What do we want?

Posted on April 16, 2013

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Do we really know what we want?

Some things we just think we want and we use them to hide some uncomfortable feelings we don’t want to deal with. Like living a busy life, because we can’t handle when it gets all quiet and calm and all those cramped up issues we haven’t dealt with starts to make their voices heard. It so much easier to shove them aside pretending they aren’t there. All addictions tend to distort our wants and needs. A heavy smoker might think he/she wants to smoke and that it is an important part of their daily routine. Someone addicted to shopping thinks that he/she needs a new version of that phone, or a pair of matching shoes for every outfit in their closet.
Some people think they want to be rich. Some people think they want to be famous. Some people think they want to be powerful. Some people think they want to be skinny. Some people think they want a career.

Some things we have been told to want, by media and advertisement. Basically to consume more and more of everything. Our system depends on it. Sales has to go up all the time for someone or the market crashes eventually. Companies have to keep producing so we have to keep buying which means we have to get the message that it is important that we keep wanting more things. Today we are supposed to use products of all kind as symbols for who we are and what we believe in. We should be our own walking advertisement. This way we are also kind of taking away the need to talk to each other about what we believe in and who we really are, because we are supposed to show it with our clothes, homes and gadgets and we judge each other based on it all. We have come to expect it and take it for granted, which means that a lot of us get wrongly judged quite often.
I think it is all very sad and silly when you think of it. We haven’t always cherished this need to express ourselves through our clothes and products. It is a result of social manipulation and development within societies, for several reasons. Watch this documentary to know more about the history of our identity (from an American perspective, which I would say have affected the whole world by now).

Some things we have been told to want by our parents, siblings and friends. When we’re being parented by our parents we are being taught what is of value and how to act, behave and think. We are being directed towards specific paths in life that our parents think are the right ones for us. Of course it varies between parents how hard they direct us, some give no direction at all, but they all affect us and the view we have on the world, ourselves, our potentials and capabilities. We are being told what is right and wrong. I can’t say how often but some times the path that our parents have pushed us towards isn’t a good one for us and it isn’t what we really want. But we walk it, thinking it is what we want, because we’ve been trained to want it. The same goes for what society as a whole has tough us to want. Every culture has its own specific values, beliefs and behaviors that shapes us. And we use it all to identify ourselves from others. I am Swedish by upbringing, creative by training and Socialist by culture. We draw lines between us and people who say they want other things, people who live by other values and goals in life.

Some times we are confused about what we want because there’s to many choices. Studies have shown that we are actually worse of by having hundreds of possible choices. I think we are also more easily manipulated into just choosing which ever, just to be  done with the choosing part and move on.

Some people have realized later in life what actually matters to them. They got stuck in the wheel of supposed “happy machines” but learned for experience that it wasn’t making them any happier in life.

Some people have helped others to figure out what they want in life.

We are all trying to search for meaning and a purpose, even if it is not always a conscious process. We are trying different things, testing them to see if it fits. Some times it is very hard to change  our path, even when we have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t fit us, because we are so used to walking it. Habits are hard to break, even if you know you need to. Some paths are forced on us which makes it even harder for us to change lane. Some paths give us small bursts of pleasure, which can easily cheat us into thinking we are happy and on the right path. Just because we are getting intoxicated by the things around us, doesn’t mean it goes deep into our soul.
As I’ve said once before, it is a very different thing to live a rich life on the inside than a rich life on the outside.

As we grow up we get affected and changed by what happens to us. Someone that has been horrifically degrade and hurt might feel that his/her life has been turned into a search for vengeance for example. Some people feel they’ve been wrongly treated in their youth and starts getting bitter and angry towards specific groups of people. They might then appear to want to hurt people. They might appear to like the activity of causing pain to others they feel deserve it. Some people might be in search for power that they intend to use on others. All of these destructive behaviors and wants are just symptoms of the same problem. Their real needs and wants have been ripped from under their feet and they are now reacting to the lack of them.

So what DO we all really want then?
I believe the core things we all want or need are the same, even though our experiences and circumstances some times shifts our focus to somewhere else. First of all we want to live. I know that is not always the case in the end, but the reason for why someone doesn’t want to live anymore is a direct consequence of his or her life experiences that has unfortunately led that person to think it is their only option to relieve themselves from the negative pressure that they are experiencing, like lack of control over their own life and very low self-worth. But I think we can assume that most people have an innate drive to live, to survive. When the desire to live gets challenged, it creates a lot of destructive emotions, behaviors and physically harmful effects. People will do what it takes to stay alive, even if that means someone else has to die or they have to break the law. We see a lot of these effects in societies all around the globe where people are fighting to stay alive. This is a big reason why a Utopian society have to by default support our desire to live. What I mean by this is that we have to make sure that every human being has the right to all the resources necessary to survive, such as clean food, water and air, a roof over our heads, be able to sleep well, medical care and access to hygienic care.

I also believe all humans want to feel loved and appreciated for their true self. When this need is challenged we can easily develop low self-esteem, low self-worth, depression, apathy, bitterness, anger and hatred. All of these emotional states are extremely destructive to a person and can in turn lead to several destructive behaviors and actions. I strongly believe that the majority of human beings on this planet don’t feel loved and appreciated for who they really are. There are so many signs of this all around us. People behaving badly towards themselves and others because they have no self-worth what so ever. It is a scary thing to feel that you don’t matter and it is even worse to think that someone else might point it out to you. It’s like poking in an open wound. A behavior you can see come out of this is that they hit first. They are terrified of being hurt even more than they already are so they make sure to hit you first so that you can’t hit them. This can also lead to the need to aim for a lot of power. It is a way to protect yourself. Some people alienate themselves from others so that there’s no one that can hurt them. In a Utopian world we have to make sure to educate ourselves in the meaning of compassion and empathy and practice it. We have to make it our core value in our society. We can’t control other people’s actions but we can keep an open and ongoing discussion about the importance of love in our lives, what it is, how it feels, how we show it to others, how to understand and practice empathy and compassion.
We have to create the circumstances that can help people to express love and feel loved and appreciated.

