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By Ariana Schaefer

Take a moment to contemplate wealth and depravity as emotional or spiritual concepts rather than an economic caste system, but keep the well-rehearsed diction of the ‘have’s’ and have-not’s’ intact. Give yourself the intellectual breadth to put a soulful spin on a otherwise pathological concept. When you allow yourself to relax into a different idea of richness you begin to notice something extra distasteful about Patrick Bateman and Jordan Belfort.

Though most Americans exist in a well-adjusted equilibrium between insatiable-narcissistic-cocaine-vacuum on Wall Street to Siddartha-in-search-of-enlightenment at the 6:00 PM restorative yoga class, we [Americans] nevertheless tend to bend towards an appreciation for the ‘finer things in life’; the promotion proudly stamped on our business cards, galleries of crisp family portraits airbrushed and tacked in their Pottery Barn frames, and the tinsel smile of a youngest son in his third phase of orthodontia.

I’m here to tell you there’s nothing wrong with that.

On the contrary, those luxuries are what make our society so incredibly infamous on the world stage. Most individuals on the streets would agree when they are brought to tears by a donated winter coat in which they tuck their aching fingertips that there must be nothing like having more than enough.

I’m also here to tell you that this isn’t it.

Our inner development as humans doesn’t need to halt at the realization of material benchmarks. As for every extra hour served in a work week is an extra hour that brings you farther away from seeing your daughter belt out her nerves performing in her first play- an experience neutered and relayed in the form of an iPhone video file. It’s no secret that a lack of self-awareness and inability to practice emotional and intellectual mindfulness undermines our culture. As a direct consequence we are some of the wealthiest, and simultaneously impoverished peoples to grace our planet. The following are some signs that you may be unknowingly operating with a lack of emotional richness.

1. Lack of satisfaction.

Experiencing satisfaction now means escalating resources rather than intentionally simplifying them. When you feel insecure with your emotional state, you attribute feelings of inadequacy to a lacking environment. You aren’t fully present to savor the first morning latte. And so, you are back the same afternoon to try again, only to remain in the same chaotic headspace as you gulp it down. Soon you are greeting the green siren three times a day and spending more money than necessary on the same experience you could have been satisfied with once. Food, alcohol, vacations, sexual partners, clothing- almost anything can fall victim to this dangerously absent mindset. Learn the art of temperance and you will find a new, more meaningful, relationship with satisfaction.

2. Missing the beauty around you.

You treat details as a formality instead of an opportunity for expression. I’m beginning to notice that even the most seemingly sincere compliments have a bizarre air of detachment. This means the difference between “I always love your shoes, where did you get them?” and “Your shoes really reflect your artistic personality.” You move through a multitude of formalities daily at the expense of glossing over subtleties that give life its true flavor. Pause and reflect on your thoughts more deeply. Ask yourself questions about what you’re thinking or feeling instead of accepting surface observations. You will find an affection for expression, quirk, and uniqueness. These are the qualities that make life beautiful and deserve to be appreciated.

3. Emotional blunting.

We communicate that everything is no big deal. In psychology, this is called emotional blunting, and often refers to the range of emotional expression exhibited by a person in treatment. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable is frequently the gateway to meaningful connections to others, yet we avoid our natural range of expression at almost any cost. Contrary to new and unhealthy social stigmas, an anger outburst, tears of grief, knee-slapping laughter, a flush of embarrassment, and warm gratitude are necessary and endearing forms of communication in our culture.

4. Prioritizing the wrong relationships.

Ever notice how benevolent you can be with your difficult coworkers and ornery boss? Conversely, ever notice how your mother-in-law can grate on your nerves in record time? What is the uncommon denominator here? Smoothing over conflict in the former situation will lead us to material wealth. Smoothing over conflict in the latter will lead us to emotional wealth. It’s not that I’ve heard more people curse their mother-in-law over their boss, rather that you treat issues with your boss as if it requires an immediate solution. This subtle shift in priorities often causes you to sacrifice connections that can greatly improve your emotional wellbeing. Strong family connections and positive social relationships have been proven to have an invaluable positive affect on your emotional state. Don’t downgrade the attention you give to family and friends in favor of the people you’re paid to see everyday. While there is unique value in each of those social arenas, one begs for your humanness, the other avoids it.

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