I’ve never been addicted to shopping or had a compulsive spending disorder that lead to severe consequences like debt or ruined relationships.
But I have always had a habit of buying my feelings.
In moments of emotional distress, I would jump online and start buying used books or new shoes or old records, thinking that they would make me feel better.
When the reality was, my brain was releasing the addictive chemicals of endorphins and dopamine, which allowed me to dissociate from my feelings and avoid facing the pain.
It’s a terribly unhealthy cycle. Not to mention expensive and wasteful. In fact, it’s not unlike eating or drinking or smoking or popping pills in times of distress. Because it had nothing to do with the activity, and everything to do with a lack of emotional regulation.
Shopping a toxic way of acting out to alleviate discomfort. Yet another way of taking a materialistic detour around my feelings.
And so, what I’ve learned is to interrupt the worry stream with wonder. To buffer against my impulsive spending with reframing devices. These days, anytime I get the overwhelming sense of urgency that I’m one purchase away from happiness, here’s what I try to say to myself:
What am I afraid to feel right now? What does this feeling want from me? What catastrophe will befall me if I don’t buy this? And whom might I call to create a safe place to process my emotions?
These questions, at the very least, help to give me pause. They create mindfulness in an otherwise impetuous moment. They challenge me to stand in the fire of difficult feelings.
And as a result, they allow me talk myself out of impulsive, unhealthy behavior.
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How are you building the machinery that regulates emotion?
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That Guy with the Nametag
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