I often find myself thinking about want vs. need and how the two play a factor in, not only my life, but in everybody’s lives to a varying degree. The main reason I find myself thinking about these two entities is because of my many trips to mental institutions. In these facilities, what you want in life or in your daily routine gets thrown out the window. You are left with the bare essentials -- just the things you need to stay alive. An example of how this want and need relationship works in a psych ward happens at meal time perhaps more than any other moment while being locked up.
Meal time in a psych ward is the most anticipated time of the day. Finally, you as the patient get to take your mind off the clock and sit back and eat, even if it’s just hospital food. Ideally, you have figured out the system where you get to select what you want to eat from the three or four choices you were given at your last meal, and therefore, you are being served what you want. Of course, this is all within reason; Psych wards have a way of manipulating your food order if you don’t obey simple rules. If you over order a certain thing i.e. grilled cheese and you neglect ordering a balanced diet, the psych ward dietitian will tweak what you end up getting at meal time. In some psych wards your meal can be tweaked based on behavior.
With six psych ward visits under my belt, I have been trained to think about my needs much more so than my wants. I think of myself as a minimalist in life. I try to have the things in life that I need, but ignore the things that I want. When I want things it is always when I find myself in trouble. Do I need it?.. I ask myself as soon as I come up with something that I think would be nice to have in my life. Why do I have this type of thinking?.. A type of thinking that deprives you of your id. I think it’s because of all the time I spent in inpatient care. It trains you to only get by on the basics. It’s a lifestyle choice that I can relate to.
In the end, I am not without my vices. I try to live off only what is needed. Food when I’m hungry, and clothes when it’s cold. Unfortunately, I’m not perfect. I smoke the occasional cigarette and I’m obsessed with eating ice cream, often in the form of milkshakes. This, however, does not erase the fact that I often find myself questioning, ‘yeah, but do I need it’. I don’t think most people think that way. I’m also convinced that this type of logic and reasoning only came about because of the treatment I’ve been exposed to at mental facilities. Not only do I think it’s a good thing, but I think other people would benefit quite substantially if they reflected on the things they buy or ascertain by some means. Most of the clothing purchases I make, for instance, are made based on utility. I have to believe most people don’t think this way. Buddha once said, “There is no fear for one whose mind is not filled with desires”. Living with the perspective I have helps me as I find myself in and out of some pretty terrible places from time to time.