ON THE SOFA: Need is Undefeated

Let me preface this revelation by saying; if you ever want face the highest amount of temptation make a commitment. From relationships to religion. I recently was moved to reaffirming my Christian faith and some of my most vulnerable foibles were heavily exploited by temptation. Truth be told, I lost a lot of battles. At times I wondered if I was actually in the right faith practice especially when the temptation would weigh on me like an invisible yet palpable weight. I would then submit myself to such condemnation at my inconsistency. The memories of sins rush in from as far back as my conscience is willing to retrieve in order to keep the guilt lingering. Somewhere in there I am seeking to make a correlation – a through line of dysfunction to pathologize this spiritual impurity. Guilt, shame, despair… these do not go quietly into the night.

Well-renowned acting coach, Susan Batson in her book TRUTH does a great job of describing how in the study of a character we have to pay attention to the character’s need, persona and tragic flaw. The need is usually a root psychological longing that goes unspoken but can be observed in moments of vulnerability. The persona is often the impression the character seeks to make on the people around them aka personality by which they seek to be perceived. The tragic flaw is often revealed when there is a compulsion toward a need that goes not only against their persona but also presents a non-constructive avenue to meet this need. Needs can be deterred or suppressed but will never go away unfulfilled. When a scenario presents itself where the need can be met, the character is at the mercy of the factor (person, place, thing). Basically the character/person has needs built in which when ignored will always show itself where it stands to be met even if it leads to the subversion of their persona. Therefore, if I may take a cue from the premise, I may be ignoring some pertinent needs.

However, needs are not necessarily best defined by the payoff of their activities. What do I mean? Just because a person is always eating does not mean they always need food. Just because a person buys an extremely big home does not mean they need more space and lastly, just because a person has a strong compulsion towards sex does not mean they need sex.

Let us take this a step further or from another angle – A spiritual angle, if you will. According to Judeo-Christian scripture – (Bible: Ephesians 6:12) there are entities unseen to the naked eye that can exploit our consciousness and use us to their ends. As a christian who loves theatre, there is congruency here from carnal point of view. Let me set the record straight: to the Christian or person of faith, the chief need is the need for God. The christian journey chiefly involves directing our needs (carnal & spiritual) to God the father, to protect us from the susceptibility to the entities of opposition. Therefore, if even biblical text acknowledges that even the believer is vulnerable to their needs, what would a chain of need that so masters us look like?

We may see a person who is always eating. This has its consequences to which one could easily diagnose by saying “Stop eating!” or “Eat less!”. However, this excessive eating is just activity. A carnal expression of a deeper need. A conversation with them may reveal they are going through some sort of depression from lack of affection from someone close. You could argue that the pursuit of affection is more favorable within a certain weight range. This might connect you to their inspiration or to a fast moving open palm. At which point you look at what it is they keep eating and you find out they keep eating Lays potato chips. Are they invested in Lays foods Inc.? Unfortunately, they are not but it was their go to food when their favorite parent/caretaker was around. The one who provided safety, reliance and trust in their mental highlight reel of their life. And there we have it. We may have a deeper longing for affection or security at play. Someone expresses their need for security by triggering a memory of a parent through eating the food which that parent/loved one provided for them. But then we find something lurking. They are in fact grieving. They are grieving out of their need to feel safe. So now their need to feel safe is accompanied by a grief which results in compulsive eating. If this need for security goes unfulfilled grief remains a viable feeling to access to this need.

What does this diatribe on need have to do with anger? Like the person eating potato chips to contain their grief, I have compulsions that show up to help me contain a feeling which acts a cover for a deep need. There was a period in my life, in my younger years where I believed much of the good that came to me was a result of God’s blessing. I still believe that but I also had this belief that if I were not able to live a truly virtuous life in every sense of the word, I would lose the grace that once afforded all these lucky chances. So what happens when my adulthood does not exactly look like the life I pictured in my high school years or even my college years? What happens when after failed relationships, blown business opportunities and a career that is yet to take off? There is obviously the regret but most insidiously, there is quite a lot of anger. Anger at myself. It builds over time as my guilt ravishes my conscience as the payoff from my coping activities gets more and more marginal.

One might ask; What need is my anger hiding/masking? Perhaps a deep need to be seen. To be known. Is this the sum of it? I think not. But I am hoping as this door opens Perhaps there is something to being given a name that is Hebrew for “Praise”.

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