How to Find the Want Underneath Your Problem

April 1, 2019

Categories: Need

Author Jim Dethmer writes that any issue we are dealing with in our life actually reflects a want. And all of our issues and wants boil down to three core wants—(1) security, (2) approval, and (3) control.


Security is the most basic want, because it has to do with our safety and actual existence. We each have a fundamental need to stay alive, and to stay safe. We long to feel safe and secure, and we will do almost anything to attain this want.


Approval is often used to get security. Approval involves wanting people to like us, love us, respect us, and include us as part of the group. Approval protects against loneliness and isolation.


Control is what we strive for when we can’t get approval. Control involves taking charge of a situation or person and trying to make things happen as we desire. Control involves enforcing our will, and trying to make “what is” align with “what we want.”


I’ll give you an example from my own life. A few years ago, I remember feeling angry and sad that I wasn’t married and didn’t have a family. Most of my friends were married and had kids, and I was feeling lonely and out of step with the rest of my peers.

What core wants applied to my issue? For me, it hit all three. Getting married and having a family tapped into my want for security—having a home base of support and someone who was always there for me. It was also about approval—I wanted someone to love me and accept me. And when I felt a lack of security or approval in my life, I tried to control relationships and make them happen as I wanted them to, which didn’t work out well.

What About You?

What about you? What is one issue you are dealing with right now? What core wants does this issue tap into for you? Does it have to do with Security? Approval? Control?

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have wants. It’s healthy to pursue important goals in our lives. But I think it is important to have a balance. The very act of wanting can make us less happy, because the process of wanting something gives us a message that we lack something in our life. I think one important (albeit difficult) thing to balance is pursuing your goals while at the same time pursuing gratitude for what you have and believing that it is enough.


Spend some time thinking and reflecting on an issue you are dealing with, as well as the wants that are associated with the issue? What is the message behind the want? What is the message telling you is lacking in your life? How could you appreciate what you have, even in this area where you are struggling?


Related Thoughts

No Comments

  1. Becky April 2, 2019 at 7:09 am - Reply

    The bit about striking a balance between pursuing one’s goals and pursuing gratitude for what one has really resonates with me. Thnk you for another great post and gem of wisdom!

Leave A Comment

Subscribe To My Newsletter

Join my mailing list to receive the latest blog posts.

Receive my e-book “The Mental Health Toolkit” for free when you subscribe.