A burrito is not a Need. I don’t give a fuck how much you like burritos or how often you visit Chipotle. You don’t need a burrito. You will never need a burrito. You need Sustenance and Comfort. The burrito is just one of countless strategies you could use to get those needs met.
Duh! Right? Simple. But not necessarily easy to practice. When you really understand the fund-a-fucking-mental difference between Needs and Strategies it will dramatically reduce the amount of bullshit you eat and attempt to force-feed others.
Human needs are universal. Everybody is hardwired with the same set.
We all need Air, Water, Food, and Shelter to keep our little fucking hearts pumping. But there are other needs that we share on the surviving to thriving continuum. Needs like Belonging, Communication, Connection, Humor, Support, Meaning, Mattering, Understanding and Self Expression, to name but a few. When our needs are being met we are thriving and tend to experience enjoyable emotions. And we have opportunities every day to experience our discomfort as either an occasion to lash out at someone or as a biological GPS navigating us back to our unmet needs.
Having needs does not make you “needy.” It makes you human. And there is only one person on this planet responsible for meeting your needs. Guess who that is?
Expecting others to meet your needs is what makes you “needy.” That does not mean that we don't authentically lean into others for support. It just means we don't make them responsible for our needs.
Here is a powerful key to radical self-responsibility that I really want you to wrestle with: Everybody is always doing their best to meet their needs with the resources they have available in the moment.
Everybody. Always. (And I don’t use those words lightly.)
Every action, no matter how elegant, tragic or costly, it is an authentic attempt to meet a universal human need. Strategies are learned (fucking conditioned). Needs are hardwired. Our resources (inner and outer) vary from day to day, hour to hour.
Despite how easy it might be to look back and say “I didn’t do my best. I could (should) have done better...” the fact is yes you did and no, you couldn’t have.
He did. She did. They did. Hindsight is a resource we never have at the moment of choice.
You can light all the incense and activate all the chakras you want, but until you come to terms with this fundamental existential fact you will waste precious mental and emotional resources judging yourself and others.
Most conflicts take place at the level of strategies, not at the level of needs. Despite the natural tendency to preference certain strategies, no need is dependent on any single strategy.
When we get all puckered around a particular strategy and lose sight of the need it is meant to meet, then we often become brittle and experience a sense of scarcity. “Oh no! The burrito shack is closed! I guess I’m just going to starve…” And when we get connected to the need beneath the strategy or feeling, then it is way fucking easier to get creative with how to meet it!
Back to Pat and Chris and the dirty dishes:
Pat says, “God you are lazy, Chris! And clearly you don’t give a fuck about me or the house being clean.” We have established (in Elabotration #1) that this is some classic Projection Bullsh!t, and has a high probability of starting an(other) argument.
This is how it translates into actual feelings and needs: “Chris, I feel pissed off when I see the dirty dishes because I really want ORDER and BEAUTY in our home and I need SUPPORT with that. And I am so disappointed because I want to TRUST that when you say you will do something, you’ll do it.” (Needs capitalized for dramatic effect.)
Real. Vulnerable. True. This is called No Bullsh!t authenticity.
Now, you might be rolling your eyes at this point wondering… “Who the fuck talks like that?”
I feel you. This is the point in the scene where the director of the “Bullsh!t As Usual Show,” a.k.a. the ego, throws his hands up and says, “What?! That is not in the script!”
Cleaning up the Bullsh!t means changing the script.
It means taking a couple breaths before you open that mouth so you can be clear about your intentions. Do you want to punish someone for the feelings you have? Or do you want to connect with someone about how to meet your needs? It is one or the other.
That moment of pause, and that awkward attempt to change the script, could save you hours of pointless arguing or days of cold shoulders and eggshells.
Choice starts with awareness. Now you know there’s a No Bullsh!t option. Having the courage and skill to use it is what we call “next level shit.”
Needs are, admittedly, a kind of weird language unto themselves. One way to get at them intuitively is to ask yourself, “What would having this actually get me?”
Ultimately, like any new language, it takes practice to actually gain fluency. I encourage you to take a look at this pretty fucking thorough list of needs and write down a few that you would like to meet more fully in your own life. In fact, print that shit out and stick it on your fridge!
Your feelings and needs fucking matter! Talk about them next time you are tempted to start an argument and see what happens.