The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond

Ep 16. Reconciling Abundance Mindset & the Sociological Imagination

March 09, 2022 Carmela Season 2 Episode 16
The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond
Ep 16. Reconciling Abundance Mindset & the Sociological Imagination
Show Notes Transcript

Abundance mentality can be a powerful tool on the journey to creative and economic freedom. But, as a framework, it has social and political limitations. This episode explores the way that we can reconcile abundance mentality with a sociological imagination. What's worth keeping? What can serve as a useful tool in your creative journey?

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Speaker 1 (00:09):

Welcome to the millennial PhD, a podcast about creative survival and beyond. My name is Dr. Carmela Muzio Dormani, and I'm a sociologist, dancer and creative consultant from New York. In these episodes, you'll find inspiration, ideas, and actionable tips for building new pathways forward in work and life. You'll hear from artists, activists, creative entrepreneurs, PhDs, and professional pivoters. We talk about radical humanity and practical steps to follow your dreams, even in the context of challenging social conditions. Before we jump into today's episode, a quick reminder to follow the millennial PhD on Instagram, and to please take a minute to rate and a review the millennial PhD on Apple podcasts. Your rating really helps the show reach as many listeners as possible. You can learn more about me and get access to free creative resources on the millennial PhD Instagram page I hope you enjoyed the episode. 

Welcome back to the millennial PhD. This is your host, me, and today's episode is about reconciling abundance mentality and the sociological imagination. And yes, I'm gonna break down what each of those means and talk a little bit about how to navigate allowing them to coexist. So the idea of abundance mentality or abundance mindset as it's sometimes called, if you're not familiar with it, it's basically a psychological, um, somewhat philosophical framework that says that we can focus on there being enough possibility and enough abundance, however you decide, define that, excuse me, enough opportunities for success and resources for yourself and for others. And that by focusing our mentality on all there is for us to gain and enjoy and on the fact that there can be enough for us and for our neighbors and our community members, and maybe even other folks that we would typically think of as people we're competing with, right? 

Pro, if you're professionally or if you're in a creative field, instead of we can focus on the idea that there's, there's enough and it can come into us and we're good enough for it, then that's a shift away from what is sometimes called a scarcity mentality, which is just the idea of kind of hoarding and holding on to whatever little piece of the pie that you can get. And I will say, I think a lot, a lot of us are really closely connected with a scarcity mentality. And I would say specifically coming from kind of working class backgrounds, coming from immigrant or migrant backgrounds, even a couple of generations in, um, this is something that a lot of times our parents or our families have had to really fight for whatever they've been able to hold onto or perhaps are still fighting. And so the idea of get something for yourself, um, get something safe, hold onto it. 

There's, there's not enough or, or there might never be enough and it might not get to you. I think it's really pervasive and with understandable reason, but abundance mentality is about tossing out limiting beliefs. A lot of times we, I know, I, I I self-critique, I self limit. I have told myself as a dancer, as a creative and all different types of fields as an academic for sure, that I've gotten into, that certain things are just not meant for me, and that there's certain levels of success that are not available to me. And to just, again, try to ki try to kind of hoard something and hold onto whatever little piece I can get my hands on on. Um, so this idea of abundance mentality, it's also about embracing change and embracing generosity toward others. So it's not just super individualistic. You know, I've rallied against kind of super individualistic frameworks in the past. 

It was about sharing, being in community planning for success, planning for whatever that looks like for you, which might be monetary as it is for a lot of us, or it might be in terms of other types of success like profession or anything that we can kind of, um, you know, leadership positions or things that we're hoping to, to gain for ourselves in our communities. So I have seen this around a lot, and I would imagine if you're listening to this, you, you've seen it or you've heard narratives like this before, and I've always really struggled with it personally. And as a sociologist. So personally, <laugh> one, a lot of times things that are about mentality work have really turned me off because I have a political perspective that's grounded in having kind of a broader social systems based analysis of the world, right? And especially as a sociologist being someone whose focus is this sociological imagination in this particular way of viewing and understanding the world, this is really a challenging idea, and it does have some, some serious problems with it, which I'll talk about in just a minute. 

Not to burst your bubble, blah, I promise I will pivot after that and talk about the way that we can use this to help and support ourselves even in community oriented work and even in social justice oriented work. So if you're wondering what the sociological imagination is, just basically this concept that we work off, which is the idea that we should move through the world with a vivid awareness of the relationship between individual and society, right? So basically this means that we understand that we have personal troubles and that we go through our personal experiences and that we observe what our individual lives look like, but that we're also aware of history and where our story fits in with that history and into larger social structures. So again, as a sociologist, really been my framework to understand inequality and a societal level, and I think a lot of other people are invested in understanding that right now as well. 

