Continuing the series on types of negativity that a main character could recover from, this article explores greed.
These aren’t the easiest of articles to write. Like any study involving psychology, learning about a disorder tends to help us find it in ourselves. Like everyone, I’ve had my share of boredom with life because of some temporary situations that took time to get past. Obsessions are a variation of addiction and I’ve had a few of those. I was obsessed with the PlayStation in the late 1990s and I’ve been obsessed with a variety of educational studies including many that never led to any money. Of course, that’s turning addiction into a good thing.
Now as I write about greed, I wonder if I’ll see myself again. Do you see yourself here? Remembering how it affected you will go a long way toward visualizing the problem for one of your characters.
Greed is one of the toughest escapisms to get over. There are two forms of greed.
Early in life, when you aren’t making much money, you may become a miser. It’s wise to save but becomes a problem when you go without basic necessities just to amass more money.
Later in life, when the house is paid off and the children have moved out on their own, you may be trying to build up your bank account far beyond your needs for this lifetime. It’s no longer the miserly path because you can live the good life. The problem is that you have enough money to be set for the rest of your life, but you keep wanting more. You are piling up goods and savings you will never use.
What Causes Greed?
Greed gives you both escape from reality by seeing happiness as money and power over reality by protecting you with that money. Like addiction, greed is the result of being hurt, financially this time. When a person is just starting out in the work world, almost everything is overpriced. If you’ve left home and your first job is minimum wage, it can seem like every business you deal with is ripping you off.
There is one aspect to business that can really make you feel burned. For businesses to be successful, they must make sure they get paid something on every deal even when they fail to deliver. Workers still need to be paid even when they work on problems that turn out to be unresolvable. From the business’ point of view, they did their best and deserve some compensation. From your point of view, they failed and still charged you.
Greed is a result of coming to the point of view that you’re going to get ripped off so you had better save as much money as you can. Saving is good but not when it has such a negative motivation.
How Can Greed be Overcome?
Greed can be overcome with successful saving. Time is the cure if you will let it be. As you make more money yourself and become experienced about business through your work, you can change your perception. You will learn to set reasonable savings goals and use money to enjoy your life instead of hoarding it away.
If greed is unsuccessful and you aren’t able to save, envy can be the result. Envy is unsatisfied greed. You work but are broke all the time. It must be because people with money are screwing you over. You learn to envy people with money and hate them. The rich appear to be parasites sucking the working person dry.
When the person in this condition isn’t clear about the problem, it can turn into all kinds of prejudices and hates. It’s the government that’s ripping them off. It’s immigrants. It’s people of certain races, the opposite gender, big corporations or secret societies. This is also a breeding ground for conspiracy theories.
Get In to Get It Out
I’ve described the problem as if you have it. That’s the best way to visualize your characters. Every type of negativity comes up for each of us at some time. If we’re lucky, we haven’t let it become part of who we are. Our brief experiences with negativity should help us to visualize what it would be like for someone in that state all the time.
To create a character who is miserly, avaricious, or envious you will need to imagine you are them. Put yourself in their psychological state long enough to build up a character portrait.
Special Traits of Greed
The three faces of greed offer ways to introduce changes for your character. The successful miser becomes avaricious. The unsuccessful miser becomes envious. Your character could start filled with envy and come into money because of their actions against the wealthy. How will you show their transformation into a greedy rich person who hates themselves because they are still holding onto their hatered for the rich? How does that hatred result in them self-sabotaging and losing it all again?
Escaping from Escapism
Escapism is an escape from reality. Detachment, addiction and greed are all ways to take the character away from the unpleasantness of real life into an imaginary world where things “aren’t so bad”. They’re actually worse, but the escapist can pretend otherwise in their contrived fantasy world.
One way to get out of a negative escapism is with a positive one. Instead of reading fantasy fiction, have them get busy with a new project to enhance their job skills. Free them from worrying about problems with new problem solving skills. Problems that appear to only be solved with money can be solved by getting the goods and services more directly. They can learn the skill they now need to pay someone else to do. Have them take on a part time job long enough to buy the missing goods and then dump it.
The best way to get out of escapism is by changing reality so there is no longer a need to escape from it. They become more social. They acquire more hobbies. The need to get away from negative people and places disappears as the character becomes too busy with positive people and places.
Greed offers many possibilities for character change. You could have a character become greedy because of rising expenses or a layoff that leads to a lower paying job. You can have a miser come into money and become avaricious. A character who is miserly can go from non-threatening to lethally agressive if they go through an experience that turns them envious and develops into a conspiracy theory complex. On the other hand, your main character’s greed problem may be resolved by the events of your story.
The next installment in this series will be about anger. Anger moves us from escaping from reality to attacking reality. People in the next three kinds of negativity are truly in a hell on earth.
Article by Ivan Izo.