Kahlil Gibran writes: "To be thirsty when your well is full, is a thirst, which is unquenchable." Many of us grow up believing in scarcity. If we didn’t get enough of what we needed; if we had competitive brothers and sisters; if we were poor, needy or frightened of not having our needs adequately met; then we probably developed a "scarcity" orientation or belief system…a scarcity mentality.
Your usual attitudes reflect either an abundant mentality or a scarcity mentality. If you believe there is "not enough to go around," you are likely to become protective of what you have and/or competitive for more than what you already have. No matter what the quantity, characteristic, object or need, if it is believed to be scarce, it will be valued, kept, sought, hoarded and consumed. If you believe there is not enough food, you will hoard what you have, hide it, seek out more, and consume more than you need. If you believe there is not enough of another’s personal attention to go around, you will become envious, demanding, clinging and possessive. You may even give up altogether seeking what you desire, if you believe it to be too scarce. Or you may steal it from someone who has it…whatever "it" is.
When you have a scarcity mentality, no matter how much you have, it is never enough. You remain continuously unsatisfied and frightened.
The supposition of scarcity results in behavior that often determines the very scarcity one seeks to avoid. If you believe something to be scarce, even if you have it in abundance, you will believe it to be in your best interest to limit your consumption. Limiting your consumption reinforces your belief in scarcity, and reduces your satisfaction.
If it is true that you are experiencing a shortage, your anxiety or resentment about others who have what you lack only serves to effectively exclude you from gratification, and it provides you with further evidence of your life being a subsistence proposition. It also breeds envy, competition and withdrawal. The very belief of scarcity develops proof of its existence…a very self-defeating belief system.
To reverse the psychologically damaging effects of a scarcity belief system, one must engage in some rather paradoxical behavior. If you are "just a little short" of whatever, give that whatever away. If you are lonely, become good company to someone else. If you are needing love and acceptance, splash it all around lavishly.
All the great spiritual teachers of history have essentially prescribed paradoxical cures for scarcity:
"In order to live, you merely have to die."
"He who seeks his life shall lose it."
"If you wish to attain enlightenment, you must destroy the ego."
"If you seek abundant living, sell all that you have."
"He who loses his life shall find it."
Statements such as these seem meaningless or crazy, unless you understand that the idea of scarcity is an abstract mental concept. It does not exist in the external world. Its cure is to behave as if whatever you believe is scarce is, in fact, abundant.
When I was in graduate school, I failed "statistics." My teacher demanded I teach statistics to undergraduates. If you don’t know something and desire to learn it…teach it to others. Live as if life was fully abundant and you will quench the "thirst that is unquenchable."
If you don’t understand any of today’s column, simply explain it to somebody else.