How can external costs of consumption be equated with external costs of production? – An economic-psychoanalytical perspective

The traditional business model equates production costs with revenues and therefore measures success based on the profits created. In doing so, most business models neglect their external costs of production. These are costs that relate to pollution or other forms of destruction and are often not accounted for. Business models that do not account for these external costs of production, likely run risk of market failure in the long term. A consequence is that neither business, nor planet, nor consumer will benefit in the future.

Increases in production come at an expense of
resources and well-being that is worth
more than the products produced. It also
implies that an undesirable balance of
quantities known as utility and disutility
occur. Utility is the level of satisfaction of the population’s needs and wants. Disutility refers to the sacrifices made necessary by increasing production and consumption, such as labor, loss of leisure, depletion of resources, exposure to pollution (Daly, 1990)

External cost of consumption?

Climate change and also climate awarness have been increasing steadily, particular since Fridays for Future. “We must act now, our planet is on fire, system change is needed” are some of the phrases that cover media. While these phrases demand companies, governments to change systems, they externalize individual repsonsibility and hence individual and collective cost of consumption. These are cost produced because of a (subconcious) desire for consumption and lifestyle choices. Because of that system change as demanded now, misses a sustainable point of view. That is a view in which “external cost of consumption” need to be internalized by consumers.

How can external costs of production be internalized?

Businesses can transition towards more sustainable business models and because of that reduce their external costs of production. That can happen if unsustainable materials are swopped with more sustainable materials (think about a plastic straw being swapped with a bamboo straw), if a company promotes the re-use of products or offers recycling opportunities (and so much more). However, swopping one thing with the other, or continue producing at the same speed, does not necessarily lead to more sustainable business models. Instead current production problems shift to other production processes. Because of that, long term business sustainabiltiy might fail.

For sustainable business models to take place in the long term, the role of consumers, the way they engage, behave and hence, want to purchase or not and how needs to change as well.

What are external costs of consumption and how can they be internalized?

Humans aren’t static. Humans like other species evolve and adjust to changes. “Survival of the fittest” – in evolutionary terms. If adoption does not occur, the survival of a species is at risk. To adopt and to change, we adjust, we make ourselves appeal to others by creating images, to become part of a group, to subconciously influence our own survival. However, much of such behaviours , think about dressing a certain way, or looking a certain way to be accepted by a group, does not relate to survival anymore – it is instinctional and therefore (unconciously) culturally influenced. Such behaviours therefore stimulate external costs of consumption [Evolutionary desire for change and adaptation, while such a change and adaptation is not need but rather socially constructed path-dependent]

External costs of consumption can hence be internalized, if individual and collective awarness increases towards unconcious behaviour and lifestyles. Where does a constant desire for changes deprive from? What purpose does a change fullfill? Who is this change done for? Who does one desire to desire back and because of that adjust towards a certain lifestyle , look or behaviour and therefore changes? What meaning do changes in choices have? Where should subconcious evolutionary need for change and adoptation stop? Where is the point of maximum utility for happiness reached and hence, the possibility to create an equilibrium between internalized external costs of consumption and production?

Do we need hair dye to impress others? Do we need new phones to take better pictures? Do we need make up? For who? Who are we, when we don’t change who we are or appear to be?

References

Campbell, A. (2000). Cultural identity as a social construct. Intercultural Education11(1), 31-39.

Graham, C. (2005). The economics of happiness. World economics6(3), 41-55.

Harte, M. J. (1995). Ecology, sustainability, and environment as capital. Ecological economics15(2), 157-164.

Hedman, J., & Kalling, T. (2003). The business model concept: theoretical underpinnings and empirical illustrations. European journal of information systems12(1), 49-59.

Hollan, D. (2000). Constructivist models of mind, contemporary psychoanalysis, and the development of culture theory. American Anthropologist102(3), 538-550.

Lüdeke-Freund, F., Carroux, S., Joyce, A., Massa, L., & Breuer, H. (2018). The sustainable business model pattern taxonomy—45 patterns to support sustainability-oriented business model innovation. Sustainable Production and Consumption15, 145-162.

Thompson, S. A., & Loveland, J. M. (2015). Integrating identity and consumption: An identity investment theory. Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice23(3), 235-253.

The role of early attachment in consumption patterns – a public health perspective

In 2015, I conducted public-health related research into the consequence of child complex trauma on the brain. The goal of my research was to develop an activity guide for lay people that could help reduce these consequences on the brain. To conduct the research, I interviewed a range of practitioners includig; psychologists, psychiatrists & neurologists in Southen California, USA. Besides that, I also also merged into the literature world on brain development and the role of attachment/ relationships in child development.

