What Is Affluenza?
Affluenza is termed as a painful and contagious disease, wherein it is said to cause socially transmitted condition of debt, anxiety, overload and waste which is a result of pursuit of more. It has been termed as a rich person’s disease. Due to the increase in emotional stress among the individuals, it becomes a response to those who are sick and unequal. The term affluenza is a mixture of two words which are affluence and influenza. It has been said that money makes an individual sick. This disease is termed as a highly paradoxically socially transmitted disease.
There is an assertion that wealth as being economically successful leads to an emotion of fulfillment, however that is not the case. Instead, it leads to addition to wealth wherein one tends to neglect all the personal relationships which are the actual source of happiness and contentment in the life of the individual. Affluenza is considered to be an unsustainable and an unhealthy serious form of addiction to one’s personal economic growth. Affluenza is spreading like an epidemic and is infecting millions of people across the globe wherein those individuals tend to have an insatiable desire for having more and more in their life.
In those individuals who tend to inherit wealth and have no purpose or direction in their life, this condition is termed as acute. So as to make themselves feel better, people suffering from affluenza shop a lot. It is termed as a temporary form of distraction wherein shopping can help them to avoid the other important issues in their mind. At times, it can turn out to be a weapon for the individual to express their opinion or anger or to seek revenge as well. In certain situations, it turns out to be the ultimate attempt to hold on to someone whom they love. Also, it can be termed as a balm to soothe oneself or to change their mood and in certain other cases, it can turn out to be an attempt to project one’s power and wealth to others.
The term affluenza first was used in one of the popular lexicon which was the title of one of the highly acclaimed PBS documentary series. Later, there was a book written on the same series which was titled "Affluenza – the All-consuming Epidemic". This book was written by John De Graaf, who also happened to be the producer of the same series and the co-authors were Thomas H Naylor and David Wann. Post this series and book, this term affluenza garnered a lot of attention and was increasingly used in mainstream vocabulary. It was used as a metaphor of disease which lead to the damage which was being done to our physical and emotional health, the environment and the communities. This was being done by the obsessive quest for having more and more wealth or material gain.
There are varied symptoms associated with affluenza and it all varies from person to person. Few among those varied symptoms are overcrowded or bulging closets, shelves, drawers. Most of the times, they are filled with unworn clothes, CDs which have never been heard, toys and equipment which have been hardly used, books which have been rarely noticed and read and gadgets and electronic items which have never been used. Apart from the cupboards or shelves, one will also have the similar situation wherein basements or attics are also facing a similar kind of situation.
The credit card bill numbers would keep on rising and there would be innumerable credit cards. There would be a feeling that one is continuously and forever catching up, but actually never getting ahead of the race. The individual tends to keep the relationships at a backseat and never bothering much about close relations due to which they hardly remember the last meaningful conversation they had with their families and friends. There is a kind of sense that one is stuck in a continuous cycle of working harder, spending more of the expenses, whereas hardly getting the chance to enjoy, play or rest and even if they do get a chance to rest or play, there is always something playing on in their mind.
People suffering from affluenza tend to fit in the ways of the society, which is mostly appearance obsessed. This leads to a lot of stress and trauma on the minds of the individuals. At times, such individuals get addicted to alcohol, drugs or any other substances. It leads to over-consumption of wealth, which can also be called as “luxury fever”. Today, the society is becoming more and more modern wherein there is less value for personal relationships and individuals are running behind fame and money.
All of it leads to a host of other medical problems such as anxiety attacks, eating disorders, depression, emotional stress, breakdown in the families, and consumption of more and more medicines to keep oneself fit. There is a kind of emptiness or loneliness hovering in the minds of those individuals. The reason for the same is because they tend to trade off genuine, authentic and loving relationships for accumulation of wealth and consumption.
Being obsessed to possess
In the past, people would only go in for just bare necessities in their homes and their lives. There were rarely cases of people wanting more and more. But today the cases is completely different, we have unimaginable luxuries around us and in our home itself. There has been a rising growth in wealth where the income in each household has doubled, thus allowing for having the good life. Today’s houses are bigger and much more extravagant than the houses of our parents or grandparents in the past centuries.
