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Guide HR: Have you caught affluenza?

Your desire for ‘more’ can become an addiction, and all bad things that come from addictions can soon follow

Do you always want more stuff, more land, more money, or more status? Do feel constantly unsatisfied and envious of others? Are you overburdened, and do you suffer from anxiety? If so, you may have contracted affluenza.

This term comes from two words: affluence and influenza. It’s a painful and contagious disease that is transmitted socially, with tortured feelings of dissatisfaction.

It’s the result of the pursuit of “the American Dream,” which too often turns out to be “the American nightmare.”

If you suffer from affluenza, don’t worry — you are not alone. It’s epidemic in industrialized countries. It infects millions, if not billions, with an insatiable desire for more.

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Why should we care?

“If the economy has been doing so well, why aren’t we becoming happier?” asks Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss’s book, Affluenza: When Too Much Is Never Enough. Despite the higher GDP, statistics show that people in the U.S. are no happier now than they were in 1957, even though consumption has gone up by over 50 percent.

It’s important to recognize that having more usually starts with working more. People who suffer from affluenza are much more preoccupied and suffer more from anxiety and burnout. In North America, we work more hours than ever. It’s true for farmers too. I often hear my 50-year-old clients confess that they work more hours than they did in their 20s. They realize that their parents and grandparents — who worked very hard — seemed to have more time. One of my clients said, “Even though we have better equipment and the latest technologies, it seems that our ambitions are sometimes too high or unrealistic.”

When you are obsessed with something, you are not in control of your life. You worry about it, investing your time, energy, and money in “stuff.” That stuff may be land, equipment, cars, tractors, TV, or jewelry. At some point, you do not possess things — your things possess you. And while we’ve been focused on constantly increasing productivity and expanding our economy, we can lose a sense of the purpose of things. We make food faster and more convenient, but we’ve also made it more fattening, less wholesome, and less nourishing.

The logic of productivity becomes illogical. For years, we have listened to experts who overvalue the productivity model. Produce more and more, and you’ll be happy, they have said. And even though it has not turned out that way, we still follow their advice.

The question we have to ask ourselves is: why do we want the things that we are pushing ourselves so hard to get?

Can we cure affluenza?

We all suffer from affluenza on some level. However, like a fever, if it goes too high, it will kill the organism. Are you in jeopardy?

In my practice, I meet hundreds of farm owners. When they tell me they want to have more, expand their land, produce more products, and sell to other countries, I ask, “What motivates you?” Some just want to have or produce more for the sake of possessing more.

On some level, our accomplishments and possessions can define us. But if you suffer from affluenza, you will be defined by your possessions to an unhealthy degree. They will run the show.

When you are not in control of your life — thinking that if you have more, you will be happier — you have to think twice.

A fever is a higher-than-normal body temperature, and consuming or desiring more than normal or more than what you and your environment can afford is a symptom. Like a fever, affluenza can occur in anyone at any age, and it comes in various forms.

A fever that is equal to or above 106.7 F constitutes a medical emergency. Likewise, if you or your surroundings are in considerable debt, if you suffer from high anxiety or depression, or if you feel you have lost control of your life, you should consult a professional to help you work through it.

It’s good to have goals and objectives. However, if you’re reaching past the point of cultivating a comfortable life and falling into the trap of affluenza, who are you actually working for?

About the author

Columnist

Pierrette Desrosiers, MPS, CRHA is a work psychologist, professional speaker, coach and author who specializes in the agricultural industry. She comes from a family of farmers and she and her husband have farmed for more than 25 years (www.pierrettedesrosiers.com).

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