I read an article yesterday about ‘Wantologists’ in America who help people identify exactly what it is they want in their life (link below for anyone wanting to read it). Wantology originated as a process to help businesses make purchasing decisions and is now offered by consultants for individuals.
It is easy to scoff at the idea of course and at the ways we are increasingly relying on buying in help from other people (Rent a friend has 190,000 Google entries apparently). The NY Times did scoff to some extent of course but also acknowledged how the consultant, Katherine Ziegler, had helped a client understand that she did not really want to buy a new house, she just needed an area of peace in her current house.
We are constantly being told what we need to be happy, successful, liked or respected and being shown images that we are encouraged to aspire to. Perhaps one of the most difficult things for us to do is to find the path through everything we are being told we ‘should’ want through to what we truly, deep down, really want.
Socrates said ‘An unexamined life is not worth living’. When we blindly accept what we are told about what we need to be happy and perfect, when we follow trends even though they have no resonance for us we are living an unexamined life. We are living someone else’s life.
As far back as 1957, Vance Packard published ‘The Hidden Persuaders’ in which he showed how the advertising industry and political machines were seeking to infiltrate our unconscious minds. He showed, for example, advertising posters that had phallic and sexual imagery drawn into ice cubes or folds in a dress. Subliminal advertising is illegal now and actually no one in advertising could care less because they know that ubiquity of brand name and constant repetition is enough.
We are living in a world in which every company or political candidate, with the right expertise and enough budget, can get a message not just into our conscious mind but into our unconscious. How can we ever know that what we want is really what we want and not just the result of what we have been told over and over again without even realising it.
I think the answer goes back to what the ‘Wantologist’ achieved with her client, moving her from the material to the actual quality of life that she was seeking. From a new house to a place of peace. Through meditation and gentle awareness we can understand that material needs are those that have been drilled into us from outside. What we really want are the qualities of life – such as peace, happiness, love, expression. As we become more self aware, we realise that those qualities are in us already. We don’t need anything to achieve them.