While walking through a large local discount store recently, I was struck by the urge to buy things that I had not originally come to the store to get. The item I was shopping for was not on the shelf, and the similar items held no appeal for me. Still, I was somehow drawn toward displays of odds and ends.
I noticed a thought creeping into the back of my mind, saying,“Hey, maybe you could use one of these–it’s not that expensive.” It was difficult to walk away, though I wondered what the attraction was. Is it just the sheer volume of merchandise that makes it impossible to walk out the door without seeing something you want?
I think there is something else at play here: a desire for power. Our society is obsessed with material goods and wealth. Many people do not consciously strive to be rich, but there is an inherent belief among most people that they would be better off and generally happier if they had more money. Many of my wealthier clients would argue against this myth. Be that as it may, I think that there is a brief momentary “sense” of power when we make a purchase – whether or not we can afford it.
People with shopping addictions can attest to having many other anxieties. But shopping temporarily helps them feel “in control,” even when they rationally realize they are out of control. You do not have to be have a shopping addiction to fall into this trap, and our modern advertisement-infused society can hypnotize you into buying without thinking.
Here is an idea: when you decide you don’t want to purchase something, or they are out of what you’re looking for, say to yourself, “I’m taking charge of my life by deciding not to buy anything today. This is a powerful decision, and I’m happier because of it.” You may find yourself less stressed and spending less time in the returns line at your nearest big box store.
© Copyright 2010 by Hans Sieber. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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