Today's post goes deeper into a specific aspect of consumer stoicism: the concept of desire triggering. We'll start with yet another intriguing quote from William Irvine's excellent book A Guide to the Good Life:
"When I go to a mall, for example, I don't buy things; instead, I look around me and am astonished by all the things for sale that I not only don't need but can't imagine myself wanting. My only entertainment at a mall is to watch the other mall-goers. Most of them, I suspect, come to the mall not because there is something specific that they need to buy. Rather, they come in the hope that doing so will trigger a desire for something that, before going to the mall, they didn't want. It might be a desire for a cashmere sweater, a set of socket wrenches, or the latest cell phone.
Why go out of their way to trigger a desire? Because if they trigger one, they can enjoy the rush that comes when they extinguish that desire by buying its object. It is a rush, of course that has as little to do with their long-term happiness as taking a hit of heroin has to do with the long-term happiness of a heroin addict."
Okay. Let's start off with the punch line of this post: If you allow your desires to be triggered, you are obeying someone else's instructions. You're literally obeying the indirect instructions of some company that made some thing or service. Worse, your ego shields you from this knowledge by making you believe you really really need that thing.
Worst of all, you need to work to earn money to pay for that thing, which means you will spend still more of your time obeying--in this case, your boss or your company. This neatly completes the circle of disempowerment.
This is why desire triggering is so toxic. Consumers who permit their desires to be triggered literally give away control over their life. Twice!
Which is why empowered consumers train themselves to respond differently to advertising. They make sure they are brand disloyal and never brainwashed by branding activity. And they understand the various Jedi mind tricks of the consumer products industry.
To these, let's add another (very) brief set of skills empowered consumers will want to cultivate:
1) The ability to recognize a "triggered desire" for a product or service the instant it happens, and to recognize that this desire was installed in your mind by a company seeking your obedience.
2) The ability to identify the underlying genuine desire (e.g., companionship, attention, love, friendship, joy, etc.) the product or service purports to satisfy.
3) Finally and most importantly, the empowered consumer will cultivate the ability to find a genuine way to satisfy the underlying desire. Preferably for free.
Readers, do you want to be controlled by your desires... such that you receive pleasure from "extinguishing" them? Is that pleasure even real?
Read Next: Why Can't I Find People Who Share My Values on Anti-Consumerism and Frugality?
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