As I sit here in my empty apartment a weird feeling settles over me, it feels like insecurity mixed with sadness and excitement – we are moving home, city and country. Everything I own is packed and carted away and each room echoes with the nostalgia of a hollow drum played to an empty village square. Rooms that were once the helms of existence where critical decisions were analysed, victories celebrated and losses mourned (with liquid encouragement of course) now lie empty, powerless, with nothing to offer.
As I look around, I find myself questioning why having stuff you own around you can make you feel secure. Is it simply that (by applying physics) the weight of our possession serves as an anchor to ground us, stopping us from floating off at the whims of a capricious society that is otherwise spinning out of control? Or do our possessions and quests for ownership shed light on inner wants and needs?
What do we buy when we buy a product or service; is it the physical item itself or the feeling that item promises to give? For example, what do you purchase when you buy a car, its huge metal carcass and fancy gear system or the feeling of comfort, exclusivity and excitement that the brand promises? What about purchasing a dress, do you pay for the textile and workmanship or the attention and sense of wellbeing wearing that dress might bring? And how about cosmetic creams and stuff – are we buying tubs of lard or the somewhat ludicrous promise of security and acceptance inspired by our never ending youth?
Assuming that our possessions do shed a light on our wants and needs – how could we use this information in daily life?
Firstly, we could differentiate between a ‘need’ and a ‘want’ because the line between the two gets pretty blurry and that’s when we get into trouble with possessions and ownership. A ‘need’ is the feeling inside you which must be satisfied and a ‘want’ is how you choose to satisfy the ‘need’ so you are fulfilled (or you think you are fulfilled until that illusive feeling of fulfilment slips through your fingers). For example you are thirsty, you feel uncomfortable, you ‘need’ to settle your thirst to feel comfortable and you can do this by having water, coke or beer. You decide you ‘want’ water… your feeling is settled (temporarily at least).
‘Needs’ are universal, they are what makes us human, we all share the same ‘needs’ and aim to satisfy them. The need to satisfy these ‘needs’ is what creates that energy we call motivation. On the other hand, ‘wants’ are personalized, individualistic and shaped or influenced by society, particularly advertisements, marketing and peer pressure. ‘Wants’ are a way of expressing our individualism and while this can be fun, it is important to remember that only ‘needs’ can be satisfied. The more you have, the more you want and the more you want, the more you want – trying to settle ‘wants’ leads to a life run under a tyranny of the unnecessary where you feel controlled by the fear of losing your possessions.
Secondly, we could learn to regularly tune in and identify our ‘needs’ by being mindful and taking time out of everyday life to sit down quietly, phase out all the noise society creates via media, advertisements and peer pressure, so we recognize our own feelings and inner voice.
Finally, we could learn to make a habit of identifying the needs we attempt to fulfil with a particular purchase, then asking ourselves how stable this tactic/option is and how else could I fulfil this need? The trick is to remain as objective as possible.
So, back to me sitting in my empty apartment – I realized that the feeling I was feeling was telling me about my needs. Like most people, I need security and a sense of belonging. How could I get security and build belonging? Perhaps talk to the hubby about investing in an apartment or house; a place called home. Isn’t that how we settle our need for security and belonging?
Yes, a place called home – certainly important when you are a half Pakistani, half Nigerian woman whose German husband decides to work in China…
Till next time, remain safe!