Individual, Family & Group Psychotherapy
Locations in New York & New Jersey
Dec 12

Addicted to Affluence



Shoe shoppingMany people mistake affluence for self-worth. You can buy what you want to buy. Live where you want to live. Own what you want to own. You’ve made it! What a worthy, wonderful person you are!

So how come you’re still feeling that it’s not enough? You bought what you wanted to buy. You feel great. Yet, a day later, rather than feeling pleased, you’re bored.

So, you rack up additional purchases on your favorite digital device. It’s so easy to shop these days. Or, tired of shopping, you plan another trip. You create another social event. And still it satisfies only for the moment.

In the quietness of your solitude, you wonder what’s wrong.

A reassuring voice quickly tells you, “It’s going to be all right.”

“Umm, maybe it’s not,” whispers another voice. Deep down, addicts always know that something’s wrong, even when they are vehemently denying it.

So what’s the problem here? Isn’t affluence supposed to make life easier? More carefree? More tranquil? Yes, but not if one mistakes affluence for self-worth. Having a lot of money does not alleviate your anxiety or depression. Indeed, it can make it worse.

The adage, “little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems,” has much truth to it. Since big kids act out their difficulties on a bigger stage, problems that arise from their bad behavior have more serious consequences.

Similarly, people who live modest lives are so busy simply trying to keep themselves afloat that their problems are typically more mundane. In contrast, those who live life on a larger scale may find that their neurotic behavior creates emotional, social and financial debacles, worthy of headlines in People magazine. This is true not only for those who are affluent but for those who falsely convey an image of wealth and success but are deeply in debt.

If you are addicted to affluence (or the appearance of affluence), know that it does not cure the anxiety of insignificance. It does not provide you with a life purpose. It does not satisfy a neurotic need, which, by definition, is a need that can never be satisfied. In short, affluence does not equate to self-worth.

So, during this holiday season, if you are affluent (or a wannabe affluent), be aware of whether your riches are liberating or enslaving:

Are you being led astray by your ability to get (or consume) whatever you want, or are you controlling your impulsivity, getting what you truly want or need?
Are you having difficulty choosing what to buy (or do) because you know you can have it all, or are you making good choices and maintaining good discipline even though it’s not an imperative ?
Are you letting your affluence destroy your ability to find a purpose in life, or are you using your affluence to better your life and the lives of others?
Are you letting the tumultuous parts of your personality guide you into perilous pastimes, or are you willing and able to tame those impulses?
Are you only enticed by the superlative (the biggest and the best), or do you make your choices utilizing a wide range of options?
Are your kids adversely affected by their easy access to money, or are you making it a point to raise them with good values?
If, in your experience, affluence is not everything you thought it would be, be sure to admit what your issues are and take appropriate action before your problems become too big to solve.

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