Needs are Interconnected

Some thoughts after reading Thinking in Systems by Donella H. Meadows.

We are a system (body & self) and our needs are the elements that make up that system. Our needs dictate the decisions we make both consciously or unconsciously. How does that work? One theory is that before we make any decision, a pretty hefty algorithm takes into consideration every need of the body and self, and suggests a possible decision.

Now let's make another suggestion. Maybe when you satisfy one need, you also satisfy or deplete other needs.

Let’s take eating for example.

If you eat 3 slices of pepperoni pizza, your hunger need will be satisfied, but maybe your need to go to the bathroom will increase. Those two needs are obviously interconnected. But other needs are being filled and emptied as well. Your need to sleep increases, because all the energy in your body is now being used to digest the meal you ate. And the more you eat, the more energy is needed to digest everything, so the more tired you will be. Of course what you ate matters too. It takes a lot less energy to digest a lot of soup than to digest a bacon cheeseburger.

Now what other needs come into play here? The needs we have talked about so far are physical needs, or needs of the body. But what about emotional needs, or more appropriately, needs of the self.

What happens when you eat a lot? You might feel guilty. But different people feel guilty for different reasons. Or they feel guilty for the same reasons but at different levels.

For example a person that has always been thin, but has lately been very interested in helping the poor, could feel guilty because she can eat a great meal and others cannot. But maybe this person used to be a big kid that was always being pushed by her parents to eat healthier. The guilt might be twofold in that case.

Guilt happens mainly for three reasons:

  1. When you believe that satisfying your need will empty the needs of others.

  2. When you believe that you are able to satisfy your needs and others cannot.

  3. When you satisfy your physical needs while you empty the needs of the self.