How "AFFLUENZA" Undermines Our Personal, Cultural, and Ecological Well-Being

When I woke up today, the question that I was guided to ask on the pages of my eco-journal was this: “How does "affluenza" undermine our personal, cultural, and ecological well-being?"

Affluenza: A More Serious, Long Tern Threat than Corona?!

Have you heard of the term “Affluenza?” It sounds a bit like “influenza, right?” Well, like influenza, which is a real illness, Affluenza is also an illness. It’s an illness that is transmitted from person to person, and mind to mind, and it originates NOT from a live physical virus, but from the erroneous beliefs we share as a society, about what we need in our lives, in order to feel secure, happy, and successful.

"Affluenza" is essentially the result of catering MORE to our MATERIAL WANTS than our true HUMAN NEEDS.

The Difference Between Our Wants and Our True Needs

Our ‘material wants’ it should be said, are the luxuries that we crave and can’t seem to get enough of.

Our true 'human needs', are the need we have to live on a healthy planet, and the need to be in a healthy relationship with ourselves, others, and all life.

The problem with satisfying our material wants, rather than our authentic human needs, is that our satisfaction is only temporary.

We might feel, when we are accumulating material possessions, that we are gaining confidence. We might feel that we are bolstering our self-esteem. We might feel that we are reducing our anxiety about our ability to keep up with the Joneses. But in many instances, what we are really doing, is using our consumer habits and our purchasing power, to deal with uncomfortable hidden feelings that we have about ourselves, such as the feeling of being unworthy, inadequate, and unloved.

Now, if you’re saying to yourself, "Affluenza’ probably doesn't apply to me," I have a few questions I’d like to ask you.

Do you ever say to yourself…

  • ​I’m on total overload with my job, and it’s affecting my health and sanity! I’m not eating right and I’m not sleeping well either.

  • I dislike my job so much, but I keep working 50 hours a week so I can buy all of the "stuff" that I want.

  • My thingamabob broke and I’m too lazy to fix it…I'll just buy a new one, even if it means some kid in a factory had to work overtime in deplorable conditions to make it.

  • I'm OK with taking on debt so I can buy a new house or a new car, I'll pay it off over time.

  • Achieving status is more important to me than just about anything else, ---because it’s my way to let the world know I’ve made it!

Well, if you say any of these things to yourself, there’s a very good chance that your thinking process has been "infected” by Affluenza.

ALL of us, I hate to say it, are affected by Affluenza at one point or another in our lives. And that’s a problem, because the effect on our personal, societal, and planetary health is huge.

We humans, you might agree with me, have a knack for doing things that make us sick, and that make the planet sick, too. Oftentimes, we don’t think twice about what we are doing that is either self-destructive or earth-destructive.

Sometimes, we DO think twice about what we are doing that doesn’t reflect good eco-stewardship, BUT we’re so accustomed to behaving in a certain way, that it seems like it would require too much effort to change.

Unfortunately, the PERSONAL health consequences of affluenza are serious.

Why? Well, if we are slaving away at our jobs too much, for example, in order to satisfy all of our material wants, our priorities in life tend to get totally skewed. We end up isolating ourselves from family members and friends because every waking moment of our days are consumed by work. We end up neglecting to take good care of our health. Sometimes, we start to feel angry or resentful about the burdens that we're carrying, even if we feel that we are carrying them for others. And when our mental and emotional health starts to slide, we become 'different'people, right?!

Just as the personal consequences of affluenza can be devastating, the environmental consequences can also be devastating.

As a modern day culture, we’ve been trained for a very long time to opt for conveniences and to take shortcuts.

If you can picture our nation’s landfills in your mind’s eye, you might also be able to envision the tons of MATERIAL THINGS that have been dumped into them, with little if any regard whatsoever for their toxic impact on the land, the air, the groundwater, and living things.

How many mountains of plastic, glass, wood, and metal objects could the earth have been spared, had millions of people recycled them? How many acres of spoiled food items could the earth have been spared (and how many greenhouse gases could have been sequestered), had millions of people practiced composting? How many items of food and clothing could the earth have been spared if millions of people had donated those items to the homeless?

The homeless and the hungry, it should be said, are the faces of "affluenza" in our society. They represent the material inequality that is so prevalent in the larger culture.

Let's face it. There are the “haves” and the “have not’s.” And, if the ones who already "have a lot" continue to compete with themselves and others so they can "have more" (but they don't consider how they might support others who have less), we will continue to witness economic disparity.

Economic disparity, I don't have to tell you, leads people to feel disenfranchised. And what do people do when they feel disenfranchised?

They look for ways to balance the scales of inequality. Sometimes, they seek out government aid. Sometimes, they beg for help on street corners. Sometimes, they dive headfirst in dumpsters. Sometimes, they resort to stealing from people and businesses. The act of stealing is never the right thing to do. But it's not that hard to understand, you might agree, how "affluenza" influences this type of behavior.

So what’s the antidote to Affluenza, you might be wondering? Well, I’d like to think that it's a NEW kind of societal behavior. A behavior, that is to say, which hinges on our ability and willingness to create lifestyles that are rooted in the principle of SIMPLE ABUNDANCE.

What is simple abundance? At its core, it is the idea that WHAT WE HAVE in our lives in this very moment is ENOUGH. It’s enough, because the simpler our lives are, the less wasteful they are, and the more fulfilling they offer to be!

The concept of simple abundance suggests that we ALL have access to resources, opportunities, and relationships in our lives "right now" that offer to bring us contentment.

Though I recognize that we all go through phases in our lives where we feel as though we DON’T have access to the kind of resources, opportunities, and relationships that we think will bring us contentment, usually this feeling originates from mental blocks, self-imposed fears, and a shortage of creative thinking!

How can we get past our blocks, fears, and limited thinking? I suppose that the answer to this question is one that we must discover for ourselves, individually. But what seems most important in my mind, is that we give thought to how we can create abundance from within. Because, in truth, the act of creating simple abundance goes beyond any external efforts we might make, to simplify our lives. In other words, it goes beyond reducing the size of our wardrobes or decorating our homes in a minimalist fashion.

In my own life, one of the ways I create an INNER SENSE of abundance is by eliminating digital distractions that suck up a lot of my time and pull me away from living in the moment. I made a conscious choice a few years ago to use a land line telephone versus a cell phone because I didn't want to be distracted by text messages and apps all day long. Not having a cell phone is great, because I can be more present to the people in my life, and I can also be more present to my work.

My work, I should mention is a joy, because I've learned to regard it as "my art" versus a job. I love pouring my heart and soul into my work and imagining how I will use the ed. tools that I create, to make a difference in the lives of others.

Another way that I create the sense of simple abundance in my life is by making a conscious effort to appreciate the ordinary, mundane moments. For me, those moments might happen when I'm in the kitchen, making meals. They might happen when I'm taking a walk in the neighborhood with my husband. They might happen when I pick up the phone to call my son, and talk with him about a new idea that I believe can support his health and well-being. These are the ordinary moments that write my life story, yet they are also extraordinary!

So tell me: What are the ordinary moments that write your life story? And how can you use them to create a greater sense of simple abundance?

If you resonated with today's blog talk, I'd love to hear from you. Until my next talk, I encourage you to check out some of the educational tools featured on my website, which support you in creating the inner sense of abundance that I know your heart craves!

Candia Lea Cole

Founder, Eco-Learning Legacies

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