Gorging ourselves on perpetual discontent
Divine discontent is part of our biological endowment.
According to evolutionary theory, dissatisfaction has survival value. The endless treadmill of the human mind has hardwired biological pressures to always be on the lookout for the bigger better deal.
Because without that motivational drive for perpetual bliss, we will surely get eaten, beaten or starve.
Just look back at our earliest ancestors. Those who attained perfect contentment were typically left in the dust. Because there’s no future in happiness.
Naturally, the marketers of the world know and exploit this fundamentally human tendency.
Lasch, the great historian, moralist, social critic and history professor, once wrote that advertisers manufacture the real product, which is the consumer who is perpetually unsatisfied, restless, anxious and bored.
That’s the role of the modern marketing industry, he explains. To try their hardest to create a discrepancy between what we have and what we might have. To stoke the overwhelming sense of urgency that we are only one purchase away from happiness.
Dissatisfaction, then, is ultimately good for business.
Unfortunately, it’s not good for our psyches.
For nearly a century, we’ve been seduced into not understanding the evolutionary naturalness of our distress. And it’s driving us insane.
My friend just finished his first musical album, which took him over two years to compose and produce. It’s fantastic. He was deeply proud of the work, and he had every reason to be entirely satisfied with himself.
But he wasn’t. Joy could get no grip on him. In fact, a few months after the initial release, as his album rapidly blended into the background of the hundred thousand other album that come out this year, he made a joke that nearly broke my heart.
It’s like you instantly go from a guy who recorded an album, to a guy who’s only recorded one album.
That’s the sound of the dissatisfaction response being triggered. My friend is now trapped in the preoccupying game of constantly comparing his deeds and his self to those of other people. His happiness isn’t measured by what he has, but by how much he has in relation to his peers.
Clearly, this specter of dissatisfaction is not our fault.
But it is our problem. And we’re all guilty of it. Our constant pursuit of betterment cuts deeply into our appreciation for goodness. Just when we think we’re proud and grateful for all that we’ve become, we start comparing our life to somebody else’s.
And suddenly, we’re shit. Even if we do win the comparison test, part of us feels smug.
And whatever we victory we have is short lived, because another object soon enters our orbit and starts the process all over again.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
Are you aware that your ego is a fickle little demon that gorges itself on your perpetual discontent?