-“Doctor…I might be miserable—but at least I got a husband to share my pain.”

Susan X. is a middle-aged wife and mother of three teenagers who, in spite of being blatantly unhappy, has nonetheless decided to soldier on anyway. She has complained of countless moments of emotional frustration to me in the office but she has always opted to stay put in her drab yet cosy lifestyle.

Shanzeh Khurram says “unfortunately the American dream is becoming more and more materialistic. I guess it was always a bit materialistic, but when I look at America today, I see a nation obsessed with shopping and buying unnecessary products…Shopping is not a problem on its own. It’s the obsessive accumulation of unnecessary products, along with the hope that buying a Chanel bag will somehow make you happier that is problematic.”

Many years ago, I had my run with conspicuous consumption, as I wasted precious time, resources and energies, besides racking up credit card debt. Fortunately I never lost sight of my family and career goals, which spared me the predictable violent skid off the rails that has destroyed so many lives.

Dr. Ry Howell et al. from San Francisco State University studied hundreds of individuals classified according to their relationship with material goods, ranging from “less materialistic” to “more materialistic”; the acquisitions were divided in either purely “material” or “experiential” (experiences). The investigators asked: “how much has this contributed to your happiness?”

The more materialistic participants had less happiness form experiential purchases, which did not conform to their expectations and inner values. However these same participants did not get any happiness either from the purely materialistic purchases. Moreover those individuals had a negative social image as they were perceived by others as narcissistic and shallow.

In my novel, I describe the despair of Emily in the midst of material wealth:

“Filled with nuptial bliss, she feels trapped by the trappings of Love.”

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

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