Entitlement and need

To be ‘needy’ is to be a problem to the people around you. We all of course have needs, many of them very similar. We need food, shelter, warmth, water.  We need to feel reasonably secure and acceptable to those we spend time with. Most of us admit to needing affection and goodwill from others. Somewhere, a line is drawn, and certain people are ‘too much’. Too needy. If a person is designated as ‘needy’ then dealing with what they need ceases to be anyone’s problem.

It’s interesting to ask who is allowed to need what. Who is likely to have their needs met, and who is not? To what degree is there exchange or barter in the mix? We may be more likely to accept the needs of people we easily empathise with, and people whose needs are convenient and do not require much effort to sort out.

Need has the scope to create a sense of social duty. This can turn into feelings of martyrdom and being put-upon. The more obliged we feel to answer someone’s inconvenient need, the more we may resent them if they cannot obviously recompense us. Much may also depend on the presence of an audience who can be impressed by how good we are. It’s always easier to be kind and generous when you can see how you will benefit directly from that.

It is worth paying attention to who we cheerfully help on request, and who we write off as ‘needy’ and try to ignore. Think about who you take seriously and who you don’t and whether you in turn expect to be taken seriously, or tend to be one of the people whose needs are not reliably honoured.

Of course there’s a political angle to this, too. A politician in the UK can expect to claim thousands of pounds of ‘expenses’ on things most of us would have to fund for ourselves. A person too ill to work is expected to live on far less. What we’re happy to accept that the Queen ‘needs’ is not the same as what we think old people in care homes need.

Often it seems to me that the scope for getting your needs met is directly proportional to your wealth and power. Of course it’s the people with least wealth or power who tend to have the most need.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Entitlement and need

  • Sheila North

    This is a tricky one. Friendships, for example, should be about give, take, and share: sometimes one needs more, sometimes the other, and sometimes it’s just about sharing time, and a laugh, together. Relationships/marriages should be similar, with a higher level of commitment.

    Having said that, I have known some people where I have accepted that they need more than they can give, due to their circumstances, or even lack of others who can/will help.

    On the other hand, I had at least one friend where some of there need was to in effect say “pity me, I can never ever change, int’t awful?” And I refuse to play that game, which is mainly played out on Facebook. Others can, if they want to.

    I recent the Queen’s entitlement a lot less than I recent that of politicians, or the pulling of the benefits rug from under people who need it – and who in many cases have contributed their taxes and NI for years.

    Good piece of writing! & I’ll shut up now …

  • whiterabbitanimation

    Thought provoking… I think maybe a fundamental need is for respect..?

    Appreciation, maybe, another key component in need expression/fulfilment (not just gratitude, but that which deepens understanding and/or raises up/adds value? As you say in the comments – what lies beneath the need? So maybe, deeper attention and/or greater awareness..?)

    And responsibility… When are an individual’s needs the responsibility of others? Are one’s own needs ever someone else’s responsibility? Are we only ever making requests..?

    Do you know the work of Marshall Rosenberg? He had some v. interesting approaches to interrelational communication, especially with regard to needs…

  • paulaacton

    I have to be honest when I think of the term ‘needy’ I do not think of those in need physically or financially, it is the emotional connation which comes to mind. I think the reason is I spent many years with what I an only describe as an emotional leech. Maybe we need to move to redefine certain terms as a society so those who genuinely need extra support are not tarred with the same brush as those who drain others.

  • Eliza Armitage

    A difficult, valuable post–because it made me, at least, question my judgments about who “really” needs assistance, compassion, etc. As commented above, the “I can’t change” attitude is a red flag, and that’s when I, too, withdraw support…but that’s my judgment. If someone’s not willing to make an effort, but who would rather remain a turtle on their back and moan about it, I’m done. Yet, who am I to judge them?

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