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Posts Tagged ‘shopping’

Top SecretI don’t really like the word “addiction” because it carries with it a sense of being completely out of control or even victim to a particular type of behavior.  I think this attitude is a big part of why I never stuck with the 12-step programs I attended for both my eating disorders and codependent behavior. I couldn’t get past the first step, which is “I admit that I am powerless over my addiction and my life has become unmanageable.”  While I was more than willing to cop to having an unmanageable life, confessing to powerlessness was just something I could never do.  I guess I’m just too much of a control freak!

Do What Works!

It is not my intent to either criticize or advocate the 12-step philosophy.  I know that AA and associated programs have helped a lot of people over the years and very likely could have helped me as well had I steadfastly adhered to the steps.  My best advice is always to do what works, and what works can vary for any of us as time goes by.  My current choice is to follow Louise Hay’s advice and philosophy outlined in “You Can Heal Your Life.”  Louise addresses the concept of addictions in detail in both her book and the corresponding companion book.

This post outlines Louise Hay’s philosophies on addictions, as well as some of the advice she gives for releasing addictive behavior.  I also share some secrets regarding one of my compulsive behaviors and the insights I gained from completing the Chapter 6 exercises on addictions in the “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book.”

Louise Hay on Addictions

Louise Hay believes that addictive behavior is another way of saying, “I’m not good enough.”  When we engage in compulsive actions, we are trying to run away from both our uncomfortable feelings and ourselves.  Some feelings we have are so painful that we do not want to look at them, so we drink, abuse drugs, overeat, gamble, spend too much money, or any number of other actions which serve to numb our feelings and allow us to escape from reality.

Louise believes that the first step to overcoming what we’ve termed addictions is to acknowledge that there is a need in us to engage in these self-destructive actions.   In order to stop the compulsive behavior, we have to release the need which is underlying it.

Fearful and “Not Good Enough”

According to Louise Hay, the addictive personality is generally a very fearful one.  People who are consumed by their compulsive behaviors tend to be highly fearful of letting go and trusting the process of life (“control freaks,” anyone?).  They often believe that the world is an unsafe place full of people and situations that are just waiting to create stress and pain in their lives.  They also tend to be highly critical and unforgiving toward themselves and may even suffer from acute self-hatred.

People who suffer from addictions never feel that who they are and what they do is “good enough,” so they punish themselves day after day.  The addictions are a way of both punishing themselves and suppressing uncomfortable feelings and memories.  The addiction becomes “the problem” and the person may focus all of his or her energy on that instead of looking at the underlying issues, which are most often related to a lack of self-love and self-approval.

Keys to Releasing Addictions

As with all problems that people experience in life, Louise Hay believes that loving and approving of oneself are the keys in releasing addictions.  Also critical is learning to trust both yourself and the process of life.  Of course, these things are easier said than done, but that is the reason for “You Can Heal Your Life” and The Healing Project.  It isn’t easy to release addictions and heal our lives, but it IS possible!

The exercises in Chapter 6 of the YCHYL Companion Book provide a good starting point for examining the beliefs and attitudes which underlie compulsive behaviors.  One of the exercises asks us to list ten secrets that we’ve never shared with anyone regarding our addiction.  The objective is to look at our very worst actions and to be able to love the person who did those things.

My Secret Addictive Behavior re: Shopping

The main compulsive behavior in which I engage at this point in my life is shopping and overspending.  I realize that this behavior is compulsive because I often feel ashamed and remorseful for my actions.  Many of my actions are secretive and manipulative.  My husband has entrusted me with managing the household finances, so my subterfuge is not all that difficult. However, since the goal of my “healing project” is to heal myself and my life, I want to overcome my compulsive shopping “addiction.”

In the service of that goal, I will share a few of the secrets I listed in the exercise described above.  I realize that I may be harshly judged for my behavior, but I am a big believer in the notion that “the truth shall set you free.”

  • I hide new clothes and put them away when my husband isn’t around.
  • I use “creative accounting” to make it look like I’ve spent less money.  I put clothing and accessory purchases in other “buckets,” such as gifts, beauty, and household.
  • I change the dates of purchases so that it won’t look like I’ve spent too much money in any given month.
  • I use store credit cards (and sometimes even open new accounts) so that the bills won’t come until later.  I know I will have to “face the music” later, but at least I’m able to get my “fix” in the moment.
  • Sometimes I buy something for myself along with a gift for someone else and account for the entire purchase under “gifts.”
  • I buy things to get the thrill in the moment and later return them so that I can shop some more (this is a more recent behavior but is happening a lot).

