OPINION

MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: Wanting in America

By Jim Runnels
Special to the Herald Democrat

“When Christ said he came to give you a more abundant life, I don’t think he meant a life of more consumer goods.” Eckhart Tolle

American consumers are drowning in debt. Collectively we owe $4.1 trillion for non-mortgage debts like car loans, credit card accounts, and student or personal loans. This means consumer debt equates to $12,416.00 for every man woman and child in this country. Why are we so consumed with debt? The United States is, by far the largest advertising market in the world. In 2019, more than 240 billion dollars were spent on advertising in the United States.

Television is the largest avenue for advertisers in the country. While we like to think the purpose of television is entertainment, you might be surprised at its underlying, more sinister purpose. “Delivering viewers to our advertisers” reads the Mission Statement of a local television station. In other words, the purpose of television is to sell you products.

Then, how is it that television is so effective in getting you to buy things you don’t need? Advertisers do this through the mind’s own natural ability to make us feel better about ourselves through association with objects. It starts early in life when we teach our children to gain a sense of separateness, superiority, and identification with “my toy, or my clothes, etc. We are all taught from an early age that things will all add something to how we are seen by others. A $200.00 pair of sneakers adds a sense of separateness, distinction, superiority, and an enhanced sense of self for a short period of time.

Advertisers have known this for years; this is why so much advertisement is geared to making you feel bad about yourself if you don’t have this product. What self-respecting television personality would dare go on the air without bleached white teeth? When did humans demand bleached white teeth? We began to demand it after toothpaste companies began advertising the importance of it! Most of the time we are not buying a product, but rather, an “identity enhancer.” This identity enhancer creates an attachment with things, which in turn keeps us in a constant state of wanting.

Envy is when you feel diminished if someone has something you don’t have, or someone has more than you, or can do more than you. Television floods us with images of beauty and wealth, seemingly keeping us in a state of insufficiency. Are you really diminished, are you really less of a person, if you cannot afford a $200.00 pair of basketball shoes? The conditioned mind tells you yes, as does the emotion of envy that is generated by your thoughts.

Instead of focusing on what you do not have, consider asking yourself – what can I be grateful for in the present moment? This world is truly miraculous if you intentionally look around and feel the goodness that is there. Recognize and appreciate the abundance of life that you do have. The sun shining on your face, the beauty of flowers, the joy of animals, the sound of a stream, the majesty of trees. Feel the goodness already present in your life. Be grateful for what you have in the present moment. Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have in to enough and more. (Melody Beattie, 2017). With practice, this will change the way you experience life.

Jim Runnels

Jim Runnels is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor and advocate of evidence-based education and supporter of the health benefits of a whole food plant-based, active lifestyle, to achieve optimal health. He is the administrator of Eat Healthy-Texoma Facebook page. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.