After finalizing my reserach and presenting the outcomes to “Court Appointed Special Advocates“, I realized that how we are nurtured, the way we are loved and cared for has one of the greatest impacts on how we later behave in life. It impacts how we form, build and maintain relationships, how we communicate with each other and how meaning is created within ourselves and the world around us.

The capacity to love is at the core of the success of humankind. The reason we’ve survived on this planet is that we’ve been able to form and maintain effective groups. Isolated and disconnected, we are vulnerable. In community, we can protect one another, cooperatively hunt and gather, share with the dependents of our family, our clan. Relation glue keeps our species alive, and love is the relationa superglue. Perry & Operah, 2021, p. 77

Healthy attachement can be formed in multiple ways and directions; parents, grandparents, friends, co-workers, communities

What influence does attachement have on our neurological development?

When a baby is born, it enters the world with a specific number of neurons. These neurons then form into neural networks that predefine how we view and engage in this world later on. Because the brain develops “bottom- up” (see Figure 2: Brain chart), the way in which neural networks are formed from infant age pre-define later developments in the higher regions of the brain. It defines how these regions are connected and how resiliant our behaviour will be towards challanges such as stress, disagreements or changes (think about private/work relationships or within ourselves).

How these neural networks develop differs for individuals. If a baby grows up in an attuned and loving environment, where its needs are being met emotionally and physcially, neuron-connections will form that are based on “healthy, self-regulatory and resilient” developments. If a baby grows up in a stressfull environment or an environment in which it was neglected, continuesly stressed or only its basic needs were fullfilled, the brain develops in such a way that the functions of upper brain regions can be impaired. Such impairment can be illustrated in difficulties such as “self-regulation and resiliance towards stresses, or ability to reason”. It may also impair the ability to form and maintain meaningful relationships.

Brain map and sypmtoms (Source: Bruce Perry, http://www.Child Trauma.org, Ann-Cathrin Joest, Research Report, 2015)

In adult life, such dysregulation within the adult and the adults relationship can be displayed in a range of behaviours (see Figure 2: Brainchart and related dysfunctional symptom). Someone who grew up in an environment through which healthy neurological networks developed in all four brain regions, will be more likely to view a challange as something “natural”, something that is not a threat. However, someone who has difficulties with self-regulation may view a daily challange as a threat and therefore involuntarily shuts down the more complex region of the brain responsible for reasoning and arguing (cortex-region). In doing so, the more primative functions of the brain are actived (Brainstem, Diencephalon[Midbrain]), those that support survival. While these functions possibly helped a child to survive, these functions do not serve as an adult anymore, think about someone quick to respond agressively or without thinking or someone yelling, swearing , leaving etc.

How does neural development and attachement relate to sustainable behaviour?

At my my current job, I am engaged in the development of sustainable and circular business models. I try to answer questions such as “How can sustainable business models reduce interest in consumption? And why do people consume so much? How can products create intrinsic meaning and how can such meaning be translated in a society that currently appears to seeks meaning in an access of consumption ? ” .

For so long, I could not cearly think about the answers until I began reading the book “What happenned to you? Conversations on Trauma, resilience and healing” by Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey. It was that book that reminded me on my research on neurodevelopment and healthy attachment, that I realized many answers can be found in “dysregulations and early (un)healthy attachement“. That the more dysregulation exists within ourselves and the less healthy attachements we formed as an infant or child, the less meaning we create within ourselves and relationships. The more likely we seek satisfaction in extrinsic activities, ways of behaving and acting [unconciously] to regulate an intrinsic need (we may not be aware of). So I believe that -love / instrinsic love- is the cure to much of the sustainability debates we face today. Love and early healthy attachements, that nurture, love that supports resiliance (within brain structures) and supports curiosity for positive change. Love -that type of glue that lasts longer then the short term satisfaction from addiction such as overeating and consumption.

The challange with activating our reward circuits is that the pleasure fades. The feeling of reward is short-lived. Think how long the pleasure of eating a potato chips last. A few seconds. Then you want another. Same with a hit of nicotine from a cigarette. Or even the smile of a loved one. It feels so good in the moment, and we can recall it and get a little pleasure, but the intenses sense of reward fades. So each day we are pulled to refill our reward bucket. The healthiest way to do this is through relationships. Connectedness regulates and rewards us. Perry & Operah, 2021, p. 64.

