On this page: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about "Wanterfall"

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Wanterfall Q & A

Many of the ideas in the book "Wanterfall: A practical approach to the understanding and healing of the emotions of everyday life" are fairly self explanatory. However, some are a little controversial, and others may benefit from further discussion.

If you have any questions about the book, or would like to comment on any part of it, please send an email to q&a@wanterfall.com. Please state whether to include your name, or a screen name, or to publish anonymously. (Questions or comments without instructions will be published anonymously.)


What is the difference between wanting and needing?

The words "want" and "need" are often used in ways that imply some crossover in their meaning, but they are certainly not identical. To say that something is needed generally implies that deleterious consequences will result if the need is not met.

Examples of physical needs which immediately spring to mind include air, water and food. If these needs are not met, then sooner or later the person (or other animal) will die. Other physical needs include shelter from dangerous environmental conditions, protection from predators and other dangers, assistance when disabled by injury or illness, and so on.

Examples of emotional needs are not quite so easy to define, but many people would accept various aspects of nurturing as being needed, especially by infants and children.

On the other hand, to say that we want something usually implies that we will be happier if we get it, but does not usually, in and of itself, imply serious consequences if we do not get it. I might want to be warmer, or cooler, or to have more money in the bank, or to have good friends, or to be "lucky in love". Perhaps some of these things would make me happier - or at least, I might expect them to. However, in most cases, I will probably survive the disappointment if my wishes are not granted. The many possible reasons for wanting (or wanting to avoid) a certain outcome are discussed at some length in the Appendix to the book "Wanterfall".

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

As mentioned above, common usage often blurs the distinction between "wanting" and "needing" things, at least to some extent. The famous "hierarchy of needs" proposed by Abraham Maslow in 1954 [Maslow, A. 1954. Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper & Row.] is an excellent example of this phenomenon. Even the base of Maslow's "pyramid", representing physiological needs, includes sex - which, though necessary for the survival of the species, is not necessary for the survival of the individual.

The next level of Maslow's pyramid of needs, representing safety needs, includes bodily security but also includes less critical requirements such as the security of a person's finances and family. Moving up towards the top of the imaginary pyramid, we find belonging, then respect and finally the mixed bag of "self-actualisation needs", such as sense of humour and the desire to know and understand things. Many people, myself included, would classify most of the examples in the current paragraph as "wants" rather than "needs".

I personally feel that the significance of wanting things - some of which we may also need, while others may actually be deleterious - is one of the most important topics for study, discussion and reflection in existence. Indeed, I think wanting "needs" a great deal more attention from the fields of psychology and philosophy, as well as from interested individuals!

That is why I gave up the practice of medicine to write my first book, "Wanterfall". In it, a model of the cascading consequences of wanting any particular outcome - which includes, of course, wanting to avoid any particular outcome - is presented. The model suggested has been widely criticised as too simplistic. Nevertheless, I think it provides a useful starting point for further exploration of the emotions which so often follow success or failure in "getting what we want" - emotions which can be seen to have more significance in our lives, the more we come to understand them.


I will happily add to this page if questions or comments are emailed to me. Until then, I will assume that the various issues discussed in "Wanterfall" have been sufficiently explained in the original text!

As mentioned above, if you have any questions about the book, or would like to comment on any aspect of it, please send an email to q&a@wanterfall.com, stating whether to include your name, or a screen name, or to publish anonymously. (Comments without instructions will be published anonymously.) Happy reading!

Dr Gordon Coates



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