The NHS definition of hoarding demonstrates how badly understood the problem is:
"A hoarding disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner. The items can be of little or no monetary value and usually result in unmanageable amounts of clutter.
It's considered to be a significant problem if:
Someone in a bedsit with this disorder is going to be dealt with very differently than someone in a detached, 8 bedroom property even though both people are suffering. 87 year old Mrs Appleton was evicted from her home because a housing trust believed her hoarding was a health and safety issue: the trust made her life safer by making her homeless.
It’s not news that the rich are treated differently from the poor. The Panama Papers are not news.
We know that a majority of rich people are obsessive about being rich. They have developed a mental disorder, a form of OCD, which has profound and blatantly deleterious effects on the people around them. It’s just that - unlike people who hoard newspapers and old toys who get upset when their family try to address the issue – money hoarders they don’t know the people that they effect. And they are never directly confronted with the effects of their hoarding. In most cases they’re surrounded by other money hoarders at best and parasitic sycophants who milk them at worst.
There is nothing inherently wrong with being wealthy, morally or in terms of mental wellbeing. Where prosperity becomes unhealthy is when a person identifies so profoundly with their wealth that it skews their version of reality. Just as the very poor person can justify burglary so the rich person can justify withholding money that they know helps fund roads, pavements, clean water, the sewerage system, railways, gas and electricity, things that they use every day. Rich people aren’t stupid, they know that poor people proportionately pay more in taxes than they do. Rich people who hoard money are mentally ill.
By no means am I suggesting that we feel sorry for them. I'm proposing that we watch out for similar behaviour in ourselves.
Excellent research shows that the more prosperous we feel the less we care about other people. This is repeatable in a lab-based rigged game of monopoly where players win meaningless tokens: we are hard wired to become increasingly self-centred the more affluent we feel.
There’s a lot to be said about the profound unhappiness of the rich. Many are brought up never to trust anyone because, “They don’t like you, they like your money.” Imagine what that does to a child. Just as eating too much good food eventually becomes toxic so having everything you want becomes poisonous, it’s called Ahedonia. And the smart ones know it:_
“You know, I thought the more money I made, that I would spend more. And that’s the opposite. The more money I make, the more I want to save. I didn’t think it would be like that and I’ve actually surprised myself.”
For many rich people life becomes essentially insignificant. Imagine how unwell a person has to be if contributing to the wellbeing, and in many cases the survival of other human beings is of no importance or interest . There but for the grace of god go we all.
I had to sit down to listen carefully to a radio programme this morning, discussing this news. A growing number of school age children are still wearing nappies.
The assumption is that that it is underclass parents, people who can barely drag themselves from their filthy pits to tend to their almost-inhuman offspring, who are responsible for this epic neglect. Those people who called in to the radio programme to talk about their personal experience of this phenomenon felt they don’t have enough time because they're at work. The research suggests their attitude isn't limited to people who call radio programmes.
They work all week and on their days off they don’t have the energy to commit to this very basic task. They can’t bear the thought of having to clean up the inevitable and quite normal mistakes that occur during toilet training so they don’t bother. Helping their child move from an infant stage to that of an appropriately independent and capable child takes a couple of weeks, and these parents can't spare that time.
Quite obviously, the majority of parents from every background manage to toilet train their children. I’d propose that a parent who cannot manage to care for their children should have Social Service involvement whatever their background – the excuse that you’re too tired after work to bother with your own children is preposterous.
There are any number of employers who would happily work their employees into the ground and resent any workplace legislation that gets in the way of making a profit. I’m suggesting that if an employee feels under such profound pressure that they cannot take time off work to toilet train their child then something is dangerously out of balance. Dangerously. Even the DWP doesn’t insist that a lone parent work until their youngest child is 7 years old.
But there’s so much greater status in being employed rather than being a single parent on the dole. At what point does caring about your status become more important than caring for your child?
"Summer holiday, £1,014. Christmas: £868.
Eight counselling Session with Clare £400."
Fellow counsellor Andrea Sheehy offers this calculation and it’s a very good one, perhaps particularly useful at a time when money is becoming tight and you're having to prioritise.
A man called my local radio station this week to talk about debt. He was living apart from his children and spent extraordinary amounts of the banks money to buy them presents. At Christmas he’d spent £2000 but said that the kids were ungrateful and their mother had poisoned their minds against him. The radio host asked some careful questions and it seemed as if, in fact, this father had been so desperate for a great Christmas that he’d made his kids anxious and tense. They wanted to relax and veg out and he wanted them to endlessly play and eat and be grateful.
Every counsellor that works for an Employee Assistance Programme will know the story of the client who realises that their stress will not be cured within 4 hours, has found the 5 free sessions incredibly valuable but won’t spend £50 a week on continuing this journey with another counsellor. Every counsellor will have had the discussion with a potential client who will go on minibreaks every fortnight, or to a monthly spa or has botox or travels to a second home every weekend, but who says they don’t have the money to spend on their own wellbeing.
The irony is that many people wouldn’t need to constantly spend money on stuff if they had spent a little time examining what actually makes them happy and what brings meaning to their lives.
The radio host spoke very sensitively to the resentful, unhappy father. He said, ‘Kids don’t want our money, they want our time. They don’t love us for what we get them, they love us because we listen to them and take care of them.” The father just couldn’t hear him, he was too filled with sorrow, confusion and bitterness and the host had to go to the travel news.
Rather than spending a thousand pounds on getting away from it all or attempting to make someone love you, spend a few hundred to explore your inner worlds. I promise you'll get more from counselling than you will from lying around in a white dressing gown drinking white wine all weekend.
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