Reality Check: The Tension Between Safety and Freedom

People do the strangest things, don’t they? Sometimes you shake your head in disbelief.
Yet for any of us, I suspect that there are times when an observer would think our own actions quite irrational. An observer can only see what we do and hear what we say; they don’t know the thoughts in our heads or the emotions of our hearts. That is, an observer doesn’t have the whole story.
When we see someone acting in a way that seems illogical to us, it can help if we have a reasonable answer to the question, “Why would he/she do that?”
How does having an explanation help? I believe that if we have some understanding of why people do what they do, it can help us be a little more gentle toward our fellow humans. That’s especially useful when we don’t agree with or approve of what someone is doing.
It’s doubtful whether any single theory can completely explain why people act as they do. However, I have found Dr. Glasser’s Choice Theory helps to answer that “Why?” question for many situations where people act in seemingly inexplicable ways.
Specifically, Choice Theory asserts that we’re all motivated by the same set of basic needs. He suggests five needs: security/survival, love/belonging, power (which I refer to as recognition/esteem), freedom, and fun.
While we all have the same needs, we have them at different levels.
For example, one person may a high need for freedom and low need for love/belonging. If her partner is the opposite, disputes can arise. If one would rather spend the weekend on a solo adventure while her partner prefers cuddly together-time at home, there’s a good chance somebody is going to end up dissatisfied.
Among couples, money can provide opportunity for conflict. Let’s say one partner has a high need for fun, while the other has a high need for security/survival. The fun-loving partner has no problem spending any spare cash on entertainment; the security-needing partner prefers to stock up on canned beans and a college fund.
Our needs don’t just provide opportunity for conflicts with other people. We might even struggle with conflicts within ourselves.
Why? When you look at the needs, there is a bit of natural tension among them. Some needs could be perceived as people-connecting, whereas others are more individual-oriented.
Love/belonging is clearly a people-connecting need. The fun need can also be a people-connecting need as fun with friends brings people closer together. On the other hand, our need for freedom can conflict with our need for love/belonging.
With the ongoing pandemic causing such widespread disruptions, different people have different perceptions about what “should” be done. That’s not a surprise.
Some believe that the only safe response is a mandated response, backed up by threats, fines, and losses of freedom. Others believe that people are individually capable of making appropriate decisions when given appropriate information.
In other words, in these two different beliefs, I see the differences between people who have a high need for freedom compared with those who have a high need for survival/security.
People who believe differently from us are not necessarily know-it-alls, uncaring, or deserving of any other derogatory labels. They just have a different level of a need than we do.
Might that help reduce any disagreements?

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