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To need or not to need? That is the question.

Actualizado: 22 jun 2023

Evidence from a study on the embodiment and emotionality of needs and desires in Latin America.


Juan Pablo A. Sánchez King, Universidad Mayor.

 

ABSTRACT

Words are cognitive nodes that coordinate sensitivities, emotions and actions. The meaning of the word need has changed over time affecting its coordinations. Etymologically to need is to accept the inevitable, now needs coordinate obligation and self demands. To test the hypothesis that needs lead to afflictive and conflictive states of being, an exploratory study was conducted in 3 major cities of Latin America. The mix study, included an online survey (N=622) and 7 discussion panels (N=94). A pre-experiment was used to explore the emotionality of needs and desires among Spanish speaking adults. Results showed that negative emotions are correlated (.76)* with the embodiment of needs. In contrast, positive emotions are correlated (.79)* with the embodiment of desires. Three conclusions derived from this study (1) Self awareness of bodily emotions derived from language and thoughts are key for self care, agency and relational wellbeing; (2) Management, marketing and economy operate fundamentally as networks of desire coordinations; (3) Needs may be used as an argument to impose an opinion and make people comply with social, cultural and organizacional norms. Since needs may vary from person to person, and from culture to culture (including organizational cultures), implications from this study suggest that social and organizacional policies and programs should also address peoples desires and wants, and their design and implementation should not be founded exclusively on pre stablished needs.



Keywords: culture; language; emotions; well-being; welfare; policy.


PRE-EXPERIMENT


Let's do a little experiment. Take 5 deep breaths. Relax and as you breath out fill you mind into your body. Keep breathing and sensing scanning slowly your body from the bottom of your feet all the way up to the top of your head and back. Keep breathing and sensing until you feel calm and centered, then continue reading.


Reflect now: what is the most important need in this moment of your life? Observe carefully what appears into your body and identify which is the dominant emotion. Pause one moment and hold that emotion or emotions.


Now take a few moments to transform that need into a desire, that is, visualize and embody what you want related to that same need. What emotion appears in your body?

Do you experience any difference between embodying a desire and a need? Pause for a minute and reflect.


INTRODUCTION


Since Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory emerged in 1950, our postmodern culture has guided us to manage and control needs (Maturana, 1996; Illich,1977). Needs are the argument from which productive efforts are guided and goals and objectives are established.


The word necessity has its root in the Latin Necesse. Its etymology alludes to the quality of that which does not yield. That which cannot be left, that is: the inevitable. Originally, needs were the relationship with something that has to be assumed and accepted as part of the circumstances of life. However, this sensitivity gradually became a moral imperative, that is, needs are now experienced as an obligation, even more so as a self-demand (Han & Butler, (2015). In our culture, there are times when the "necessary" seems to be an external force that imposes certain acts or behaviors on us. For example, few people I know like to wash dishes. However, in the long run, even if they don't like it, they wash them the same when they are dirty. This scene shows an everyday situation that illustrates an emotional contradiction around the way we relate to each other. A person who does not like to wash dishes and does it, can argue that he did something he did not want. However, if he didn't do it for the fun of washing them, he did it for the consequences. And in doing so, his or her will is evident: to keep the house clean, to please the partner, to take on a responsibility, not to bother mom, to avoid punishment, etc. All these desires imply something valuable linked to what the person wants to preserve. Maturana and Dávila explain this as a basic systemic law:

"Human beings always do what we want to do, even when we say that we do not want to do what we do.When we do what we say we do not want to do, we do it because when we do it we hope to conserve something that belongs to a domain different from the one in which we do what we say we do not want to do.” (Davila & Maturana, p.6)

THE PROBLEM


It is apparent “humanitarian act” seek to satisfy peoples needs, however, it is impossible to determine what is needed, if we do not ask about people’s will. Needs, wants and desires are always intimate, so any need arises as an opinion of a third party about the other. If the will of the other person is not listened to or respected, they are inevitably manipulated, hence the fundamental problem with marketing, this is manipulating desires to transform them into needs. There is a fundamental contradiction between the notions of need and desire in our postmodern culture. The goal of this article is to explore how people experience needs and desires in relation to their autonomy. We hypothesize that when needs are experienced as a fixed and objetive reality, independent from self, needs may lead to affliction and contradiction.


