Primary Satisfactions and Secondary Satisfactions

I found this such a good explanation for how our culture produces so many addictions, including addiction to money.  One sign of “secondary satisfaction” is, no matter how much you get, you always want more.

From Francis Weller:

Through studying traditional cultures and Indigenous cultures, I began to look at how they raised people, the value of belonging, the central sense of your necessity, that you were needed, that you were valued, the value of ancestors, the value of ritual. All these practices kept a cohesiveness so that the psyche didn’t go into that place of feeling empty. Where this emptiness comes from is our hyper-focus on individualism, which began several hundred years ago at least with the Enlightenment.  …

The emphasis began to move from a sense of village-mindedness to the individual. That reached its zenith now here in white western culture in America, I think, where we have abandoned primarily all sense of identity beyond my own interiority. We are separate. We may exist, but there’s nothing that really binds us together in this ideology. This ideology of individualism breeds this feeling of emptiness.

What we do with emptiness are all the isms… Patriotism, nationalism, capitalism, racism. All these isms are attempts to stuff the emptiness with something, because the emptiness is intolerable. We cannot endure emptiness, so we fix it. We also neglect what I call primary satisfactions, which are the satisfactions that evolved over our long evolutionary process of friendship and ritual and singing together, sharing meals, being under the stars together, hearing the stories around the fire at night, gathering wood, grieving together, celebrating together. Those are the primary satisfactions, and almost none of those exist any more.

We then lean into our secondary satisfactions. Power, strength, wealth, privilege, hierarchy, rank, etc. On a more personal level, addictions of all sorts are attempts to stuff something into that hole at the core of our lives, because it’s intolerable. As you know, as an addict, you can never get enough of what you don’t need. …

When we’re in ritual space together, singing together, sharing poetry, grieving together, giving thanks, we’re not wondering where the next iPhone is going to come from or where the next TV set is going to come from or when can I get my new car? We are inside of primary satisfactions, and the soul is content.

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