“More means less,” or “don’t hoard, but discard”
After over twenty years of making up for the “civilisation delays” relative to the Western consumption pattern working in the society, we now have an opportunity to experience a lot of harmful consequences of the transformation. Despite the fact that the standard of life has improved for many of us, and in turn luxurious goods and services have become more available, it seems not to translate into the level of the happiness and contentment we feel.
It turns out even that the level of frustration, intensity of problems and troubles which we struggle with is reaching an all-time high. If we can put aside some time, we start to think about and search for the causes of such a state. As our “longed-for development” is under way, and even accelerates at an unheard-of rate, it is more and more difficult to notice the paradox which “hides” the correct direction of searching. The existence of this paradox, especially its reference to psychotherapy, needs to be brought to attention.
Happiness for money?
The worship of money, being ubiquitous in the Western civilisation and driving it at the same time, makes the level of satisfaction from life and the generally understood happiness is associated with the level of affluence. Money – apart from the fact that they give the level of security necessary for life, that is allow paying for food and a roof over one’s head – offers much, much more. If only it is available, it does not allow stopping on what is necessary, but it offers ostensible freedom and, it seems, opens unlimited horizons, open to our willingness to discover and seek. If such opportunities arise, it would be difficult to resist, right? All the more so as we are bombarded with needs and offers created for us at every step. As a vast industry of psychological manipulation is involved in all this, it is immensely difficult not to get the impression that we will really feel better when our head is washed with a new shampoo, our body wrapped in new clothes and faster shoes and lying in – obviously – a more comfortable couch, driving a new car, living in an apartment or a house on the outskirts of the city, sharing life with a new spouse – during an exotic last minute journey if possible. Therefore, our quest for happiness or satisfaction is very often linked with trying new experiences and things and getting to know new people. The common feature of all these actions is the focus on the outside. We are looking for happiness and satisfaction outside of ourselves – in the world of needs and desires created for us by an industry filled with a desire towards profit. However, constant seeking and trying outside does not bring anything apart from fatigue in the long run. In the short term, we will obviously experience different elations, be it by a sight of a new landscape, getting to know a new person or as a result of be around sophisticated technology. However, elations inevitably pass and tiredness appears in their place. This is when we have to rest (if it’s still possible) and – well – you can start your search from scratch again. This is how our life passes us by and it turns out that we fail to find the “something.”
The paradox is that the rabbit we are chasing is constantly right there in ourselves. It is always in ourselves that we have the potential, realised or not, to feel happy. Feel well with what is currently available. Feel well with ourselves. Develop as well as we can, derive joy from what we have already achieved and appreciate the most ordinary of the daily things and activities. Discovering this is possible only when the direction in which we are searching changes, along with the general principle: the reign of “more” will be taken over by “less.” Meaning less work, less job, less loans, less obligations, less events during the day, less haste. Instead of asking “what else do I need?”, the question “what else can I resign from?” will take its place. We have an opportunity to see ourselves when we drop off at least some of what is not ours – what we have taken on our shoulders as a result of pressure and insistence of our family, society, advertisement or employers.
This is no arcane knowledge. However, it is difficult to dub it common or current. If everyone suddenly understood that happiness and satisfaction can be found only in themselves, not in goods bought one after another, what would happen with our consumerist civilisation? It is perhaps better not to imagine that. However, nothing stands in the way of using that knowledge to our own, individual, entirely specific advantage.
The main idea is the paradox itself determines the direction on which the “work” in psychotherapy in based. Psychotherapy is not searching for and applying a set of new methods and clever ways of dealing with life or the disciplines in which we tend to do worse. This is not science or application of knowledge obtained by others, e.g. psychotherapists. Psychotherapy is nothing more than a permission to take an opportunity to learn about one’s own resources and start to use them. This is a possibility of rejecting that which is not ours – which we have inherited and which we took on our own shoulders as a result of manipulation or unconscious action. Which is exactly what we said before – we are not looking for the new, but we discard that which is not ours and which is redundant.
Author: Natalia Żuk
A member of our team between 2011-2016
Eichelberger, W. (2015). Pomóż sobie, daj światu odetchnąć. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Drzewo Babel.
Eichelberger W. , Moneta-Malewska, M. (2017). Być tutaj. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Drzewo Babel.