Psychology of Consumption

[M]an knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day . . . How can anyone see straight when he does not even see himself and the darkness he unconsciously carries with him into all his dealings?

Carl Jung, via Jeffrey T. Kiehl, A Jungian Perspective on Global Warming.

I believe that our civilization is, in effect, addicted to the consumption of the earth itself. This addictive relationship distracts us from the pain of what we have lost: a direct experience of our connection to the vividness, vibrancy, and aliveness of the rest of the natural world.

Al Gore, via Jeffrey T. Kiehl, A Jungian Perspective on Global Warming.

Jung states that "the Self is the principle archetype of orientation and meaning." The Self provides a transpersonal meaning to our lives. Whereas the ego is the center of consciousness, the Self is the center of the whole psyche. Jung notes that "the experience of the Self is always a defeat for the ego."

The goal of Jungian analytic work is to develop a fluid communication between the ego and the Self, in which the ego recognizes that it is not the center of the psyche.

Jeffrey T. Kiehl, A Jungian Perspective on Global Warming.

Global warming is a result of an uncontrolled desire for energy and the consumption of Earth’s natural resources to meet this desire. As noted, the complexes . . . most associated with this behavior are never-ending consumption . . . . This unceasing desire to devour can be viewed as a need to fill a felt inner emptiness. An inflated ego believes that accumulating more and more material objects will provide meaning and fulfillment to its existence. As the ego acquires more things, it needs more energy to keep these things functioning, which in turn requires the consumption of more fossil fuels. The outer world manifestation of this vicious cycle is global warming.

Ultimately, this cycle to consume arises from the ego’s disconnection from the Self. It is the disconnection from the Self that creates the sense of inner emptiness. If the ego could establish a healthy, working relationship with the Self, then it would experience a sense of wholeness and meaning from within. In this experience of wholeness there would be no reason for the ego to seek fulfillment by consuming the outer world . . . By finding the Self within, the projection is withdrawn, and the ego recognizes that fulfillment lies within one’s psyche.

Jeffrey T. Kiehl, A Jungian Perspective on Global Warming.

Individuation as a journey toward the Self is often symbolized as the marriage of masculine and feminine. Attempts to deal with global warming predominantly come from linear reasoning, rooted in logical discernment. From a Jungian perspective, this is an approach that is strongly masculine in character. There is nothing wrong with a masculine approach to solving problems. Often it is the most appropriate approach. However, for many problems this approach is insufficient. This is especially true for problems involving feelings, differing value systems, and complex social dynamics. Finding solutions to these problems must include nonlinear imagination, inclusivity, and recognition of interdependence, a perspective that Jungians would call a feminine approach. Naturally, a tension exists between the masculine and feminine views to a problem. However, the Self—as archetype of opposites—holds this tension in a creative way, and out of this tension can arise the solution to the problem, a process called the transcendent function. The Self initiates this creation of a new viewpoint via the transcendent function.

Jeffrey T. Kiehl, A Jungian Perspective on Global Warming.