In the materialistic, consumption-driven culture that we live, most of us worship objects and do our best to acquire as many of them as we can.
Yet, no matter how many possessions we have, we’re never satisfied. That’s because they are only substitutes of what we deep down long for, and substitutes cannot fulfill our needs.
How can a big bank balance substitute inner peace?
How can a shiny car substitute loving attention?
How can a smartphone substitute human connection?
What we are searching for cannot be found in products, but in how we relate with our inner world, the people close to us and our wider environment.
How to Escape the Prison Materialism
Materialism is a prison that only a few manage to escape from, simply because most people don’t even recognize that the prison is there and that they are confined by it. Unaware of their slavery, how can they seek freedom?
If you sense that the prison of materialism exists and surrounds you, the following realizations might help you to escape from it and regain the freedom you lost a long time ago:
Realization #1: You have enough
If you’re reading this article, that means you have internet connection, a computer or another electronic device, and a house to live in, which in turn means that you have enough to satisfy your basic needs and wants.
Now think about this: In our planet, hundreds of millions of people don’t have enough food to eat, clean water to drink, and a roof to live under. Yet, instead of extending a helping hand to those in need, most of us who do have those things in abundance only care about our selfish gratification, not realizing how privileged we are.
By looking at your condition from a wider perspective, you’ll come to see that you have much more than you think, and begin to realize what should concern us all.
Realization #2: What you own, owns you
Possessions are good when we use them, yet can become terrible if we let them use us.
The more possessions you have, the more time and energy you’ll need to spend maintaining and protecting them. And the more attached to them you are, the more you’ll find yourself under stress arising from the emotional insecurity that something might go wrong with them, as well as from not being able to focus on other things that matter way more to your happiness.
In addition, realizing the temporal nature of things, you might feel the constant urge to acquire more and more stuff, out of fear of missing out on the newest and best things available in the market. Thus you can waste your money on things you don’t actually need and which you’ll soon afterwards not even want.
Possessing material objects that are serving your well-being is perfectly fine (providing that they don’t harm others and the planet), but don’t let them take over your life — if you do, they can turn into harsh dictators that will torture you until the moment you die.
Realization #3: Joy is derived from sharing
Studies have found again and again that helping others contributes to our well-being, and that healthy relationships play the most important role in determining how happy we are.
In our competitive society, however, we tend to believe that when we don’t share things with others, and instead hoard them and keep them only for ourselves, we are better off. In reality, by doing so we only achieve to alienate ourselves from our fellow human beings, which prevents us from building intimate relationships and finding a sense of belonging to community — and since we’re social beings by nature, this inevitably results in tremendous emotional pain.
Realization #4: Everything you own will will taken away from you
Death is approaching you, moment to moment, and everything that belongs to you — even you body — will sooner or later be taken away from you, whether you like it or not. Naturally, the more you cling on to your possessions, the more suffering you’re going to experience the moment you find yourself losing all you thought is yours right in front of your bare eyes.
The truth is — and we better accept it — that nothing actually belongs to us; we’re all just visitors here, and only once we realize that life is ephemeral, will we be able to live care-free and at ease with what the future might bring along our journey.