I was 15 years old and it was time to choose a high school program. Back in those days, there were not as many programs to choose from as there are nowadays. I was interested in photography and had managed to find a high school with that subject as a specialisation. However, before we students made our choice, we would meet a study counsellor to support us in our decision. During our talk, she convinced me to apply for the natural science program instead. (You can read how that went in the previous blog post… (link).) I trusted her experience and at the same time had a hard time questioning authorities. I didn’t experience having a choice because I was asked to choose what was wise and senseful, and I regretted it afterwards.

My experience of growing up was that the adult world wanted to limit my choices. There was a constant adaptation to the norms and the standards to fit in. We, young people, quickly learned from the adults and looked at everyone who made different choices with suspicion. I can’t remember many adults who encouraged me to think freely, pursue my dreams and to claim my need for choice.

The awareness of choice

When I think of the need for choice, I see strong links to the needs of autonomy and freedom. And similar questions arise… Is our ability to meet the need for choice dependent on how our environment is arranged or is it a matter of an inner attitude? Regardless of our life situation, perhaps we have full access to our need for choice? And if so, perhaps it is a need that is constantly being fulfilled if we are in touch with this inner attitude?

Although I may have unlimited strategies at every moment to choose from, my choices are still limited. Some limits are natural, such as my physical ability or the laws of nature I operate within. There are other restrictions as well. One of these limitations is the cultural context in which I operate. In part, I limit my own choices based on norms and beliefs. My choices are also limited by my imagination and my unconsciousness, which is partly created by my upbringing. I do not see choices beyond my imagination.

Different abilities to fulfil choice?

This brings to mind choices based on our different life situations. Superficially, a wealthy person in a democratic society has access to infinitely more choices than a prisoner in an isolation cell in a country ruled by a dictator. At the same time, both of these people’s choices are limited for various reasons I mentioned above. And every time I choose (which I do all the time), only one reality is manifested while millions of alternatives are excluded.

Maybe my need for choice can’t be taken away from me? I always have a choice, even if I don’t like the consequences. The need is fulfilled whether I act on it or not. Could it be that the need for choice is not so much about the external world and all its obstacles and opportunities? Is it perhaps more about my inner attitude? How I choose to perceive the external world.

The connection of needs

The more I write about needs, the more I see how they are connected. It does not seem that different needs are fixed units within us. In specific situations, however, it may be helpful in naming inner experiences. In communication with others where we have a common understanding of our inner experiences, it can be easier to share our common reality if we have a common language. Just as it may be easier to understand those who have the same mother tongue as ourselves, it may be easier to understand those with whom we share the same awareness of needs.

At the same time, many of us have experience of sharing rich and valuable moments with those with whom we do not share a common language. I think we have the same opportunity for deep connection with people that we don’t share the same vocabulary for needs with. The vocabulary of needs is a support for us to experience mutual contact. It is not a prerequisite.

Are we or aren’t we dependent on our surroundings to meet our need for choice?

Leave a comment below or, if you are a Premium subscriber of “The Needs’ Year”, at the online platform: https://empathiceurope.com/online/courses/the-needs-year/modules/week-5/ 


Joachim Berggren (CNVC Certified Trainer)

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On 20 April at 17:00-17:45 CEST, you can participate in a Zoom Talk with me and Meenadchi. We will talk about the need for choice.

Sign up for the Needs’ Year and you will receive a link to Zoom.

If you read this afterwards, you can watch the recording when you become a premium subscriber. Check the details HERE.

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