It's a, these are big topics of conversation as we talk about systems of exploitation, whether it be capitalism, broadly speaking, systemic racism, sexism or heterosexism and so on and so forth. And so this is, again, kind kind of coming to the point of what is challenging about the limitations, <laugh> speaking of limiting beliefs, but the limitations of abundance mentality. This similarity of this idea of abundance mentality or the what the idea that you can kind of mentality your way out of difficult material conditions is, is a problem <laugh>, right? So it's very, gives very similar vibes to the bootstrap narrative, which was the idea of, oh, you have to pull yourself up by your bootstrap, which doesn't take into account systemic inequality or even a culture of poverty narrative, um, which is an idea that, that unfortunately sociologists came up with that said, Oh, there's a particular culture of poverty that impoverished people adhere to that perpetuates poverty from one generation to the next. 

It's been hugely debunked, super, super large problems with it because again, ignoring systemic realities about the material conditions we have access to is not so good, right? It doesn't give a full picture of what folks are dealing with and what people are navigating and the different conditions that we're, we have access to as people moving through the social world. Some of the other issues that I wanna acknowledge with the abundance mentality framework is that it's always really critical when we're using something. And I, again, I see this a lot in wellness and I see people posting about it, and I'm glad that it's been useful for people and I'm hoping to make use of it myself, but it's <laugh> important that we take a look at where things come from. And the person who, who originally wrote about this idea about 30 years ago now, a little bit more than 30 years ago now, did have, did have kind of, um, a particular psychological and philosophical viewpoint, and in particular was really deeply rooted in, uh, in religion in latter day Saints, religion and Mormonism. 

And that's fine. I'm not here to critique organized religion, but it is something we wanna be aware of because a lot of the values that make their way into quote unquote self-help books are derived or are written by folks who are really deeply invested in and involved in often Christian religious traditions. So it just something to be aware of as we look at the texts that people have written about this mentality work or about this self-help work. Okay? And it's not, it's not the only one. And again, this is not a targeted critique of that religious tradition, but it is something to keep in mind, right? Just to be aware as you're consuming information about the idea of abundance mentality and scarcity mentality. What are the roots? What were the influences on the person that was writing about it? Okay, so just so again, something to to keep in mind. 

Um, and it is, there's also the fact that that particular religious tradition has been called out for racism, white supremacy, some at some points, antique activities and biases. So this is something that, you know, throws a wrench in the utility of the this tool. And that being said, it's been a adapted in the 30 years since it, it first appeared. I think people have have used it with a critical lens. I'm definitely not the first person to engaging with this idea with a critical sociological lens. And putting, you know, putting that discussion out there. And even the original author who came up with these concepts described it as a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others. And I like to focus, I like that focus on our collective bonds. I like what I've seen this type of thinking do for folks in my networks, broadly speaking. 

And I'm also currently on this journey to build creative and economic freedom for myself and for you, if you're listening to this. So joining this concept, the concept of abundance mentality, I'm really trying to work on this myself. It does not come naturally to me. It was not the major framework that, that I was raised with. Um, and it's not something I've seen typically as a possibility for me, <laugh> necessarily. So I'm working outta myself as is a, an ongoing practice rather than something that I'm an expert at. But I'm also working on joining this concept together with those important sociological understandings and in intersectional sociological framework that keeps in mind systems of exploitation that that influence the frameworks within which we're able to operate. So here are the facets of abundance mentality that I'm planning on focusing on, and that maybe can serve you as well if you're similarly struggling to reconcile pathways to creative and economic freedom in your life with a collective, maybe a community focused politics or even an anti capitalist politics. 

First of all, I, like I said, I love the idea of abundance mentality as something that is about, is not just about the individual, and it's also about sharing shared wealth, whether that be monetary wealth or other types of resources that we have as a community. So I, I'm focusing on reframing and thinking about individual wins as community wins. I believe that we have what we need within our communities to support each other, to pick each other up. We have the resources, we have the human capital, the mental and emotional capital to care for each other and to embrace the joy of sharing, including of resources, because sharing resources does not necessarily, uh, it's not necessarily baked into major US American narratives. So the first thing I'm doing is really reframing and focusing on these collective and community oriented parts of this mentality. Um, right, So that embracing abundance for yourself is also about receiving that abundance and sharing it with your community, however possible from, from each what they can and to each what they need. 

So really taking that and running with it. The second thing that I'm focusing on is just a way of becoming unstuck from a mentality that ultimately helps and supports exploitative systems. So it's that idea of a scarcity mentality or that idea that if I get a little leg up or if I get a job that's okay, that I need to hold onto it and not shake things up and not support unionizing efforts or not support someone who's speaking out or not be there when someone is marginalized within that environment, really feels like this scarcity mentality that many of, many of us experienced and hold onto for good reasons often, but it ultimately winds up just supporting the continuance of exploitative work conditions. So I'm really trying to unlearn that and to toss it out and to work on really feeling the fact that I am not able to control every piece of the conditions around me, but I can at least work on not allowing a scarcity mentality or fear based thinking to let me not support other folks in my community or to let exploitative labor conditions go unchecked. 

