Wondering why your appetite for more “things” seems insatiable?

A study to be published in the June 2013 Journal of Consumer Research confirms that people tend to find greater pleasure in wanting things vs. having things.

“Thinking about acquisition provides momentary happiness boosts to materialistic people, and because they tend to think about acquisition a lot, such thoughts have the potential to provide frequent mood boosts. But the positive emotions associated with acquisition are short-lived,” said study author Marsha L. Richins.

She continued, “Materialists are more likely to overspend and have credit problems, possibly because they believe that acquisitions will increase their happiness and change their lives in meaningful ways.”

Let’s talk about how this happens, then move on to the mystery of why people repeatedly convince themselves that they must have something, and then lose interest in it soon after purchase.

In other words, lusting after that new flat screen is pretty exciting. After purchasing, it morphs into “the TV.”
Most people in the age of consumerism can probably relate. When you hype yourself up for a new toy, the let down is sure to follow.

From an NLP perspective, this is relatively easy to deconstruct.

People in pursuit of shiny objects tend to visualize those objects in certain ways. Big, bright, glistening pictures dance around in the their minds, enhancing the thrill of the pursuit.

After the TV is set up and working, adjustments are made to the internal mental imagery. The internal images of “the TV in the living room” dull down, become smaller and lose their internal glisten. Good-bye pleasure. Time to look for the next temporary high.

Sometimes the string of temporary consumer highs is expensive and debt begins to pile up. This is where problems develop.

The cycle: We amp ourselves up in pursuit of “stuff.”  We acquire said stuff. We then feel let down or empty, or not nearly as fulfilled as we imagined when convincing ourselves we needed the stuff. So, we look for more stuff! Sometimes we are willing to go deeply into debt to get all the stuff, as if we were addicted.

Why do we subject ourselves to this cycle again and again?

This is where it gets interesting. It involves more than seeing the simple pattern or even understanding how it manifests in the mind. Here we need to delve into why people seek fulfillment in things that do not fulfill and then do it again and again and again.

This is where we arrive at the definition of insanity, doing something over and over and expecting a different result. Interestingly, people who do this are insane, just unconscious.

On this one, I agree with the obscure psychoanalyst Edmund Bergler, who suggested that we unconsciously sabotage ourselves (in this case, deprive ourselves of lasting fulfillment by going into debt for a temporary consumer high) by unconsciously seeking what makes us unfulfilled.

In other words, we have a deeply unconscious script that lures us into a pattern of self-deprivation.

Here is how the cycle looks:

1. During childhood, we experience deprivation on some level and come to expect it from life. Being deprived is familiar, the status quo.

2. When our needs are deprived consistently, we unconsciously become “attached” to the deprivation. We expect it and even seek to experience it consistently, because it is familiar. We may not even know who we are without that empty, deprived feeling inside.

3. And here we are as adults, continuing to seek out that old familiar, deprived and empty feeling. We unwittingly make choices that recycle those old states from early in life. Choices may appear to be promising on the surface (shiny objects) but deep down we know they will not deliver happiness. Unconsciously, it is not happiness we seek, but familiarity or identification with our unfinished business from childhood.

Rinse and repeat. Keep the cycle alive. We are not insane. We are getting what we want on another level. We pursue what we hate because it familiar.

Some even find a strange satisfaction in it, but that is another conversation. Visit the iNLP Center for an amazing self-sabotage video that sheds greater light on this pervasive issue.