unwind can be a tricky challenge, yet I would argue that it is also a very necessary one.


People often present in the counselling room with difficult feelings, and these are sometimes the result of them not facing up to the fact that while they don’t really want to do x, y or z, really they know that to move forwards they need to acknowledge and address some area that they have been neglecting.


If you were to take a sheet of paper, divide it into two with a pen line and label one half ‘want’ and the other half ‘need’, how easy would it be for you to fill in that sheet accurately and honestly?  Would there be any changes you might have to make having carried out this activity?



Rob Oglesby MBACP (Accred) B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy


Ashwood Therapy provides a discreet, confidential and professional online counselling service by encrypted video call, live instant messaging and secure email.  More details, including tips on wellbeing and information on current counselling session pricing, can be found at www.ashwoodtherapy.com


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Want vs Need | Ashwood Therapy Blog