For me, the word “need” (as a noun) points to the essential, intrinsic energy that impels movement toward survival and thriving within living organisms. In other words, the power that motivates all behaviors.
Essential means “absolutely necessary”.
Intrinsic means “inside, coming from within” the organism. (The dictionary says “belonging naturally”.
Motivational means“spurring action toward a goal or outcome”.
Energy means “that which is non-material and contains potential to sustain and enrich the organism”.
Impels relates to a forward, directional impulse.
Movement implies dynamic, ever-changing motion.
Survival means “to have the necessary resources to continue living.”
Thriving naturally follows survival when abundant resources exist beyond the minimum necessary means to continue life and the organism has access to those resources. Thriving enhances survival as it increases the likelihood of long-term sustainability.
This energy contains a quality of intelligence, wisdom and compassion that continuously scans through observations (both external and internal) and determines whether pain or pleasure exists; it then motivates an organism to move strategically towards that which it senses will reduce pain and/or enhance pleasure. (In other word, sensations signal the organism about the state of its needs from moment to moment. Requests naturally emerge when the organism experiences discomfort, because of the deep impulse emanating from “needs”.)
Additionally, “needs” make meaning for the organism, contributing to learning ever more effective strategies for fulfillment. This is what I mean when I use the word “value”, which is more or less synonymous with “need”.
For me, the word “need” (as a verb) points to two levels:
1. “I need ___________” means “I require ________”, and if I do not get it, I will feel pain or suffer damage or even death.
2. “I need ____________” means “I yearn for a shift from what is, right now, to what could enhance and/or enrich my life; I notice pain in the present and move toward that which I yearn for to reduce my pain and sustain and/or enhance my life. Yearn means to long for. It is interesting for me to note that the archaic definition of yearn is “to be filled with compassion or a warm feeling.”
As I finish this reflection, I remember Marshall’s response to a question I once asked him at a Special Session: Marshall, what comes up for you when you see people in our community arguing about whether “______ is a feeling or a non-feeling” or if “________ is a need or a strategy”? I heard him say, “Well, that doesn’t surprise me at all; we are trying to use a language born from domination. We have not yet invented a language that comes from partnership.”
Please, let every word that you speak or type be emphatically cleansed of any thought or feeling of separateness before you open your mouth or press “send”. (This in no way implies there is a correct form!)
Please, let every word you hear be filtered by empathy so all you hear is “Please” and “Thank you”.
Please, let every communication express our common aim of living nonviolence and compassion.
May we remember our vision and mission each and every moment, and measure our own actions (and inactions) in relation to those commitments.