The Hopelessness of Capturing the Ghost of Materialism (and why it leads to anxiety and depression)

Things don’t make you happy.

You’ve probably heard that from your earliest years. In fact, you’ve probably been taught and know from experience that as soon as you attain something you’ve sought after, the satisfaction lasts only briefly. Further, you have also likely had the experience of continuing to believe the part of your mind that instructs you, over and over (and over) that if you can just get that next thing or relationship you’d finally be happy, once and for all. But there’s one catch: It never proves to be true.

The Fallacy Of Finding Happiness Outside Yourself

Herein lies one of the most common reasons for depression and anxiety. As a culture, we have been convinced that something outside of ourselves (I’ll refer to it as “materialism” even though this premise can extend to include the material of relationships or even ideas) will give us what we want so that we can finally relax and just simply be content. The elusiveness and circular reasoning of this belief are mentally and emotionally exhausting. Your mind has bought into the belief for years and years, only to eventually fail, again, to find the peace it has yearned for. This is a concept I too have been aware of for some time. Quantum Physicist Bernardo Kastrup (known for his research on the intersection of quantum physics and consciousness) calls it “chasing the ghost of materialism.”

Chasing the Ghost of Materialism

Why is it referred to as chasing a ghost? Imagine a cartoon ghost figure. An old cartoon character that I grew up with named Casper the Ghost comes to my mind. Casper the Ghost was visible, as many ghosts are portrayed. However, if someone were to run up to one of these ghosts and try to lasso it or grab it, it would simply slip away. Similarly, when you live your life believing that finally getting enough of something outside of yourself– be it money, sex, a particular kind of relationship, or even drugs–will finally give you that everlasting feeling of goodness, safety, warmth, joy, and peace, it never works that way. Why not?

Because your happiness is not “out there.”

Seek And Do Not Find

As humans, we are addicted to this “seek and do not find” mentality. We even overlook it, thinking it’s absolutely normal. It’s not. So why do we keep searching for peace in all the wrong places? We live in a world that is terribly confused about where to find and keep the inner peace and happiness that our souls yearn for.

Until we have finally reached a point of such exhaustion that we’re willing to deeply question this pattern in our minds, we will forever be barking up the wrong tree. We’ll continue to find ourselves feeling depressed, anxious, and increasingly hopeless without really knowing why.

What Does Purpose Have To Do With It?

This is where the notion of purpose comes into the equation. It’s quite simple in theory yet requires some focused intention and mind-training to turn this age-old ghost ship around. If we have subconsciously taken on the belief that our happiness lies outside of ourselves, we have oriented toward a purpose of getting what we think we want out there. Things. Relationships. Etc. If we reorient our thinking so that our purpose now becomes looking within, gaining insight and wisdom, and learning to embrace our intrinsic wholeness, we can watch our anxiety and depression melt away.

Learning To Shift Our Perception

Each of us has the ability to shift our perception and our priorities, and begin making new choices that actually allow us to experience the peace of mind and happiness that comes with it. It’s actually quite natural. We only need to want to see things differently badly enough.