Insights and Forgiveness

Although I am embarrassed to reveal some of my secrets regarding shopping, it feels liberating to be open and honest with my readers.  Now that I look at my secrets again, I realize that they are not that bad.  I am able to follow Louise Hay’s advice to look into the mirror and tell myself, “I forgive you, and I love you exactly as you are.”  I may not fully mean what I am saying just yet, but the important thing is that I want to mean it.

Beating myself up for my past actions doesn’t solve anything and only serves to make me feel worse, which may lead me to compulsively spend more money.  It is far more productive to face the music, forgive myself, make amends where needed, and commit to loving myself more and doing better in the future.

Some Final Words from Louise

We don’t have to keep punishing ourselves for our past wrongs, either real or imagined.  Holding on to the past only hurts us because we are not living in the moment and experiencing all of the good things which life has to offer.  The past is over and cannot be changed!   By reliving the past, we strengthen our emotional attachment to it and punish ourselves today for what cannot be undone.  As we let go of the past, we then become free to use all of our mental power to enjoy today and create a bright future for ourselves.

I close with a few powerful affirmations from Louise Hay on the topic of addictions:

I am willing to release the need for ______ in my life.  I release it now and trust in the process of life to meet my needs.”

No matter what the past may have been, now in this moment I choose to eliminate all negative self-talk and to love and approve of myself.”

No person, place or thing has any power over me.  I am free.”

Related Posts

  • Overspending: Sometimes I lack self-discipline, and this is particularly evident related to shopping. I feel as if I lose my sense of reason and rationality when I find myself face-to-face with new things. This post highlights a recent shopping trip during which I overspent and how I felt following that experience. I also start to look at the issue of compulsive behaviors in general and how they are about desperately trying to fill an internal void inside of us.
  • Compulsive Behaviors: Over the years, I have struggled with various forms of compulsive behavior, including dieting, compulsive overeating, excessive exercise, overspending, and working too much.  You may have grappled with similar issues, or you may have had problems with drinking, drugs, gambling, sex, or any number of other maladaptive behaviors.  It doesn’t matter which of these behaviors has plagued you, the problem is usually rooted in the same causes. This post is geared toward examining compulsive behavior, getting to the root of why we engage in such destructive actions, and looking at what we can do to begin to turn it around.
  • Key Principles – Part 4: Louise Hay asserts that when we really love ourselves, everything in life works. When we treat ourselves with loving kindness, we experience a number of life benefits, including decreased anxiety, increased inner peace, improved relationships, and enhanced health and well-being.  This post explores the topic of self-love and how it is integral to healing ourselves and our lives.

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Last week, I wrote the post “Overspending,” about a recent shopping trip that resulted in my spending too much money and feeling that I had acted in a compulsive manner.  Although there were important lessons inherent in that individual experience, it also raised the issue of compulsive behavior in general.  This post is geared toward examining compulsive behavior, getting to the root of why we engage in such destructive actions, and looking at what we can do to begin to turn it around.

Compulsiveness Takes Many Forms…

I shared about my shopping and spending issues, but these are far from the only forms of compulsive behaviors with which I’ve struggled.  I’ve also engaged in compulsive overeating, dieting, and exercising, and spending too much time working or surfing the internet, among other things.   You may have grappled with similar issues, or you may have had problems with drinking, drugs, gambling, sex, or any number of other maladaptive behaviors.  It doesn’t matter which of these behaviors has plagued you, the problem is usually rooted in the same causes.

Years ago, I wanted to write a book called “It’s Not About the Food,” about eating disorders and compulsive overeating.  Unfortunately, someone else used this brilliant title before I could, but that won’t stop me from sharing my thoughts on the issue.  From my early teens until the very recent past, I struggled with pretty much every eating disorder which a person could have.  I was anorexic, bulimic, an obsessive exerciser, and a compulsive overeater.  I have been seriously underweight, overweight, and every weight in between, yet my pain was always the same.  It was never about the number on the scale or what I did or didn’t do around food.  It was always about something else, and the same is true for all other forms of compulsive behavior.