I believe everyone wants to feel safe and respected. Both of these correlate to the two needs above. We feel safe when our desire to live isn’t challenged. And we feel respected when we are loved and appreciated for who we are and the choices we’ve made in life. Our society should prioritize the safety of all life on the planet above all. We should put time and effort into building systems that can protect us from the harmful forces of nature, protect people from other ill-intentional people and systems that can protect us from the threats from outer space. We should build our moral guide lines on the basis that every human being has to be respected for their choice of life. We all want to be respected, so we should all give respect to begin with.

Next thing I think everybody want is to feel that you are good at something and that you have the freedom and ability to pursue it and master it. This is also strongly connected to our search for a purpose in life which I think everybody are struggling with. If someone acknowledges your skill and points out that they could be in need of it, you also feel valuable. The type of things that people are good at range almost as much as the amount of people in the world. When you are deprived of this need, you can develop depression, frustration-aggression, low self-worth, low self-esteem, indifference etc. Feeling unimportant and wasted as a human being is unfortunately very common in today’s society.

It is very important to have a job in our society. It is a direct symbol of worth because everybody that has one can live a good, healthy and safe life. But all jobs don’t make us feel valuable. A lot of jobs are instead very degrading and lowers your self-esteem. When you’re being treated like you can’t do anything and you are given no responsibility or trust, you can easily feel a drop in your self-worth. When you are performing tasks that are so below you capabilities you feel like your potentials are being wasted. Because we’re being forced to go out and make money, we can’t always invest time into what we’re really good at, if that skill isn’t something you could make money from in our society.  Quite often we are being pushed in certain directions  by our parents because they think it will be easier for us to get a good paid job within that area. We then suppress the skill we actually want to develop. In a Utopian world, we have to make sure that every human being has the ability to develop their potential and master it. What we spend our valuable time with shouldn’t be determined by what jobs need to be filled. We are not machines and shouldn’t be treated like it. Societies infrastructure of support, production, transportation, waste management, food production and construction of spaces, has to be automated to such full extent that there only need to be a small group of people managing the parts of it all that people actually want to participate in. The parts where the human potential can really thrive and be of use, which to me are the development and decision-making part of it and small-scale production.

When it comes to freedom, I think it is all about having the Freedom to pursue our own way of life, that really matters. Our life is our life and we should have the right to choose the path we walk on. All decisions that only affect you, should be yours to make. When our freedom is being challenged and denied we rebel, we get angry, we riot, we feel powerless, we get depressed, we break and we turn to violent behavior and frustration-aggression. I don’t think freedom is about being able to do what ever we want at all costs. If our actions affect other people or other life forms on this planet, they should have a say about it or someone should be a voice for their cause. Doing something you want to do that also hurts other people isn’t something I’m promoting. And it’s important to understand the difference as well between an action that is actually hurting some one, such as one person taking away another persons access to clean water, and the situation where a homophobic person feels upset about seeing homosexuals hug and kiss in the open. The later examples has nothing to do with one person hurting another. The homosexuals should be allowed to live their life as they chose. The homophobic person is the one that needs to realize that the discomfort he/she is feeling is her/his own inner problem.
We can not demand that other people should change their way of life just so that it fits our viewing pleasure and our own standards and way of life. We are all completely different individuals and we have to stop with the system of one fits all. A Utopian society have to acknowledge that people are different and will want different ways of life. The sooner we give people the freedom of choice, the happier we will be.

As a last big want that I think everybody has is to be happy. I don’t see this as a continuous static state that everyone is pursuing. I think most people understand that it is impossible to be happy all the time. Some times it is the hardships in our life that helps us to be happy about the little things around us that we otherwise wouldn’t notice and appreciate. And I’m not talking about short-term burst of happiness or the happiness you feel after a shopping spree. I’m talking about the deep stuff. True happiness in life. I believe that happiness is found and felt when all of the above needs/wants are fulfilled. Happiness is a confirmation on that everything is in balance. Happiness is something that goes deep within you. You can feel generally happy about your life even though you’ve had some hard times. I also believe happiness is something you chose. It is a perspective on life. It is often connected to experiences that trigger happiness. I think it is rare that you feel happy just out of the blue. Some times you hear people say that they can’t do something if they don’t feel good and they have to wait for the emotion to come first. I think it works the absolute opposite way. Our feelings are triggered by the things we do. If you want to feel happy, you have to do things that could put you in that state of mind. I think you can feel happy when you have come to terms with your purpose in life, when you’re doing something you love, when you are amongst people you love and feel loved by, when you experience something special or when you’ve achieved something. A Utopian society should strive to help people feel happiness in their lives. It should be everybody’s right to have felt happy at some point in their life. If people are generally happy, that is a sign that the society is giving people what they really need and want.

I think Maslow’s hierarchy of needs have some truth to it, but I think it isn’t all that divided. I think feeling loved, engaging in self developing activities and getting what you need to survive physically are equally important for us to live a fulfilled life. This pyramid gives an impression that you can be okay with only one level or two and that the top part is only for the fun of it, or that one thing is more important than the other.
I believe that the above needs are the things that all humans actually want and need and that are the most important parts above all.

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Posted in: Foundation