It’s easy to fall into the trap of materialism as it provides momentary pleasure but it is important to seek real happiness.
We often hear people passing the remark, “He/she is very materialistic. It is a materialistic world.” Materialism has somehow become more of a curse, yet people chase it. One might wonder why?
Let’s first understand what materialism truly means; Material is a synonym for matter — anything that exists. Originally, materialism was a philosophy that “only matter exists”. But in 1851, American fiction writer Nathaniel Hawthorne tweaked the definition to mean “a way of life based entirely on consumer goods”, and this definition has stayed with us, as we are living in a consumer driven market.
If we go by Hawthorne’s definition, who is not materialistic in today’s world? To curb this, we use a superficial mask of spirituality. If you are spiritual, you cannot be materialistic. As a spiritual seeker, this is the most absurd thing I hear. Don’t we need commodities for our day to day life? It is important to understand if these material possessions define you or if you define them. The question is how do we do it?
For this I would like to divide materialism into two segments — functional materialism and emotional materialism:
Functional materialism means you know what is important for you at the given time. If transportation is a problem, you buy a car. You need to communicate, you buy a phone. Your decisions are based on your requirement and your needs.
Emotional materialism is motivated by emotional needs. I need a bigger car or a bigger home than my neighbour because it makes me look rich. Here, luxury is the new name of need. It is driven by your ego, insecurities, fears and judgments.
We need to avoid diving into emotional materialism, as there’s no end to it. You can never satisfy your emotional needs. You will keep craving for more and more, and when you can’t get it, it leads to stress.
Next time when you want to purchase something, make a note, see in which section the commodity falls into. If it is functionally materialistic, go ahead, you need it. If it is emotional, see which emotional need it might fulfill, then close your eyes take three deep breaths and be with yourself.
Once you are aware of yourself, bring your awareness to that emotional need and ask yourself three other ways you can fulfill it and start executing them. For example, you need that big car, as it will get you more respect in the community. Respect, is the emotional need you need to fulfill, and the other way to fulfill it is, going and spending time with less fortunate people. The latter option is more fulfilling and shall stay with you forever.
Being materialistic has nothing to do with a person’s character. It is like food to our emotions, which we overeat at times.
The writer is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org