Escaping Pain

My overeating, under eating, shopping, and other compulsive behaviors have served both as coping mechanisms and means of escape from the pain which I was experiencing in my life.  As much pain as these behaviors caused me, and that pain has been intense, the pain which was being masked by my compulsivity was far greater.  There was something, or multiple things, which I just didn’t want to look at, so I ate, dieted, or shopped.  I would then lament my weight gain, food obsession, or credit card bills instead of dealing with what was really wrong in my life.

  • What was it that I didn’t want to feel?
  • What is it that you don’t want to feel that is being buried under your compulsive behaviors? 

Getting to the Root of Things

While I can’t possibly know the answer for anyone else, I can share what I believe it was – and is – for me.  I have always felt like an outsider and as if I didn’t really “belong.”  I never felt like I was “good enough,” but I thought that if I could somehow be thin enough, maybe I would measure up.  Or I thought that if I could be pretty enough (which relates to the hair obsession which I shared in my last post, “Perspective and Appreciation”) or dress well enough, maybe I would fit in and be on par with others.  That was part of it…

As I’ve shared in previous posts, I’ve long struggled to achieve the societal vision of success in terms of my career.  While I know that I am intelligent and capable, I have experienced only limited financial success over the course of my working life.  I have difficulty maintaining a passion for a single occupation and thus have switched careers a number of times over the years.  Now, at age 43, I feel insecure at my current career status and feel that I should be much farther along the path of success at this point in my life.  While I think about this often, I frequently feel stuck and powerless, and I sometimes plummet into feelings of despair and hopelessness when I find that I don’t have the answers.

Comfortably Numb?

What do people do when they feel desperate and hopeless?  They often do whatever they can to numb those feelings, using whatever they have at their disposal at the time.  I don’t consciously think, “I feel bad, so I think I’ll go shopping and numb myself out,” but that is virtually what I do.  The shopping gives me a high that serves to mitigate the lows I was feeling about my career woes or whatever else was troubling me.  I know this is true because the items which I buy often sit in my closet for weeks or even months with the tags still on them.

If it really was about my being greedy or truly wanting certain items of clothing, wouldn’t I be rushing to wear them?  The feeling I get from shopping and buying clothes is similar to what I used to feel when I would eat a pile of sweets.   The pain is numbed and replaced with a high, and I have escaped my negative feelings, albeit only temporarily.   That pain returns shortly thereafter and the feelings of guilt and shame resulting from my compulsive behavior add insult to injury and I end up feeling much worse.  It’s a vicious cycle and a very difficult one to stop, but there is hope…

The Place of Power

I’ve often heard it said that the place of power is in the space between stimulus and response.  Most people merely react to what’s going on in their lives; they do what they have always done even when it doesn’t serve them.  There is virtually no gap between their feelings (stimulus) and their compulsive behavior (response).  A person feels bad, and then they eat, drink, or do something else to numb the pain.  But there is another way -and it starts with awareness…  The awareness of your compulsive behavior and what it is costing you is what creates a small space between your negative feelings and what has become an automatic reaction.  That small space is the seat of powerful action, as opposed to disempowered reaction.

An Example & Key Questions to Ask

An example can help to illustrate this important point… Let’s say that I just checked my email and have learned that I didn’t get a much hoped for work project.  I feel anxious and that anxiety leads to some serious worries about my future career prospects, as well as fears that I may never have a “successful career.”  Without even thinking about it, I walk to the kitchen and start riffling through the cupboards for something sweet to eat.  In the past, I would have stuffed my face with food until I felt numb, but this time, I pause. I ask myself these key questions:

  1. Am I physically hungry?
  2. What do I really need in this moment?
  3. What small step can I take to give myself what I really need?

The pause that I have taken has allowed me to act instead of react.  Even if I still choose to eat, I have removed the automatic nature of this behavior, which is what makes it compulsive.   The same questions can be asked when faced with other types of compulsive behavior.  Simply construct an alternate first question (i.e. “Do I really need that pair of shoes?”) to fit your specific behavior challenge and use the same second and third questions as above.

There is Hope!