EXPLORING ANSWERS


To test the hypothesis a mix study conducted between 2015 and 2016, along with my colleague and thesis partner Adolfo Valderrama (Chilean). We explored the emotionality associated with needs and desires. Participants of the study were Spanish speaking adults from major cities in Latin America (with populations greater than 500,000). A pre-experiment was conducted through 7 discussion panels (N=94) in the cities of Bogotá, Colombia; Lima, Peru; and Santiago, Chile. Additionally, to support our findings we incorporated quantitive data through an online survey (N=622), including 91% of the answers from from Perú, México, Chile and Colombia and 9% from Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela. The results showed that 77% of people who embody a need, experienced unpleasant and restrictive emotions such as worry, fear, anxiety and stress. Negative emotions are correlated (.76)* with the embodiment of needs. On the other hand, 82% of participants’ embodied desires were experienced pleasant and expansive emotions such as tranquility, joy, enthusiasm and hope. We found a correlation (.79)* between positive emotions and the embodiment of desires. How can we explain this?


When we relate to what is necessary, we give presence to scarcity, by questioning our ability to satisfy ourselves, generally anticipating afflictive states. When we relate from the desirable, we open possibilities to abundance, clear that what we want depends on us, generally anticipating states of well-being. Desires arise from within as tastes, preferences or what is simply wanted given the free autonomy of living.


Forcing ourselves to what is necessary without clarifying what is wanted, and desiring without considering what is necessary, are two extremes that generate fragmented worlds that foster irresponsibility, excesses, addictions, malaise, etc. For example, a person who smokes or drinks for pleasure, without reflecting or considering the effects on their health, could easily generate a dependency on tobacco or alcohol. A person who favors what is necessary without considering his wishes, enters into a productive delirium, where he lives limited and oppressed, since he is not only deprived of the taste and pleasure of his doing, but also remains trapped in obedience and submission.


CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS


Since anticipated afflictive states of being are triggered by the embodiment of needs, people should focus on their desires and later reflect carefully on their needs.

Autonomous people are always guided by their desire for well-being, that is what leads them to determine something as necessary or not. When people recognize their authentic desires, they create affective or emotional states that expand possibilities to mobilize consciously. To expand our inner freedom, the key is to observe and listen to the desire of well-being associated with any declaration of need. Three conclusions derived from this study: (1) Self awareness of bodily emotions derived from language and thoughts are key for self care, agency and relational wellbeing; (2) Management, marketing and economy operate fundamentally as networks of desire coordinations; (3) Needs may be used as an argument to impose an opinion and make people comply with social, cultural and organizacional norms. Since needs may vary from person to person, and from culture to culture (including organizational cultures), implications from this study suggest that social and organizacional policies and programs should also address peoples desires and wants, and their design and implementation should not be founded exclusively on pre stablished needs.


Note: *Pearson Correlation Coefficient


REFERENCES


Davila, X., & Maturana, H. (2013). Systemic and meta-systemic laws. Interactions, 20(3), 76–79. https://doi.org/10.1145/2451856.2451873


Han, B.-C., & Butler, E. (2015). The Burnout Society. Stanford Briefs, an imprint of Stanford University Press.


Illich, I. (1978). Toward a history of needs. Pantheon Books.


Maturana, H. & Verden-Zöller Gerda. (2008). The origin of humanness in the biology of Love. Imprint Academic.


Maturana, Humberto (2008). Desde la Biologia a la psicologia, Editorial Universitaria.


Maturana, Humberto (1997). La objetividad, un argumento para Obligar. Editorial Domen.

Sanchez King, J.P.A & Valderrama, A. (2016). The Epigenesis of Human Action. Exploring the emotionality of needs and desires. Thesis for completing of a Master in Science in Cultural-Biology. Chair of the dissertation committee: Humberto Maturana, Universidad Mayor and the Matriztica Institute, Santiago, Chile.


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