Moving forward?

For a sustainable society, to thrive as individual and thus, the collective, I believe that we must put greater emphasizes on healthy developments and community, identify healthy meaning within the individual that can translate into the collective and the other way round. However, how can such a society be created, if more hours are worked, if cost of living are increasing and if global inequalities persist?

References:

Winfrey, O., & Perry, B. D. (2021). What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing. Flatiron Books.

Joest, A. (2015). Consequences on Complex trauma on the brain. Reserach Report. Windesheim Honours College & Court Appointed Special Advocates, Orange County, California.

Its not about sustainable plastic- but the system embedded around the product

Every day tonnes of plastic are being used, produced and exposed. We all know that this system is called a linear system, with catastrophs for people and the environment. Now, there are ciruclar principles that aim at reducing plastic waste, by focusing on the recycability of the material, or the substitution of it by as much as possible.

Some initiatives are popping up much more in stores and I can see more brands advertising that their products are made with recycled ocean plastics or other recycled materials. On a first look that sounds great, because it means that we are avoiding the use of fossil fuels to create new bottles or other plastic based materials. It also means that industries working with waste problems and because of that support environmental actions.

On the second look, it does not sound sustainable. Taking ocean waste in the long term, will leave industries in a so called “lock-in”. It means their infrastructure may be build up to center around the need for specific waste products. For that to happen specific types waste must always occur in a specific quantity. This does not only leave the industry locked-in but also potentially increases the desire for waste generation. It also makes consumers believe that their product purchase is “green”, whilst it is not. Much recycled plastics products, such as rubber soles, or far worse, textiles made from recycled plastics, run off, and turn microplastics back into the environment.

Not all new sustainable systems, are sustainable by design. A transition must take place that is just, and well thought after for its long-term negative effects and possible opportunities.

Now, we could demolish plastics, but again not all plastics is bad. Some plastic materials can last very long and some of its material features might not compete with other material. What I like about it, is its ability to sustain. However, recycling requires a lot of energy and again, potentially nothing can be recycled forever and each product has its own footprint.

Much more that needs to be looked at is the system. Why are plastic based products produced? What industry do they encompoass? Who is the main target group of that plastic based content and why do they benefit from that product? What makes proudcers sell this product and what sustainable value is delivered with it?

Systems are complex ! They are interdependent and connected. One input leads to another output and one change, effects another change. Curious to learn more? Message me!

What good does it make, if Coca Cola and other industries recycle their plastics, when the fact that people are increasingly addicted to sugar, promotes such an industry to begin with? Why needing to order take-home food, wrapped in plastic, when the real problem is people working too much and potentially having too little time to cook? Why needing a range of plastic-based clothes for the many different occasions, when a smaller selection had done so well in the past? Why needing to substitute plastic straws, with other materials, when straws were long no nessecity? Why needing the many plastic- based cooking devices to cut vegetable in all sorts of imaginatory forms, when a knife had done so well for so long.

Many products are promoted and consumed based on desire. But, desire often does not last. What lasts is something that has deeply rooted meaning – products that support a function, products that satisfy a long-term need.

What are unconcious biases and why do they matter for sustainability?

A bias is something, that we believe to be true, but in reality it might not be. These biases can relate to our own perception – how we see ourselves and how we think to see ourselves. They can also relate to how we see the world around us in relation to ourselves and how we think to see it relation to ourselves.

Does our own reflection hold true to what we believe is true? Who we think we are , whether what we enjoy, follow or do holds as good or bad? And if not, would rather believe so?

Biases can be harmful, if they lead us to making false ideas or assumptions about ourselves and others, but also if they support prejudices or stereotypes. Think about not “looking young enough” to be a reporter, or too old to try out something that could bring joy to oneself. – You are likely not too old and your qualities as reporter shouldn’t be determined by your age.

Now, we could think about getting rid of biases, but that is more difficult to do, because many of them are hiding in our unconciousness. This means that we are not aware of them, until we are made aware. Freud, the psychoanalyst, believes that most of our unconciousness is repressed and only through disinhibation, one finds what holds most true to themselves or can live a life most concious.

Because most biases are manifested deep within ourselves and thus, our environment, we are more likely to accept our biases, or even support as oppose to change them. – Change and awarness can be scary!

Making us aware of biases is difficult, because it changes the way we view ourselves and others. It can also make life or actions difficult, if awarness in unconcious biases lead to an understanding, that a situation needs to change, while there may be limited resources to do so. Resources can relate to emotional capacity, a support network , but also financial, technical or knwoledge capacity on a firm level. On the other hand, being aware of biases can support better decision making and because of that can help in creating valid opportunities for ourselves, businesses or societies.

