Wednesday, 8 June 2016

How I loved "stuff". Emotions and consumerism.

I didn't know I had been consuming excessively for many years until very recently. Even though I think some friends did hint at it in a very friendly joking way for years. But I couldn't understand them at the time. 

I used to link emotions and memories to "things".

It was a major catastrophe when a mug I had brought home from a great holiday, broke. It was as if part of that holiday had broken or vanished. Or when something that a friend had given to me, broke. That felt as if I had directly physically hurt that friend. If somebody else damaged something by accident, it felt as if that person had damaged or destroyed the memory. Every item in the house was sentimentally linked. Everything. It was a nightmare! Kitchen tools. Candle holders. Matchstick boxes. Plates. Linked to friends, family, happy moments. I hoarded things to hold on to the memories. And I did that because I wasn't happy in the moment I was living in. I wasn't happy with myself.

"Buy this and you will feel better". "This shirt makes you look like a goddess". "This item defines me as the person I am". Clever marketing strategies designed to fill a void in my heart. The feeling of discontentment caused by lack of self-esteem muted by the overlay of heavy shopping. But I was used to it, used to going shopping for its own sake to fill that void, as a reward, as a "you're worth it". As a "I need to have this so I don't forget this good thing, this happy moment". Really sad.

The truth is, neither our love for the person, nor their love for us, nor our memories, are in the possession. The love is in us, and so are the memories. Letting go of the possession doesn’t mean we lose the love or the memories. [...] Focus on giving love to your loved ones now. (Leo Babauta)

As I am sorting through drawers, wardrobes, boxes in the attic... I find lots of things. I show them to my husband, we laugh, he asks "what IS this?", I say "It's a fully automatic pneumothingy that helps you to do absolutely nothing, I got this 15 years ago", we laugh.
I put it in the "donate" or "rubbish" bag. I look at those bags as they are filling slowly but steadily. And then I am deeply ashamed of myself. I find so many things that I found impossible to live without. Clothes. Decorations. Kitchen tools. Shoes. Things that at the time, I thought I really really needed and wouldn't be happy without. And that I probably used or looked at twice. And then the dust accumulated. And the items that I acquired to make me feel better, more beautiful, to remember beautiful moments, love - became a burden. 

While we are doing this little "look what I'VE found today"-game, I notice how most of this stuff predates 2008. I came back from my trip to Asia in late 2007. Looking back, I know now that from that time onwards I started to be more aware of a lot of things that were going on around me and of myself.

My life changed. I began to understand better what made me feel good, what made me feel bad. I understood more about healthy and unhealthy relationships. I started to put more emphasis on sports and outdoor activities. (I am a great fan of this Couch to 5 K running program and i also started Yoga and rock climbing). I learned to say "no". I had a lot of help with this process and it wasn't easy (neither for me, nor the rest of the world). But the result was that I developped more self-esteem, made changes to my behaviour and ... didn't consume as much as before.

Now I am content with who I am and where I am going. I have learned about my strenghts, I accept my weaknesses. Most of the time. :)

I stopped linking love to "stuff" and started loving the moment and myself and giving love to loved ones.

You can also check some conceptual papers from the MEG Freiburg

If you speak German, here is an interesting on happiness and consumerism

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