One of the primary distinguishing factors of consumerist economies is that they encourage you to buy what you want instead of what you need in order to be well. This is because you can only want what you lack. In comparison, what you need to be well is often what you already have. So, what is it that you want?
This fact is why goods and services are marketed in consumerist societies as either increasing pleasure and comfort directly or indirectly, through reducing pain and discomfort. While this tendency of consumerism may appear to be beneficial, it turns out that continually idling in pleasure and comfort hinders your wellness. So, why is that?
While pleasure signals the fulfillment of desire, pain signals potential harm. While comfort signals ease, discomfort signals difficulty. What this means is that pain and discomfort inherently facilitate your learning and growth more than pleasure and comfort do. After all, there’s a reason why they’re called “growing pains” and a reason why growing up is hard to do. By idling in pleasure and comfort, you put off the learning and growth that are required for your maturity.
The encouragement to increase the consumption of the pleasurable and comforting goods and services that people want is how consumerism actively promotes immaturity. Of course, this does not mean that pleasure and comfort are somehow wrong or that pain and discomfort are somehow right. Instead, what it means is that increasing your wellness requires you to experience the full range of pleasure and pain, as well as the full range of comfort and discomfort. When you continuously choose to idle in pleasure and comfort while avoiding pain and discomfort, you are choosing to be ill by reducing your ability to live fully. When you continuously choose to idle in pain and discomfort while avoiding pleasure and comfort, you are also choosing to be ill by reducing your ability to live fully. So, what’s the difference?
Pleasure and comfort often leave you wanting more. Meanwhile, pain and discomfort often leave you wanting less. These cravings and the addictive behavioral patterns they cause reduce your ability to function as a human being. Because it is easier to do what you are familiar with than what you are not, there is comfort in the familiar. So, by idling in the comfort of the familiar, you tend to repeatedly do what you have done, think as you have thought, and feel as you have felt. You become stuck on autopilot, unable to change course towards a more fulfilling destination in life.
While consumerist societies are addicted to both pleasure and comfort, addiction to comfort specifically hinders change. Without change, there can be no growth. Without growth, maturity is limited. When maturity is limited, thriving is limited, because living beings only thrive relative to their scope of awareness. In other words, the more aware you are of your experience of living — the more fully you are able to thrive in your life.
What is actually happening is that our Mother Earth is forcing humanity to learn through increasing levels of pain and discomfort while our consumerist societies simultaneously promote lifestyles of consumption that are dissociated from the pains and discomforts of reality. What is actually happening is that our Mother Earth is engaged in an intervention with humanity so that we can thrive by facing our addictions and releasing them before we kill ourselves in our addiction-fueled obliviousness.
Is it always hard to free yourself from addictions? Yes, that’s the point of having them! By overcoming your addictions, you learn how free you truly are to choose, regardless of how painful and uncomfortable those choices may be. What is actually happening is that humanity is beginning to overcome our collective addiction to the pleasures and comforts that fossil fuels, industrialization, and consumerism have created.
Will there be withdrawal symptoms, relapses, and painful realizations in this discomforting process? Yes. Indeed, we have already experienced all of those things and will likely continue to do so until we’ve finished learning our lessons. Yet, through this process, we are learning and growing as a species in ways that far exceed our expectations. This is what is actually happening.