A continuation of the needs : wants debate … Do you know the difference for you?
I spoke about Maslow on 26th August. American analyst and writer of ‘Primal Scream’ and other ground breaking works, Arthur Janov has an interesting explanation for this, disagreeing with Maslow.
He includes the need for love as a level 1 need, perhaps even more fundamental than the need for food and safety. As proof of this, he cites hundreds of examples of the way institutionalised infants fail to thrive when not handled and ‘loved’ by staff, in spite of having all their other needs fulfilled.
Regarding the needs : wants debate, according to Janov’s theory, when a need is not fulfilled in early life, the individual experiences what he calls Pain, with a capital P. There is a certain logic to this because the non-fulfilment of level 1 needs poses a survival threat to a young organism, which must result in considerable stress, and we know from numerous studies that stress has a profound and potentially fatal effect on the body.
Janov goes on to suggest that this Pain is stored as a memory in a cumulative fashion. Each time a need is not met, Pain is the consequence, and is stored. There is only so much Pain an organism can process, and a point is reached when a ‘split’ occurs, and the individual is no longer aware of their needs in an immediate and organismic sense. Henceforth Janov contends we respond only to wants, and these wants are subconsciously driven in the direction of fulfilling our originally unfulfilled needs. Because we are no longer responding to our original impulses but to a shadowy memory, we will never be satisfied, no matter ‘how much’ of the desired outcome or object we achieve. That could explain a lot in our society, couldn’t it?
According to him, this process of disconnectedness accounts for the obsessive nature of much of society, and the inability of many to reach a point of inner peace. The inability to satisfy Maslow’s level 1 needs clearly makes it more difficult to move on to the fulfilment of higher order needs. Although the specifics of this theory are not universally accepted, it does draw attention to the distinct differences between needs and wants.
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