If it, you know, academia, if you're, if you're in here listening to this cuz you're an academic, you already know if you're in here listening to this because you're a dancer, you already know <laugh> and, or you know, a creative entertainment industry, whatever it is that you're coming from, this is, this is extremely common in in the industries that I frequented and, and other ones as well. The third way that I'm using in trying to renegotiate and re navigate the idea of abundance mentality is as a reminder that just because things are a certain way doesn't mean they need to stay that way. And this is supposed to be the basis for all of our work, all of our, all of our social justice work, if that's what you do, um, or if that's something that you're interested in or care about. But this sometimes gets lost in the mix. 

So even though, uh, as a sociologist even and before that, as an organizer and as an activist, uh, for time period, even though the whole point was to change to, to, to make social change and to undermine exploitative systems, sometimes I would get stuck in the rut of just repeating and telling fo talking about how bad exploitative systems are. And that's absolutely the truth. Like, <laugh>, you're not going to, you're not gonna hear me take that back. But at the same time, part of the goal needs to be, and part of the conversation always needs to be what it, what does it look like to be liberated from that? And of course that has to do with material conditions and economic conditions, but it does also have to do with different versions of freeing ourselves mentally and creating a new mentality for how we engage. 

So I think this ties in really well with that community focus and that collective focus piece. And, um, imagining liberated futures, you know, to put, to put a more socially conscious spin on it, I think can be a part of a part of this mentality shift. And it's definitely a part that we can, you know, we can learn about systems all day and critique them, and yet sometimes we wind our wind up getting stuck, be coming up against being lethargic, being burned out. And so some of this work does have to be mental and emotional and, uh, you know, a lot of people who know a lot more about that are talking about that in, in wonderfully rich and detailed ways right now on social media and all over. 

Okay, the next piece of abundance mentality that I am taking and reconciling with the sociological imagination is the, the practice of gratitude, which I think is one of the pieces that's very compelling. I see it shared a lot. I see a lot of people have these great journal practices, or they take time to express gratitude for their communities, for nature, for their, their loved ones, for whatever, um, for, you know, their whatever their wins are in a given time period. And this is something that, again, because of that, the, the other ideas, the other limiting ideas that a lot of us have internalized has not come natural to me. And for this, and I think for many people, and for this reason, it's something that many people make into an intentional practice. So I think that holding onto that piece of, you know, relinquishing a little bit of control, which we often don't have and would love to have and maybe would've imagined leveraging our control or our power in a different way than, than we're able to, uh, we're not necessarily able to control every piece of that. 

Even if we organize all day, we can, we can control some things and some things are beyond that, but embracing and practicing gratitude is something that we can, at least this aspirationally work toward. And I think it's, you know, it's nice. And finally, the, the third piece that I'm taking with me is speaking of aspirational, just rec the recognition that this practice, like all of our social and political practices are constantly aspirational. So the idea that we've gotta get something and learn how to do it and then do it perfectly and do it right, or else it's worthless is worth deconstructing cuz it's very closely tied in with white supremacy culture and with capitalism. And so working on this idea of abundance mentality of a community informed abundance mentality and recognizing that our understanding of that is gonna shift and that it's limitations are, you know, we're not gonna lose sight of the limitations of mentality. 

Shifts can be a part of this as well in engaging in an, in an abundance mentality. We need to recognize every, at every step of the way that what most people need is more resources, right? You know what most people need to help their mental and emotional health is safety and resources. And that's still the goal. But that being said, this is something that will, is a tool that can help us survive within the conditions in which we currently are, whatever those may be. And I hope that, I hope to build an intentional practice around this. I hope that you're able to build a practice around this, and I hope that it brings some fortification, some mental and emotional fortification or even some joy into your life as you're, as you're moving through the world. I'll probably revisit this topic again in the future, specifically for this reason that it's, it's constantly aspirational and it's ever evolving. 

My understanding of how to engage with it is evolving, and I hope that, that you'll, you'll tune in and we can talk about this again. I would love to hear back from you if you're listening. We're gonna wrap up here for today. This is a little bit of a, uh, of a mini episode, but I would love to hear from you. Feel free to email me at the millennial PhD You can also follow me on Instagram at MellU, that's M E L A M U Z I O, or you can connect with I look forward to continuing to think about this and engage with this topic. That's it for this week's episode of the Millennial PhD. You can find more content, resources and information on Instagram at the millennial PhD in this collective moment of reevaluating our relationships with work and exploitation. I look forward to connecting with you and building stronger bonds of community and collaboration. I would love to hear from you via email at the millennial with any feedback, comments, questions, or concerns, or if you're interested in coming on the show as a guest. That's all for now. It's been real. See you next time.