Scarcity can refer to resources, experiences, opportunities, respect, emotions, or any possible human experience in which one’s needs are not met.  Importantly, scarcity can exist due to an inability to cultivate abundance in any one particular area of one’s life, rather than scarcity as determined by external factors.  In the book Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How it Defines Our Lives, the authors discuss different ways in which scarcity itself may affect us and includes both negative and positive outcomes within a scarcity mindset (Mullainathan & Shafir, 2013).  They discuss a scarcity mindset by calling it a lack of cognitive or mental bandwidth in reaction to having your mind taxed by stressors (Mullainathan & Shafir, 2013).  One anecdotal example they offer is of an individual who has experienced an event that has a negative emotional connotation (such as a fight with a partner).  The negative emotion will affect their cognitive ability by overtaxing it, which then lowers their bandwidth with which to think, react, or respond efficiently or even appropriately (Mullainathan & Shafir, 2013).  In terms of extreme polarities, this also highlights that too much scarcity (maybe even too much of anything, including abundance) can be detrimental, adverse, and harmful.  When discussing scarcity mindsets in this paper, I am often referring to extreme experiences of scarcity as opposed to beneficial aspects of scarcity.  I will discuss the beneficial aspects of scarcity below. The figure above offers a visual of an extreme scarcity mindset in relationships.  At the end of each axis is a role that each of us may embody throughout our experience, depending on how we are relating to an event and the context in which that event is occurring.  Each role pulls away from its opposite counterpart to avoid the discomfort that it represents.  These interactions then create a tenor of fear within the individuals that are playing the roles to extreme reactions. We may find ourselves drawn to a role depending on the interactions we have experienced and the roles we have played throughout our lifetime.  For example, if we have experienced trauma, we are more likely to view ourselves as a Victim and may react to the stressor by isolating ourselves away from all possible stressors (including the stress of new relationships).  A reaction like this results in isolation as well as stagnation; as, without challenge, we would never grow.  On the other hand, if we often find ourselves in a caretaker role for, say, a parent who lives on the Victim/Villain axis, we may find our reactions tend to fall on either the Hero or Bystander orientations, leading us toward a desperate desire to change the current or future adverse interactions.  This can lead to positive outcomes (such as learning and growing), or we can become stuck in either a fix or freeze mindset.  When stuck in a “fix” mindset, we can see where the Mock Hero might cause harm through their desire to perceive themselves as helpful by seeking out and holding Victims in their fear reaction to an adverse event.  When stuck in a freeze mindset, the Bystander may cause harm to themselves by becoming consumed by an experience of learned helplessness, where they believe that no matter what they do, they will not be effective.  Scarcity, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad, counterproductive, or problematic unless experienced in its extreme. Too much of anything is unhealthy.  There is also a positive component of scarcity.  We have a threshold of stress in which we are able to grow.  Once that threshold is breached, we then become overwhelmed by the experience and may shut down in response to any further interaction.  However, prior to exceeding the threshold, we can experience scarcity as an impetus to grow, that increases our adaptability and cultivates a personal sense of knowledge, self-efficacy, and wisdom.
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