I am not promising that you will eliminate your compulsive behavior overnight, but if you are able to pause and allow yourself to examine what’s really going on beneath the behavior, you are on the path toward healing.  It often takes time to overcome long-term behaviors which have served as effective (albeit self-destructive) coping mechanisms.  As I’ve revealed, I still struggle with shopping and spending too much money, but it happens less often and I can more readily “course-correct,” as I did last week.   I was able to realize what was going on, turn it around (by returning the unnecessary purchases) and learn from the experience.  That is my hope for you as well…

I’m sure that the issue of compulsive behaviors will be addressed again in future posts.  If you have any questions or feedback regarding this post or suggestions for future topics, I would love to hear them.  Next week, we’ll start to look at belief systems and how they both help and hurt us.  If you’re following along in Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life Companion Book,” please read Chapter 2 and complete the exercises on pages 24-29.  Have a wonderful weekend!

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It is just a coincidence that I am posting this on “Tax Day,” but perhaps there is some synchronicity there…

Sometimes I lack discipline.  While I’ve been doing much better at getting myself up and moving and working on my tasks each day, I still have some major challenges relating to self-discipline.

A Shopping Trip…

Earlier this week, I allowed myself the rare weekday outing of shopping with a friend.  I LOVE to shop!  Walking around a boutique or department store, I’m like the proverbial kid in a candy store.  I revel in the delights of pristine new clothes, shoes and accessories.  Sometimes I am content to just look, but more often than not, I feel tempted – or even compelled – to buy.  I feel as if I lose my sense of reason and rationality when I find myself face-to-face with new things.

Buying What I Don’t Need

I often do buy, and at times it’s just too much.  Not only am I not making much money at present, but I spend most of my days at home in front of my computer wearing workout clothes.  For much of the time, the only ones who see me are my husband and my cats.   I do enjoy dressing up for my husband when we go out, but he’s fine seeing me dressed casually at home, and I know the cats don’t care if I’m wearing pajamas or a little black dress!  Suffice it to say that I don’t really need a large wardrobe, but need doesn’t seem to factor into the equation much of the time.

Spending Leads to Remorse

Back to this week…  I was shopping with a friend who I would definitely call a “fashionista.”  She keeps up with all of the latest trends to a much larger degree than I do and is always impeccably put together.  While I believe that she likes me for me, I found myself wanting to impress her and buying things I didn’t really need and which aren’t exactly practical for my life.  As I drove away from the mall, remorse hit me like a ton of bricks.  Not only was I afraid to reveal my purchases to my husband, I felt weak and ashamed.  I had broken my commitments to my husband and to myself around spending and sadly, this was far from the first time I had done this.

“Shopaholic”?

A few months ago, I watched the movie “Confessions of a Shopaholic.”  This movie was supposed to be a comedy, yet it brought me to tears.  It was while I was watching this movie that I realized that I, like the main character, had a shopping problem.  I actually looked for Shopaholics Anonymous online after the movie ended, but learned that it doesn’t exist.  There is Debtors Anonymous, but debt isn’t really a problem for me, spending is.  I am fortunate in that we are able to pay off our credit cards each month, but sometimes my spending has made those bills much higher than they needed to be.

Loss of Control

I hate the feeling of being out of control.  I would imagine that the way I feel in a department store is how a compulsive gambler feels in a casino.  I know someone who had a gambling problem and she is steadfast in her belief that she can never gamble again.   I shudder to think of never shopping again, yet I know I need to do something about this problem.

For now, I have decided upon which purchases will be returned and they are now in the trunk of my car waiting to go back to the stores.  It sure would have been easier not to have bought these items in the first place…  I dread going back to the stores with my tail between my legs, but far worse than my embarrassment is my feeling of weakness and lack of self-control.

Compulsive Behaviors

I’m sure that most of you don’t have shopping problems, but I’m guessing that you can relate on some level.  We all have our compulsive behaviors, whether they be shopping, drinking, eating, sex, gambling, working, or something else altogether.  I have vacillated among several compulsive behaviors throughout my life, with the most difficult being shopping and eating (or at times, not eating).

There seems to always be something, but I am self-aware enough to know that there is a much deeper issue than the compulsive behavior itself.  There is an emptiness inside which I am desperately trying to fill, yet I know that no amount of new clothes or shoes can fill that hole.

This leads me back to my “healing project,” which is about healing both my body and my soul.   I am in the right place and I am on the path toward healing my overspending and all of my other issues…

In my next post, I will look more at compulsive behaviors, what they mean, and how to get to the root of them.  I can’t promise to give you the answers, but I hope to be able to shed some light on this problem to help facilitate our healing in this area.

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