Throughout
this essay, my aim is to discuss the themes and theories behind objects of self
and other in relation to consumer theory and issues in identity, trying to
identify on some level why we mass consume and why we attach ourselves to
objects. Before I go on to discuss consumerism I need to acquire a better
understanding of why we as consumers attach ourselves to possessions and the ideologies
behind them.

 

There
are many expressions of self. There are external objects and possessions, being
clothes, personal items, furniture etc. but there is also the extended self,
which can be people, places and even our body parts. Elements of control come
into ‘self’ and the awareness of control over something decides whether that
thing is me, mine or myself. Our external objects are referred to as mine, we
own them and have control over them therefore we can say they are ‘mine’. This is different with people for obvious reasons as
people have free will, we have no control over them, therefore they are not
‘mine’ but just an extension of ‘self’.

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Loved ones are an extension
of self and when we lose a person from our lives we lose a part of self and
grieve which is recognised as ‘a part of life’, but it has also been found,
that we also go through a similar grieving process when we lose external
possessions and objects whether it be through accidental loss, damage or theft.
Ernest Ditcher stated:

 

Hollow
hands clasp ludicrous possessions because they are links in the chain of life.
If it breaks, they are truly lost.1

 

So, although grieving is
normally associated with the loss of a loved one whether it be friends or
family, the loss of possessions and objects can be just as devastating and we
can go through a very similar grieving process as we do when dealing with
death. This can be due to connecting with an external object by associating it
with happy memories, sentimental value and unique objects that are
irreplaceable and as a result you’re losing a part of ‘self’.

 

An example of this is the Film ‘The Tsunami and the Cherry
Blossom’ based on the T?hoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Although the focus of the film is the
beacon of hope that the Cherry Blossom tree brings to the residents of Japan, the film also follows
the survivors of the tsunami. They gave their first-hand accounts of the people
and the belongings lost and what they witnessed during the tsunami. There was a
scene in which an unknown man is telling the interviewer what he witnessed,
stating:

 

The car was about to be swept away, it was new
so he ran back for it, they both got swept away and the tsunami took my dearest
old friend. I lost everything I lived for.2

 

The point
here is that even in these extreme circumstances, people cannot be without
their possessions and do questionable things to keep control of them. This
unknown survivor lost a loved one and everything he owned and in his words, ‘everything
he lived for’ so you could argue that he lost his identity and so did thousands
of other people.

 

The philosophy
of self is the objects and possessions we own and consume and how we experience
these things in comparison to others. Consumerism became the norm following the
industrial revolution in the 18th century when goods became readily
available and so luxury items became essentials to many people with the means
the purchase them. Today, every household contains flat screen Televisions, the
latest laptops and smartphones and this is because as a society we often
consume beyond our means. This leads me to discuss why we mass consume and
effects it has on our mental health.

 

Connections
are made to society through links to age, gender, politics, lifestyle and
ethics. Advertising and social media are the main enforcers of this, for
example in fashion and beauty advertising clothes and makeup on models who are
shown to be ‘the ideal woman’, which leads other women to believe they can
achieve the same look through purchasing the products, when in reality
advertisers are creating an unrealistic goal which in a lot of cases, only
leads to low self-esteem and mental illness, but profit for these companies as
this ideal image is continuously trying to be achieved.

 

We live in
a day and age where mental illness is at its peak whether it be depression,
anxiety or OCD. Mass consumerism is said to be one of the reasons why this is
currently such a big issue. Consuming can be used as a means of connecting with
others, we consume passions, theatre, film, clothing, food and technology and
we use it as a gateway to social events to connect and be accepted by others.
If we can’t do this, whether it be through lack of money, we feel disconnected
from others and the community leaving us feeling distanced and this again can
lead to mental illness or amplify underlying issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psychologist
Bruce Levine has a theory that,

 

The mental illness crisis is like the canaries
in a coal mine. They are ones with unique sensitivities to environmental
stimuli. When coalminers saw their canaries falling of the perch they knew that
something was wrong, they knew that conditions in the mine had deteriorated and
it was time to get out.3

 

The point
here is, could the reason be that the mental health crisis is the way it is because
there is something seriously wrong with the way that we live and our culture?

1
Ditcher, E. Handbook of Consumer Motivations: The
Psychology of Consumption

 

2
Walker, L. The Tsunami and the Cherry
Blossom

3
 GUEST. The Rules Blog www.blog.therules.org