What are some example for unconcious biases?

One of the most known biases is the “confirmation-bias“. It relates to a belief that you hold close i.e. believing that the product you bought or produced is sustainable. To confirm that, you are looking for a support network that verifies that. You’d less likely look for critiques, because you want your product to enter the market and stay there. For sustainability innovations, this can be a challange, because the system, in which the innovation is embedded has huge influences on its success or failure. While shoes made from recycled ocean plastic sounds great, plastic continuesly needs to be produced. On another note, an entrepreneur may think that technology only, will save the climate, when literacy in terms of language and technical vocabulary are just as important to run such innovation. Think about how many people in this world still don’t have access to education.

Another bias could be a belief or practice that has been followed for centuries, but does not hold true anymore. An example is the idea of it being normal to work 8-10 hours a day and that part-time work is only for parents or people in need. In reality, part time work can be for everyone. It gives more energy, time to be human and research from Denmark shows that people working 6 hour shifts are just as efficient; They are more happy , more productive and possibly more innovative.

Another bias might be cultural. An example is the perception that one can only find fullfillment in life, if one has a family, including a child and a house. In reality, this does hold not true, families can be diverse and different people can seek different types of fullfillment that holds true to their own beliefs and values. Even single parents can be great foster parents, but the perception still persist that a child needs ” two parents”. A consequence is that many children , who could have a loving “one parent” remain in the foster system.

One may also support a knowledge- bias; believing to know everything or believing that knowledge is fixed and not able to change. Most likely it is because science advances and different people have different forms of knowledge based on experiences, education and other valid factors. While in fact, carbon-neutrality is essential for this the human race to sustain, resolving war and other social conflicts, might as well be just as important.

Why do unconcious biases matter for sustainability?

Sustainability is more then CO2. It’s about a society that thrives, a society that promotes well-being and social justice, a society that can make concious choices and thus, lives to its fullest potential. This is only possible if biases are being made aware of. These biases can relate to businesses that aim at doing good, but may unconciously engage in social or greenwashing. They may also relate to consumers who cannot make accurate choices, because they believe in certain biases. Besides consumer and producer choices, biases can also support discrimination and other mental health discrepancies that can negatively effect the individual and society on short as well as long term.

Why should we be learning more about it?

With more attention and P&R being done around “Sustainability”, other just as important issues such as social injustice, prejudices or discrepancies between the rich and poor are regarded less. Removing more biases, or learning to explore them for ourselves and others, can help to create a society more critical, more prone to change, more likely to work together and more ready to thrive. [Of course it can also help to save governmental and business cost] 😉

Resources

Learnings and inspiration from my own psychoanalysis that follows Freuds method of exploring the unconciousness (and biases).

Design and Self-Expression – Should the future of sustainable design be more vivid instead of less?

For the last year, I tried getting to know minimalistic culture. This worked out well, since I only had a backpack, when I moved into my new apartment. When I decorated my apartment, I took into account timeless and feeling based design. My idea was that, when I decorated it in such a way, I would never want a change. I tried to apply this concept to my interior style and clothing.

A year passed by and one evening I watched the movie “Cruella Deville”. The movie illustrated aspects of fashion, identity and self-expression. It also illustrated aspects of being who you really are as oppose to pretending and therefore live a life most true to yourself. The movie also illustrated the many facetts one has and it made me question, whether timeless design or feeling-based design can always stay the same, when feelings and facets change?

Life’s not just about smiles only and always, but about being who you want to be. There’s no wrong to who you are, what you feel, what you like and what you want to become or not. There’s only wrong in denying yourself to yourself. Embrace yourself and your individuality.

As the movie ended, I realized that by creating a minimalistic and “timless” interior and clothing design, a part of me was missing. The next day, I went to visit a local fleamarket and decided to re-clutter my home with colourfull designs, anything in which I could express my many facets and feelings. It was fun and it made me realize that by focusing on the most basic colors and designs over the last year, I had neglected other colours and therefore feelings that make my life unique to me .

Self-Expression

Can’t we always feel the same?

It sounds at odds to convince ourselves (in that case – myself) that feelings won’t change or that I’ll always feel a specific way, when I look at a certain design – either interior or my clothing. Although, I might associate my soft oranged toned couch to a specific feeling- I may not always feel that way. Because of that I may desire a new couch, with a new design and a color to match a different feeling – Feelings aren’t limited to a limited amount of colors and patterns.

