Tis the season for stuff. By now, your inbox may be flooded with online deals, promising holiday sales and eye-popping discounts from retailers.
The holidays are the top spending season for Americans. Between now and New Year’s Eve, consumers will, on average, spend over $1,000 on stuff like candy and decorations. That may not include the stuff you’re buying for your kids, your spouse and even that little special gift for yourself.
We at Productive Learning believe this is the perfect time to contemplate our relationship with all the stuff that makes up our lives and that stuff we’re about to buy in the spirit of the holidays.
Stuff has one thing in common: items fulfill our desire. Some of it fulfills practical needs like bedding, a laundry basket and warm socks. Other stuff fulfills sentimental needs and we all possess items that speak to our identity, like our family pictures.
Desire unveils the emotional dependence we have on items. It’s what makes us believe we want—nay, need! —stuff.
The reality is that it’s within our nature to desire things. But desire without self-awareness can misguide us to accumulate stuff as a way to understand ourselves. Think about what your stuff says about you: does it clue others as to how you want to be perceived? Why do you need to advertise this information?
It’s not only desire for stuff we want to think about. What does desire for a long life say about you? What does wanting a certain position or a partner say?
Physical items make it easy for us to feel, see, taste, touch what we desire. We live in a world surrounded by sales and 24-hour delivery. We’re conditioning ourselves to find instant gratification for desire. (Ever hear of the shopper’s high?) And then, we attach our emotions to things, which only makes us desire more things.
There are no right or wrong answers to why we want stuff. We’re asking for the sake of self-authenticity. Desire reflects the narratives of how we see ourselves and what’s missing for us. It also sets us up to believe that we can be happy once we have something—that car, that income, that (fill in the blank).
For instance, how much infighting takes place when grandma’s stuff needs to be dispersed? It’s not uncommon for relatives to outpace each other, tagging heirlooms. But what does that desire say? Will her teacup set mean that they get to have her back? And why did she have all this stuff to pass on? Was she afraid they’d forget her? Did she fear her stuff would end up in the trash?
Owning and wanting things isn’t the problem. It’s that we don’t understand what our desire for what wanting things means and that can unconsciously lead us to rely on the outside world to fulfill an emotion.
We at Productive Learning don’t mean to offend Star Trek fans but we believe the real final frontier is the internal space between our ears. We tend to explore what’s outside of us before we look inside.
Productive Learning workshops usher clients inside of themselves. Beyond Reasons is often the lily pad where clients jump into the realm of inner space. They experience breakthroughs when they share insights about the narratives that shape their beliefs and desires. We host that sanctum that makes it safe to “go there” with yourself, to pick through your desires, physical and nonphysical, and explore what it all says about you.
As Secret Santa season arrives, we encourage you to be mindful of your desire—reflect on the stuff you’re getting, giving or storing. Maybe this year you can extend a desire to show love by way of deeds or words instead of stuff.
We continue this year’s theme of writing love letters to our emotions. This month, we honor our desire:
So. Much. Stuff.
You got me: my desire reflects an overemphasized dependency on my external world and my need for it to be reflected back to me. But I’m learning that desire shows I need to re-work my contract with the present. I don’t need to fulfill a desire to be happy. I can accept things as they are and detach from the idea that if I don’t get what I desire I won’t be happy.
Now that I take you into consideration, I see stuff differently. I have a greater sense of who I am and who I want to be. I don’t need stuff to become my vision, but I can welcome tangible and non-tangible things without emotional attachment. I can still hang on to family heirlooms, pictures, new clothes and other things while detaching my identity (and happiness) from them. In the end, it’s just stuff.
I’m going to take mindful inventory of the stuff that flows in and out of my life. I’m also going to be more aware of what the non-tangible things I desire say about me, about my capacity to love, to challenge myself—even to see cracks in my beliefs.
These months, instead of taking advantage of sales I’ll seek out the wisdom of the elders who are on the decline and ask them to share their wisdom. This is the kind of stuff I want to hold on to.
Even with those can’t-miss sales, I’m going to be radically authentic about why I want something. I’ll examine my projections externally and internally. I’ll take stock of my relationship to things and question my attachments. I desire radical self-authenticity that opens me up to living a life of awareness.
Thank you desire.