Chapter One – Need
Many self-help and even spiritual books begin by asking readers what they want. I am asking you to ponder the question more deeply: what do you need?
You should know what you want, of course. But you should also be able to distinguish what you want from what you need. You may want an expensive car or home, but do you really need them? What you actually need is transportation and shelter, and to meet those needs you don’t have to extend yourself or your pocketbook beyond a certain extent.
Now whether you decide to invest more money in more expensive items is your choice. What is important, and what is important about the principle of need, is that you understand that what you may want is not necessarily what you actually need.
I would now like to discuss with you the word desire. Desire is often used as a synonym for the word want. I may want or desire a piece of pie, but what I really need is nourishment, provided I am actually hungry. In this case the desire for pie is a rather distant and somewhat distorted expression or reflection of the need for nourishment. If I reflect upon that desire I can see that it distorts the need for food by suggesting to me that what I need is a specific sort of food, and a high calorie one at that. The desire also tends to distract me from the need to make responsible choices in what I eat, taking into consideration my health, weight, and physical condition. In addition, the desire also distances me from the real fulfillment of the need, nourishment, and replaces it with another, pleasure. What I want or desire is not the nourishment of my physical body at all but the pleasure of eating; pleasure has become an end in itself, thus both distancing me from the conscious realization of my need and distorting it through replacing its intended end with another.
Again, if what you want or desire is a piece of pie, fine; it’s your choice. But you need to be clear about the principle of need and how real need can be frustrated by desire. In the case of hunger, you feel a desire for food which is a faithful reflection of the need for nourishment. You are then clear about your options, whether you want to eat a balanced meal or indulge in some tasty treat that may or may not supply the needed nutrients.
Why, you may ask, is all this important? It is important because we all feel the need for something more; we feel that something is lacking; we feel a sense of privation. And the principle of need states that a felt need – which is desire – cannot arise unless there is some possibility of meeting that need, some “thing” that we lack, that we don’t have, that we need to seek and find.
Some people are gifted enough and lucky enough to obtain what they think they need, only to find that it’s not enough. No matter how much they may obtain, no matter how many triumphs or successes, they still feel empty, unfulfilled; they still have a felt need for more. But more of what? More money, more sexual conquests, more cars, homes, positions of power? Such people will tell you that what they have is never enough. They are unfulfilled; they are still seeking.
Some of these people are confused by desire. Unable to distinguish between different qualities of desire, between faithful and unfaithful reflections of need, they persist in the mistaken idea that pursuing what they want will inevitably bring them happiness or fulfillment. But an unfaithful reflection of need will always fall far short of the mark; at most its fulfillment will yield only a temporary feeling of satisfaction, soon to be forgotten and replaced by yet another desire.
You may be one of those. Or you may be one of the larger number of people who have not been able to obtain many of the desired objects in your life. Regardless, it is important to keep in mind the distinction between need and desire, and furthermore how normal it is to value what you think will meet your needs.
The purpose of this book is to present several simple yet fundamental principles I have learned over the last fifty years of working to improve my own mental health and well-being. The book is divided into two parts: teaching and sources. The first part—teaching—will be short, and its style lean, primarily to facilitate easy reading and absorption of the material. The second part—sources—will be more academic in style yet still relatively lean, intended for those interested in the source material for the teaching portion of the book. The first part of the book may be read by itself without reading the second part for anyone primarily interested in a very short, very direct account of the principles of the teaching.
About the Author
Gary Bryant is an ordained priest in the Orthodox Catholic Church, a hospice chaplain with experience and education in business, psychology, philosophy, theology, religious studies, library science, addictions counseling, and hospital chaplaincy. He has investigated the subject of well being for over fifty years with thirty years experience in an organized spiritual school.
Gary is past President and the first Treasurer of the Prometheus Society, former membership officer of the Triple Nine Society, former associate member of the International Society for Philosophical Enquiry (ISPE), former member of Intertel, former lifetime member of Mensa, and a current member of the on line Four Sigma Society.
He enjoys participating in athletic activities with his wife, with whom he resides in the Houston metro area.
Gary is currently organizing a group interested in exploring further the topic of well being. Those desiring to participate in the group may contact Gary through Balboa Press or on his facebook page.