Is the concept of timless design flawed?

To me timelessness implies that certain goods will still be “in fashion” in the next years to come and that I’ll always like the design. I think thats not possible, first of all because of we evolve and as we evolve a desire for change may happen and secondly, timeless design likely depends on trends.

It was the same for Ray Ban Aviators; “They had a medical use in the beginning, protecting your eyes from the sun, but they became the sunglasses for those who wanted to look like rock stars, when real rock stars actually started to use them for protection from the flashing cameras” (NotJustALabel, 2014)

How don’t know what design is timeless, because we don’t know the future.

How should design be promoted?

For the moment, design could be vivid, and encourage the individuality of consumers. Consumers – or at least me- want to express themselves in the moment and as they change. Not every day, but every once in a while.

Are changes in tastes and desire for new ways of self-expression unsustainable?

They may be unsustainable, if increased consumption ruin anyonse finances, or if products are purchased that have a high environmental or social footprint. They are also unsustainable if increased consumption levels take place because a look that is sold in advertisment is being mimicked as oppose to a look or desire for change that comes from within, or more specifically is true to the consumer self.

How can sustainable production and consumption processes support freedom of expression?

  • Create fixed product designs, of which parts can be changed or customized according to tastes and feelings.
  • Create materials to last
  • Create materials that can match a range of feelings
  • Be wild, rent, swap – but not too much!
  • (…)

What’s it worth? 6 Euros per kg – not worth it for me to buy it off from you.

Last year I inherited old drinking cups that used to belong to my grandmother. Each of them had unique images engraved into them. Thus, each of these cups told a story, no other cup would. I imagined these stories to center around the 18th century, with some vivid images illustrating themes around conflict, romance and longing for freedom.

Product value is versatile

As I inhereted them, I struggled to identify the cups’ unique value to me. First of all, I felt their sentimantal value, because they used to belong to my grandmother. I felt having them in my apartment, makes her present. Then, there was the history and stories each of these cups illustrated. Somehow, having them at home, made me take part in them. Lastly, I imagined them having a high financial value.

Perceived product value can change

After a few weeks , I noticed how I began hiding most of them in my closet. I felt bad, but they did not make me happy. The material began feeling cold to me and also did I not feel connected to the their stories. Most of all, I did not create any story with them myself and some images made me feel uncomfortalbe as well. I still felt, I needed to keep them, because of the many values I had defined, when I received them.

Sentimental values can change and so came the day, in which I had to be honest to myself and decided to sell them. Neither did I know what material they were made of, nor what the price would be. But I imagined at least 200 Euros, as the material was pure and the entire cups were made only of one. They were for sure produced to last a life-time if not, many life-times.

Metals are great for product longevity, unfortunately their financial value varies and so their ability to be re-sold.

Where there is no demand, there is little financial value left

When I arrived at a buy and sell-shop specializing in antiques, the buyers’ eyes lit up. He said ” Yes, show me your inherited treasures.” I gave him the full bag, still confused, yet excited to learn about their real value. As quick as his face lit up, as quickly did his face lit up with disappointment. ” Well, you can take them back home. Their value is nothing. Its zink. That sells, if melted on the current market for 6 Euros a kg.” ” Only? What about them being very old? ” ” Yes, they are. Now, why did you bring them here? ” ” I have no use for them and their style does not fit much into my apartment.” “Yes, exactly. There is no market for them. People don’t want it. If the demand is low, it doesn’t sell. Then only the price for the raw material is left and it just isn’t worth it for zink. Sorry.”

And so I left, confused that apparently nowadays trend and therefore product demand plays such a huge role for how long a material stays in the system, and how long it doesn’t. Although, these cups could last a life-time, their value appeared to be nearly nothing, as consumers – including me – want products and materials to match, identify with.

Can sustainable design change the future?

Sustainable design, among others, implies to use materials to last, materials and products that don’t break down quickly, just like these cups. But if fashion and trend changes happen too quickly, materials can be designed to last centuries, and yet they will be discarded far earlier. To change that, so I believe, we need to create materials and products, that will still be in fashion in the many more years to come, only then sustainable design can change the future. Yet that seems difficult if external influences such as marketing etc. makes consumers want to buy something new every once in a while, or if old products just don’t fit into current styles.

What does it mean for a circular business case?

