The Three Wants

[This may seem a little abstract, but I’ve found it to be a damn useful understanding at the heart of life]

At the heart of being human is one core drive – survival.

As a species, we’ve done rather well at it (even if we’re in the process of killing everything else on the planet while we do so).

One step above survival (which is really very deep) are three core desires.

  • Wanting Safety
  • Wanting Approval
  • Wanting Control

All three of these come back, unsurprisingly, to our wanting to survive.

  • If we’re safe? We’re not going to die.
  • If the people around us love us, they won’t kill us (think back in caveman times).
  • If we’re in control of a situation, we can ensure we won’t die.


Ok, this is all very nice, but how is this useful?

Well, when we look at ANY motivation that we have (whether attachment or aversion), we can take it back to one or a combination of these three core desires.

Why is that useful?

Well firstly, if we’re healing something, we have two options:

  1. We can heal whatever-it-is – which is great – and will clear that thing permanently from our lives, or
  2. We can heal the underlying approval, safety or control, which will not only remove whatever-it-is, but also remove a little bit of wanting approval, safety or control from EVERYWHERE in our lives.

Remember, HAVING these things is totally fine, but it’s the wanting that brings us misery. Wanting, in this context is essentially synonymous with lacking.

If we HAVE an ice cream, we don’t need to want one, right?

But if we want an ice cream, that’s showing the universe that we’re lacking one.

So, when we WANT approval safety or control, what we’re really doing is putting out into the universe the picture that we’re lacking these things.

Thus, the more we can let go of these three core desires, the more we create space to allow ourselves to HAVE them.

That’s the first benefit.

The second is a bit more subtle.

A lot of times, when we’re trying to heal something, our brain just gets in the way. It’ll be screaming away about this that and the other. Or, it’ll just be sitting there going “duh”. Either way, it’s really not very helpful.

However, asking ourselves “Is this issue wanting/lacking approval, wanting safety or wanting control?” is often a much simpler question. Even when the issue itself is complex, these underlying desires are often immediately obvious.

This makes the healing process much, much simpler. We can focus right in on what’s going on underneath. We can let that go. We can get on with our day. Much faster, simpler, easier.

It also sidesteps our getting too tangled up in our brains. That old “keep it simple stupid” principle.

Really, this is just another tool to chuck in your toolbox. If it resonates for you great, if not, that’s ok too.

Personally, I’ve found it super helpful. To be fair, It’s not always immediately obvious that taking things back to approval, control, safety is helping the rest of my life. However, over a longer period of time I’m definitely seeing things loosening up in general.

These are deep slow subtle shifts, rather than one fast immediate obvious alteration. Really, this shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, we’re talking about gradually altering hundreds of thousands of thoughts and memories, and hundreds of possible reactions, even on a daily basis let alone life long.

This is big stuff. Gradual maybe, but definitely life changing.