Google [Seeking Help For Hoarding] for a brief yet telling report on hoarding. Here is a brief excerpt:
At some point I got a lot of stuff,” said Joanne Garland. “I kept too much paper. I kept too many books. I kept too many clothes.”
Too much of everything! Garland’s Greenfield, Mass., home is packed with belongings she just can’t part with. “Decades of stuff, yes!” she said. “It has been picked up at times in the past. And the volume of clothing has overwhelmed me. More has to leave the house.”
I notice the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, the handbook for mental health experts), now recognizes hoarding as a specific disorder.
That is a step in the right direction. I mean, any “just let go of your stuff” ideal is just another dead-end free-will fantasy. Life, be it a bacterium, an ant, or a human, is motivated to ‘hold on’ to life… to survive. We’re the only species expressing this instinct deeply enough to make it a disorder. Wouldn’t knowing why offer a better chance to manage the problem?
All the historical and archeological evidence suggests that the obsessive characteristics of this instinct follow the advent of a settled civilized life-style made possible by the Agricultural Revolution. Staying put allowed us to circle-the-wagons and accumulate. Since then we have run the gamut of “just let go” narratives in a quest to rebalance ourselves spiritually. Alas, history also shows how ineffective that’s been. Yet, in ignorance, we convince ourselves that it will work next time if we just try harder. From a symptoms point of view, this shows how far out on the evolutionary limb we’ve ventured, and how rebalancing isn’t a simple matter of ‘just doing it’.
Buddha’s 2nd Noble Truth succinctly addresses the source of this hoarding disorder: “The surrounding world affects sensation and begets a craving thirst that clamors for immediate satisfaction. The illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things. The desire to live for the enjoyment of self entangles us in a net of sorrows. Pleasures are the bait and the result is pain”. It is important to note that trading our ancestral hunter-gatherer ways for a settled civilized existence allowed humans to seriously begin to “cleave to things” without the natural limitations that keep other animals in the wild balanced.
The underlined statement above tells me that letting go of what we “cleave to” is tantamount to committing a kind of ego suicide, and what is ego, other than the “illusion of self”. A hoarder’s cleaving is obvious from the piles of clutter. However, cleaving applies to everything possible to grasp, whether physical, emotional, or mental. This is akin to that old saying; you are what you eat. In the same way, “I am” the cultural baggage I “cleave to”. Any resulting suffering is the price “I” (ego) pays. The only way to avoid paying that price is through the death of ego… or to put it another way, profound humility! We all support that, don’t we? Alas, freely choosing to be humble is impossible. Only maturity can truly bring about humility. Even so, knowing the deeper benefit of humility may at least point us in the direction of the sanity we seek… right?
They say ignorance is bliss, and I can see their point. However, when I look back on the ignorance of my youth, I don’t recall feelings of enhanced bliss! If anything, it was just the opposite. Now, would the natural cognitive ignorance experienced by animals other than human be more blissful? I’d say so, given that desire = thought + need and worry = thought + fear. (See Fear & Need Born in Nothing, p.486.) In addition, they don’t suffer the disease caused by thought that chapter 71 describes, Realizing I don’t’ know is better; not knowing this knowing is disease. In any case, who would have thought that hoarding and ego were so entangled?
Tracking down truth
Shakespeare’s “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” implies that the names of things do not affect what they really are. You could say we’re all just beating around the thinking and naming bush until we find the ‘smell’ we seek. My own experience may be instructive. I’ve been reciting the short version of Buddha’s Four Noble Truths daily for decades. A while back, the line, “The illusion of self originates and manifests itself in a cleaving to things” suddenly delivered the scent I had unknowingly sought. During all those previous decades, that line was merely an odorless ‘truth’. Perhaps this experience cleared my senses to the sweet-smelling realization that soon followed… We only understand what we know, p.254. Life seems to be a process of wandering around stumbling while waiting for lightning to strike, as it were. It certainly is an adventure!
Links to other renditions of Buddha’s 2nd truth
These are links to other renditions of the 2nd noble truth. They help illustrate how more words tend to obfuscate the essence. So aren’t we who pontificate merely seeking to convince ourselves through a type of self-brainwashing?
View On Buddhism
Buddhanet 2nd Noble Truth
Noble Buddhism Beliefs
Walpola Rahula: What the Buddha Taught
Carl Abbott says
That generally something I’ve been seeking to answer all my life. The only thing that I’ve found that works for redirecting one’s life in another direction is honestly acknowledging the dangers of the path you are on. For example, if you tend to be a fast driver and the road is slick with ice you’re in danger of running off the road. However, if you sincerely honestly acknowledge your ‘hurried’ personality, you will have a good chance of slowing down to a safer speed.
All of life’s situations share a similar dynamic and this driving example, albeit often less easy to illustrate. Nonetheless, the solution is the same. When you truly realize the danger, your biology—your survival instincts—will force you to redirect your life. No ‘will power’ or ‘free choice’ is required. Nature takes care of it!
I use the word danger here broadly. Actions or attitudes that threaten your well being, or the well being of loved ones are dangers to the quality of your life. Anything that promises loss or failure that you would hate to experience is also a danger. If, in full honesty, you realize the danger and are sincerely prepared to accept the risk, then what is the problem? Obviously, not a problem at all.
As Buddha pointed out in his Fourth Noble Truth and the first step on the eight step path,
The Fourth Noble Truth is the Middle Path that leads to the cessation of suffering. There is salvation for him whose self disappears before truth, whose will is bent on what he ought to do, whose sole desire is the performance of his duty. He who is wise will enter this path and make an end to suffering. Eight steps on the Middle Path are: Right Comprehension …
How does one fix, stop, clean up the hoarding issue?