“Real security comes from a connection to that which is secure – the spirit. “ [Heart at Work].
Mess most often results in duplicates from the simple fact that we don’t know what we have. I saw this principle most prominently showcased in a television segment about hoarding, in which a woman was unable to find a birthday gift in her avalanche of belongings. In straightening my personal living space I was surprised to find six containers of poultry spice (three of which were brand new). This was a revelation, considering that I don’t use this condiment.
In the Progress Paradox, Easterbrook (2003) notes that accumulation in terms of living space and updated amenities do not appear to have increased Americans’ happiness quotient. He argues “…runaway materialism simultaneously makes us shallow and fails to give satisfaction,” (Easterbrook, 2003, p. 8). He further concedes that Americans as a whole have substituted what our soul really craves (meaning want) with material items. Not surprisingly, the incidence of unipolar depression is greater now than it was fifty years ago because we have failed to achieve what we truly desire: respect, love, and a meaningful purpose. Despite our ownership of multiple TV sets, larger homes, recreational vehicles, electronic gadgets, cell phones, washer/dryers, and all manner of conveniences to improve our lifestyle, we have not been able to enhance our psyches in a similar fashion.
In a similar vein, Buscaglia (1982) argues that we have erroneously placed our security in superfluous items. He explains that he had no better time in Asia on $20.00/day as opposed to 35¢/day. (From a personal standpoint) the happiest time in my life was spent in doctoral school, in a one bedroom apartment with no vcr, no cable TV, no cell phone, and no luxury car. Frankl (1966) has termed the heady gallop toward wealth “the pleasure principle,” in which pleasure and not meaning is the target of intention. He laments a world in which a winner takes all liturgy results in the distillation of personal values.
In the film “How to be happy: Positive psychology in action,” participants in a “happiness experiment” found that expressing gratitude, helping other people, and volunteering their time were actually more meaningful and lasting in their effects than more “hedonistic” behaviors (like getting a massage or frequenting a club). Self-centered acts of indulgence provided only a fleeting sense of fulfillment, whereas altruism tapped the well springs of empathic concern inside these individuals. The film suggests that money is not an antidote for happiness, for the following reasons:
(1) We as a society do not adequately grasp the concept of “enough;” and
More free time is problematic because we often choose not to fill this gap with pastimes that nourish our souls. Removing the unnecessary and automating the routine can make time for activities that induce connection, rather than avenues for mindless amusement.
Buscaglia, L. F. (1982). Living, loving, learning. New York: Fawcett Columbine.
Easterbrook, G. (2003). The progress paradox: How life gets better while people feel worse. New York: Random House Books.
Frankl, V. (1966). Self-transcendence as a human phenomenon. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 6, 97-106.