It’s Affluenza Season!

It’s going around this time of year in particular – make sure your family doesn’t catch Affluenza.

How do you know if you have Affluenza?  Things to look for include feelings of

  • overload
  • debt
  • anxiety
  • waste
  • an insatiable pursuit of more

Affluenza is real, claims David Wann, and it’s a painful, contagious, socially transmitted disease.  We Americans are particularly susceptible to it, and it’s most contagious between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It’s a social condition arising from the desire to be more wealthy, successful or to “keep up with the Joneses”. Affluenza is symptomatic of a culture that holds up financial success as one of the highest achievements. People said to be affected by affluenza typically find that the very economic success they have been so vigorously chasing ends up leaving them feeling unfulfilled, and wishing for yet more wealth.

Investopedia says that

“Affluenza is arguably present in the United States, where the culture is one that prides itself on possessions and financial success. Mainstream media outlets, such as television broadcasts, tend to show how pervasive the idea has become. 
While affluenza cannot be quantified easily, those wishing to avoid the condition should look to be the master of, not a slave to, the things they have or wish to obtain.” 

PBS even did a documentary on Affluenza – and a follow-up documentary “Escape from Affluenza” on the issue in the 90’s.

Affluenza is in the current news, as well.  A Texas teenager recently admitted guilt in a DWI wreck that left four people dead.

According to police, Couch was going 70 miles-per-hour in his father’s Ford F-350 pickup in a 40 mph zone when he lost control and started a deadly chain of collisions that claimed the lives of: 24-year-old Breanna Mitchell, whose car had broken down on the side of the road; Hollie Boyles and her 21-year-old daughter Shelby, who lived nearby and had come outside to help Mitchell; and Brian Jennings, a youth pastor who was also playing the role of good samaritan. Two of the seven passengers riding in Couch’s truck were also seriously injured.

Earlier in the night, police say that several of the passengers were caught on camera stealing two cases of beer from a local Walmart. At the time of the crash, Couch had a blood alcohol content of 0.24, three times the legal limit for an adult, and also had traces of Valium in his system, according to police. He pleaded guilty last week to four counts of intoxication manslaughter and two counts of intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury.

The sentencing guideline for the crime was 20 years in prison. Instead, his defense argued that the 16-year-old was a victim of Affluenza:

Prior to sentencing, a psychologist called by the defense, Dr. G. Dick Miller,  testified that [Ethan] Couch’s life could be salvaged with one to two years’ treatment and no contact with his parents. … Miller said Couch’s parents gave him “freedoms no young person should have.” He called Couch a product of “affluenza,” where his family felt that wealth bought privilege and there was no rational link between behavior and consequences.

Watch yourself this Christmas.  Know the symptoms of Affluenza, and if you start to see any signs that it’s coming on, stop and take a breather.  Asses what’s really important, what kind of life you want for your family, and how you want your kids to remember these years.

It’s not about the stuff, it’s about the relationships.  What are you doing this year to focus on the relationships, and not the stuff?

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