From a consumer perspective, products will more likely circle if demand is consistent over multiple years (of course ideally centuries). From a resource perspective, if the value for raw materials remains high in the re-sale market or that quantity returned of raw materials remains high for lower value resources i.e. metals

Multi Level Perspective for Innovation

It’s great to have an idea, or if technical – to have a prototype of an idea, but this protype and the idea, may always remain so, if there are other factors that prevent the idea from becomming established in the market. That is, where the MLP plays an important factor.

Multi-Level-Perspective distinguishes three perspectives: landscape, regime and niche. The landscape represents the broader picture of socioeconomic system, the regime consists of the established technological paradigm, also known as the socio-technical regime. A socio-technical system is a system of technology, regulation, user practices, markets, cultural meaning, infrastructure and supply networks that fulfils societal functions. Socio-technical systems are multi-actor processes, actively created by actors with differing interests e.g. firms, universities and public bodies.

Niches, consists of new innovations that should be adopted in the regime. A radical alternative has to grow in a niche, before it is able to compete with the established paradigm. That can be difficult if the infrastructure or user practices are layed out for previous innovations or innovations that are strongly embedded. Such an example is the use of batteries for electric vehicles that only became adopted over time and in some regions may fail to be established because the infrastructure or social practices do not allow for the latter.

Whats the use for business?

Using MLP as a theorteical framework can help to identify market strenghts and weaknesses. It can be applied in the moment, but also over time by using scenario forecasting techniques and asking a variety of questions:

  • What user preferences exist?
  • What political changes can be followed?
  • What changes my help my innovation become adopted?

(…)

Sustainability and the self

Recently, sustainability has been associated a lot to a green economy, an economy that is CO2 neutral up to CO2 negative. A CO2 neutral economy can happen, if carbon is captured during the production, usetime and end of life of a product. Most efficient are therefore products that are made from biological materials only, like a bamboo straw. A bamboo straw can be cut of the original bamboo plant, dried, treated, sold and used. The CO2 print hereby varies between CO2 negative up to positive, depending on the treatment, shipments and other processes involved.

The real CO2 print becomes more difficult for products that are processed heavily and consist of multiple product components like a shoe or jacket or many other basic products like hair dye and toys for kids. Many of these products consist of synthetic materials or materials that do not biodigrade at the end of their life. To make these products more ecological or more specific CO2 – sustainable, different type of processes might be used or product materials might be replaced with others i.e. plastic toys with wood toys.

So much stuff to rent. Why actually?

Regardless of the business model, consumption often continues to be promoted. Such an example is a “sustainable” business model in which consumers are encouraged to buy an ecological product such as a bamboo straw, but do not know whether the bamboo is harvested in respect to its necessarily growth time. Another example is a buisness model that makes you want to rent or lease products, although you never needed them before to begin with (i.e. expensive clothes or toys).

Why should the self be more recognized in the current sustainability agenda?

The self-concept is a general term used to refer to how someone thinks about, evaluates or perceives themselves. To be aware of oneself is to have a concept of oneself.

Baumeister (1999) provides the following self-concept definition:

“The individual’s belief about himself or herself, including the person’s attributes and who and what the self is”.

Carl Rogers (1959) believes that the self-concept has three different components:

• The view you have of yourself (self-image)

• How much value you place on yourself (self-esteem or self-worth)

• What you wish you were really like (ideal-self)

The impact of consumption on the self

Regardless, why or what we consume, it often relates to us – of course it does, since we consume it. However, media, advertisment etc. often distracts us from our true self and therefore encourage a desire to take on an identity by consuming something that does not reflect our true self. Our attention shifts towards a “fictive ideal-self”. An example is wanting to look like a celebrity , someone on advertisment, etc and therefore buying new clothes, dying hair or buying a product to align more with the desired persons’ trait. However, we are not that person, we are ourselves. We will never be that person and likewise, that person will never be us.

Desire for the fictive ideal supports a society less satisfied

Often, we are influenced by media, by friends, culture and societys’ expectations how we should be, what we should do, how we should look like and how we should behave. Many impulses that distract us from who we really are and want to be. Impulses that often lead to greater levels of dissatsifaction as we struggle to think about whether what we have and how we are is enough, or if we don’t need more or changes to be fullfilled.

After the point of consumption , and once realized that the image we created with the idea of the fictive ideal of us, stopped satisfying, the cycle of consumption, re-enters. In addition, other mental health problems might arise, because an image created does not align with the image of one-self. Think about advertisement that rewards or promotes white-caucasion skin types or even hollywood that (can) promote cultural stereotypes. What happens is that a society is created that does not thrive, but a society with wish-full thinking that imagines to thrive with a product that supports an idenittiy or part of it not true to themselves. That can happen, when buying or renting or changing something, that does not actually make happy.