Today, every single person in the house has a mobile phone as opposed to having just one landline phone in the past. The houses also have a large television set, multiple cars, microwave oven, personal computers, laptops and so on. Today, individuals are working more number of hours so that they can get the best material items and enjoy their life. While there has been a focus on increasing the human productivity along with expanding the global economy, we have almost used up most of our natural resources, killed countless number of species for our own selfish needs and lead to generation of more waste as well as pollution than in the past centuries. Food today is readily available, it is faster and convenient, but along with it, the food is also becoming less wholesome and nourishing, but more fattening thereby increasing the chances of more and more diseases due to a weakened immune system.
It is true that with all of the conveniences in our lives, it has made our lives much easier and quite comfortable but at the same time too much of materialistic acquisition has led to it taking the center part of our lives. There has been a relentless pursuit of stuff which is better, neater and lasts longer. But this pursuit has somewhere destabilized the deeper and the lasting source of our relationships which is the quality of relationships, responsibility and commitment towards the society and community, reduced the quality of spiritual life and we now hardly appreciate the beauty of nature.
Individuals are working more and more and they spend what they earn wherein there is less to show others. Instead of feeling pampered, one tends to feel more stressed and harried. Instead of taking control of the daily choices, there is a feeling that our lives are living us. Affluenza has been titled as an epidemic, wherein it is saturating both the culture as well as the individual along with their daily existence.
You will find more rush in shopping malls than in the religious places. More and more money is spent on purchasing expensive jewelry or watches than on getting the best education. There is less value for spiritual growth and values of the family and an increasing number of hours is spent on getting more and more material items. There is increase in buying, but at the same time discarding is also going on at an alarming rate.
Attacks the immune, which is our mind
As in case of medical illness, a weakened immune system gives way to a number of diseases, similarly affluenza is known to find the weak spots in our immune system. In case of affluenza, the weak spots are our minds wherein it is the psychological immune system. This is the system which is known to monitor the satisfaction in our lives and to ourselves. Two of the most powerful accomplices for affluenza are consumer debt and a sense of dissatisfaction. They both work in a vicious cycle.
When an individual starts buying more stuff, the less he is happy with himself. There is more accumulation of debt when one tends to spend compulsively. When there is accumulation of debt, it kind of demoralizes our satisfaction and self-esteem. This in turn leads to increase in the nature of spending so as to get distracted from the momentarily rebuild. When we feel empty from within, to fill this gap we tend to buy something which would make us feel happy, but in this attempt to buy certain symbols of accomplishments, self-worth or status, we actually give up more of our power to the consumer debt.
The best course of treatment for affluenza would be to change the course of lifestyle along with changing the mindset of the society. There is a famous saying of the Dalai Lama, “All beings seek happiness”. As individuals, we tend to buy all this stuff so that it provides us satisfaction and fulfillment in our stressful life. As per social science research, it has been shown that one’s lasting well-being does not come from all of the material consumption.
One should enjoy rich, personal everlasting relationships which would help them to find a deeper sense of purpose in their life and it would cultivate a sense of happiness. One of the most fundamental steps for curing affluenza would be the basic realization that acquiring even the neatest of the stuff would not result in a commensurate amount of happiness or satisfaction. Battling affluenza at times can get difficult, but one has to learn to deal with it so that they can overcome it gradually.
One of the ways is to learn a deep, peaceful and masterful way on how to truly enjoy every moment of life. This in turn would lead to finding the true meaning or true purpose of one’s life. Today, often as parents there is a common thing running in their minds that if they earn more, they can provide all the very best for the children. This has led to a strong conviction in our minds that love is equal to stuff or happiness is equal to any materialistic stuff. This has been also drilled in the minds of our children who tend to see the world as we show them.
But at the end, materialistic stuff or worldly wealth does not equal happiness or the essence of the relationships. What do children remember more, whether their parents bought all the cool stuff, but no time for a quick talk or some happy outdoor time or a supportive parent who has the time to listen to their kids and play around with them, thus giving them quality life. People have forgotten how to read a book or literature in a peaceful environment without a thousand thoughts running through their mind.
Perhaps, now is the time when we have to deal sensibly with what is worth valuing or protecting. What we want to have is important, but what matters the most is what we are wanting to be. Rather than running around worldly items which one can get tired of, it is important to find that inner peace and give quality time at home. When our wants are less, the mind is more relaxed.