Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Revealing Nature of Desensitization

Here's a thought I had a few weeks ago while hiking: 

"Allow yourself to first get desensitized by material things -- indulge in a healthy amount of capitalism and consumer aaahh-ness -- and then, instead of acquiring more, ask yourself in that suspended state, where it's you with little exterior stimulation, like you in a float tank, satiated and close to that point where you will soon be hungry for more needless, wasteful consumption, who am I and what is all this?"

When we stay in a foreign country for an extended period of time, there is period of cultural adjustment that nearly traveler goes through (see the figure below).

I would argue that we also go through a monetary or consumption adjustment period. When we run into more money than we're used to, we experience a honeymoon of consumption -- that extra pair of shoes with an indefensible price tag, that weekend getaway whose purpose is more about the cost than the experience. For some of us, we fall in and out of these traps with every career move or with each big tax return. For others of us, we've already figured out how to conquer these devilish whispers of indulgence.

But whether it's in regard to our culture or our spending, let's keep this curve in mind in all aspects of our lives -- could be the people we interact with, the places we move about, the way we treat others, or the things we surround ourselves with. Let's remind ourselves that the highs are directly proportionate to the lows and that the middle way, the stages of playfulness, humor, at-homeness, and content, are the lands of lasting peace.

Do you experience a honeymoon followed by hostility? If so, in relationship to what external area of your life does this dichotomy sprout up?
Try replacing the word "cultural" in the graph above with the word that applies to you, and use your imagination to get yourself back to the middle.

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