An example is advertisement that illustrates a white rich man with a huge house and a loving wife. The image might create the perception that because of his white skin, a demanding job and a huge house his wife loves him. Because of that, one with darker skin might want to have whiter skin, wants to buy a house etc. In doing so the connection to the real-self gets lost and in doing so also the opportunity to identify success and happinnes for themselves (small job, free time, happinness to attract happinnes)

How can the true self be promoted more in the current sustainability agenda?

Feet are made for walking, jackets made for protection, blankets used to protect from cold, hair care products made to nurture them, body cream to make our skin less dry, to protect it. Food is made to keep us healthy, to connect us to others. Other products are made for comfort, help us sleep, help to support us. Many products weren’t made to sell a look or an image, but because of a fundamental function they support(ed).

A sustainability society or a sustainable industrial agenda, therefore needs to emphasize more to promote functionality over an image sold and a society that allowes for the production of healthy products, that are kept and not consumed to be trashed. This is possible if the self is satisfied with what it consumes. Therefore, products should provide a supporting function, align with the consumers true feelings and desires and likewise be accessible to a wide range of customers i.e. through product/market targeted business models (i.e. rental of healthy product to students, elderlies etc.). Doing so will allow society to thrive, be more happy, be more inclusive and to create an ideal image of the self, while also saving much of that CO2 .

Who cares whether you have bold or gray hair? Imagine time spent worrying , money spend on hair dressors vs. time spend on something fun and money spend to support that fun activity 😀

Resources/ Inspirations

Delmas, M. A., & Burbano, V. C. (2011). The drivers of greenwashing. California management review54(1), 64-87.

Fein, S., & Spencer, S. J. (1997). Prejudice as self-image maintenance: Affirming the self through derogating others. Journal of personality and Social Psychology73(1), 31.

Frosh, S. (1991). Identity crisis: Modernity, psychoanalysis and the self. Macmillan International Higher Education.

Levänen, J., Uusitalo, V., Härri, A., Kareinen, E., & Linnanen, L. (2021). Innovative recycling or extended use? Comparing the global warming potential of different ownership and end-of-life scenarios for textiles. Environmental Research Letters16(5), 054069.

Muller, J. (1985). Lacan’s mirror stage. Psychoanalytic Inquiry5(2), 233-252.

Velenturf, A. P., & Purnell, P. (2021). Principles for a sustainable circular economy. Sustainable Production and Consumption27, 1437-1457.

Emotions and Assumptions

Often a sentence is said or a statment is made that leads to frustration. Frustration as a “feeling” is of course okay. Likewise frustration can become a barrier if the feeling of it remains, if it is dealt with in silence and is later expressed in ways of anger. Anger then can become expressed in indirect ways such as gossip , withdrawl from work, dissatisfaction or loss of motivation. Anger can also be expressed in direct ways such as by making a statement very personal and likewise becoming very defensive or even insulting. Regardless of whether anger is internalized and indirectly or directly expressed, suppresing it and not being able to address what has been said and how one felt about it likely leads to another cascade of unsatisfying feelings and behaviours.

How can one statement create intensive feelings?

We might listen and understand an entire statement that has been made, but at the same time our brain creates a network of hidden messages that lie within each word said and therfore creates an automated desire for responses as another person speaks or writes. Because of that , a neutral statement made, can create an intensive emotional outburst (of coure not always) and therefore feelings of anger and frustration. A statement from a colleque that could be as basic as ” I saw you left home earlier yesterday” could be scandalous.

What do we base assumptions on and why?

Each of us is born and raised as an individual. That means that each of us learned to feel, to behave , to see, to react and to communicate differently. Because of that each brain is wired differently with different neuron-networks that manifast our knowledge and behaviours. This also means that each of us has different feelings and associations with specific words or “cues”. An example is that while someone has happy feelings related to home like “relaxing, cosy, loving, comfortable” someone else might have feelings such as “pressure, unhealthy relationships, colorless, sad”. Likewise, depending on the day, different associations might be made to home and the meaning given to it.

What causes overreaction? Because each of us has different experiences and different associations with a specific word, we can experience what has been said in different emotions. The statement ” I saw you left home earlier yesterday” could lead to a feeling of sadness or anger if the recevier of this message creats negative associations to each word. An example could be that this person needed to leave early in another job because of an emergency “at home” but was criticzed for that. Because of that this statement could re-create feelings of a situation in the past and therefore can cause distress and anger. Likewise another person might have had different or more positive experiences with “leaving early” or “home” and perceives the statement as neutral.

