"We've been raised to compete, to want more! More! More! It's a way of life. It's about greed.”
Greed, excessive materialism and hedonism are addictive behaviours that are definitely not life enhancing and can destroy inner peace and happiness. We are challenged daily by a world that encourages and supports these addictions. They’re insidious and deceptive. And once you’re on the treadmill of escalating desires, it’s not easy to get off.
By understanding the natural processes that lead to these destructive emotions and behaviours, you can learn to control your desires and re-balance your life. Happiness is created, not by satisfying greed, but by truly savoring and appreciating what you have and do in life. True wealth involves more than money and true joy needs more than the satisfying of desires.
Addiction to Greed
It’s becoming exceedingly obvious we live in a world filled with selfishness and greed. The evidence surrounds us. Take a look at the state of the world! The media is filled with stories and images that are testament to the greed that has stealthily overtaken society.
We are living well beyond our means. The planet cannot support so many humans living such rapacious lives. We are destroying our world and our future. Our economy is in massive disarray. Our ecosphere is in massive decline. We are raping our world in the name of greed, desire and avarice.
This has all come about due to the craziness and un-sanity of following an economic model of infinite growth in a finite system. Yes, an infinite growth model… For hundreds of years our society, politics and economics have been managed using a year on year growth imperative. Our businesses and financial systems have been measured and directed by expectations of year on year growth – that’s growth on previous growth.
This is an infinite growth model. It relies on exponential growth, of continuous and never ending expansion on top of previous growth. And as we are now experiencing, it is unsustainable. We live in a finite world. We cannot keep digging and siphoning up limited resources and expect that to continue forever. It’s unsane!
And I’m sure I don’t have to convince you of that… However, we may have more of a challenge getting you to see your own addictions to personal patterns of greed, desire and selfishness that are feeding this unsane system and are ultimately so life denying.
Why is that?
Because many of these patterns, the very patterns that have created our current world issues, are naturally evolved and inbuilt propensities. They are normal. And in controlled amounts they’re even useful and appropriate. They have largely driven the successes we all enjoy and are highly valued in society. But they’re also insidious, addictive and lead naturally ever onwards to more and more and more of the same.
So while en-masse and globally they are now evidenced as crazy and destructive, in your own life they’re often still accepted, overlooked or even applauded. Tracking and changing these insidious greed and selfishness patterns can be challenging.
The first step of course is awareness. You need to be aware of the patterns and processes of ‘greeding’ in your life. The next step is to interrupt the patterns. Then finally and continually you need to practice emotions and behaviours that oppose these negative greed patterns and inoculate yourself against them.
The biology of greed
The primitive emotion-driven biological circuits of your brain become intensely aroused when you anticipate greed behaviours.
Research at Stanford University has shown that anticipation and desire for money during behaviours such as financial investing and gambling cause the same areas of the brain to activate as those responsible for sexual desire. In one study, the brains of young adult men were scanned with magnetic resonance imaging while they viewed sexually arousing pictures and also when they made risky financial decisions. The study found the same areas of the brain light up during financial gambles as during sexual desire.
This is something to be aware of: Greed utilises many of the same biological circuits as hunger and sexual desire. Greed feels good. It’s quite an insidious trap.
The other important thing to note about the biology of greed is that satiating desire does NOT feel as good as the greed itself. One study found that the hot state of anticipation cools down as soon as you gain the financial reward, yielding lukewarm satisfaction.
As Jason Zweig, author of the book ‘Your Money and Your Brain’ describes it, "Making money feels good, all right; it just doesn't feel as good as expecting to make money. In a cruel irony that has enormous implications for financial behaviour, your investing brain comes equipped with a biological mechanism that is more aroused when you anticipate a profit than when you actually get one".
Contentment versus Greeding
According to the Dalai Lama, “The true antidote of greed is contentment” and a reliable method to achieve inner contentment is “not to have what we want but rather to want and appreciate what we have” (The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama and H. Cutler).
These deep and ancient insights from Buddhist philosophy have been recently supported by research in Positive Psychology. The studies show that savoring and appreciating what you currently have can significantly increase levels of joy and happiness.
Savoring involves relishing and paying special attention to the pleasurable and meaningful things and events in your life. It’s about truly appreciating and celebrating your experiences, including those occurring in the present, those that are now fond memories and those you are looking forward to with positive anticipation.
The studies also show that savoring positive experiences is correlated with a greater sense of well being, increased happiness and better physical health – All great life enhancing benefits and wonderful antidotes to greeding!
By shifting your attention to a focus on contentment, you’ll have broken the vicious spiral of wanting more and more. You’ll have allowed your multi-mind to experience and enjoy the life you have right now. You’ll overcome the enemy to happiness of greed and never-ending desiring.
Remember also that the mind/body is a patterning system, so the patterns you put into your mind and life create the patterns of results you get back from life. I liken the practice and focus on savoring and contentment to the Native American story about the wise grandfather talking to his grandson. He tells the young boy we all have two wolves inside of us struggling with each other. The first is the wolf of peace, love and kindness. The other wolf is fear, greed and hatred. "Which wolf will win, grandfather?" asks the young boy. "Whichever one you feed" is the thoughtful reply.
So make sure you feed the life enhancing patterns you want in your life, and stay tuned for more ideas and distinctions in up-coming blog posts on ‘Wealthing your life’.
"The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”
life enhancing thoughts and wishes,