Think about the different x1-x9 being different words or phrases and h1-h9 being different experiences and feelings related to them. Y then represents our final reaction, or assumption that might be misleading to what was meant to begin with.

How can we reduce making assumptions?

  1. Listen carefuly to what has been said and think about what has been said exactly
  2. Think about how this statement made you feel.
  3. Then think about where these feelings are comming from.
  4. Are these feelings based on an experience in the past and if yes, how do they apply to the current situation?
  5. If you are unsure, you can also ask for clarifications and what is meant with a certain question or statement. This helps to see the others persons’ frame and intention can navigate away from previous made assumptions.
  6. Once it is clear what has been said, how your past might have framed you into thinking a specific way, its your time to respond (if you want to).

Is there such a thing as a proper response? There is no accurate way of responding and each response is context related. To me important is to understand your feelings and to communicate in such a way that it makes you feel most comfortable and the other person undertand;

  • If a question or a statement made you feel uncomfortable you can say so. ” I left earlier for personal reasons and prefer not to talk about it.”
  • You may explain why it made you feel uncomfortable. Sometimes this helps to create a mutual understanding. “I feel uncomfortable talking about it, because in the past I left earlier for work for an emergency and I got criticzed for it. I am worried it happens again.”
  • You may also ask for clarifications “Why did you ask me that? What exactly do you mean with that statement or question?”
  • You may also respond freely and express yourself how this question made you feel like ” I left home earlier because my brother needed help. Your question makes me feel …., because ……”

Emotions, assumptions and sustainability?

It is very easy to make assumptions or believe to “know something” based on past experiences (that’s quite natural to human survival), but sometimes we don’t know for sure and because of that engage in unhealthy beahviours. Again, that could be overconsumption, quitting a job or ending a relationship for the wrong reasons, being sad about something for weeks etc. . To understand and to address what we feel and why, can ultimately help us change a situation and create a new frame to benefit from.

Playing on circular music

Did you know that music can have a beneficial effect on brain chemicals such as dopamine, which is linked to feelings of pleasure, and oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” And there is moderate evidence that music can help lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Besides these there are also other benefits like improved mental performance, coordination, reading and listening skills. And honestly, doesn’t it feel great to create music all by yourself – a way of expressing yourself and feeling it?

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Unfortunately, the ability to create music – the specific type of music- we dream of can be exclusive. And that is such a shame, because music frees, music connects and music makes us feel alive. It makes us dance, it makes us cry, it makes us smile, it makes us fall in and out of love, it makes us excited, it creates a unique atmosphere, a rythm, a bond.

Why is it exclusive? There is a great variety of music instruments and each of them is made of different materials , with a different level of difficulty and different costs to create a unique sound. Of course, it is possible to use vegetables or simple sticks to create sounds, but these might never create the sound of a violine. A well produced violine may cost at least 1000 Euros up to hundred of thousands of Euros, depending on the materials used. And this keeps the dream, your dream, a girls and boys dream, an adults dream or the dream of anyone with a low budget always a dream. In reality, this dream should be lived.

Could renting change that? Yes! With 30 years, I decided to rekindle with my childhood dream and signed up for a trial violine class. Unfortauntely, I did not feel inclined to continue the dream, because the price of a violine appeared quite shocking to me. It was then my teacher who recommended me to rent a violine from a nearby store, that offers also repair and maintenance service throughout the use time.

What’s their business model like? Depending on the quality of the violine, I pay between 15 and 19 Euros a month rent. This price also includes a small insurance fee (2 Euros) for any type of damage that could happen. I need to rent it for at least 3 months and then cancel it in advance. If I decide to keep it, the price of one year rent (around 160 Euros per year) can be deducted from the total purchasing price.

Because I rent it, it is expected that I care for the product. While I have no understanding of violines yet other than , good once are made of wood and the bow of horse hair, maintenance guidelines help me care for it and of course my teacher too (I hope : ) ). If I have any problems, I can also always contact the store for help.

What does this mean to me? Really the world, because I had always been fascinated by the sound of violines, and always viewed money as a huge obstacle. Likewise I was so pleased to learn about the environmental benefits of my local produced product and why quality matters so much. Circularity therefore does not appeal to plastic and fashion only, but also to many other sectors that make life livable and yet so joyful. I want more of it : )