Shopping Triggers Were Discussed Last Week…
Last week, I explored the concept of “shopping triggers,” which are the various stimuli that propel us to want to shop. I outlined the five types of triggers – situational, cognitive, interpersonal, emotional, and physical – and gave several examples of each. I also shared some of the shopping triggers that have been personally troubling for me.
That post elicited quite a few comments and I thank those who commented for sharing your trigger experiences with me and your fellow readers. Some of you also shared your powerful tips for dealing with triggers, which was also much appreciated. I will revisit the subject of avoiding shopping triggers in future posts, but now I’d like to turn to another subject from Dr. Benson’s book, “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop.”
“Aftershocks” Often Follow our Shopping Experiences
Let’s say you succumbed to one of your most difficult triggers and you overshopped. Your emotions were in the driver’s seat instead of your rational mind, and you bought things you didn’t really need – or even want. What happens next? According to Dr. Benson, what follows are “aftershocks,” her term for the undesirable consequences of overshopping.
Types of Shopping “Aftershocks”
Shopping aftershocks vary at least as widely as the triggers which precipitate much of our buying. Dr. Benson divides these aftershocks into seven categories:
- Physical Body / Living Space
- Personal Development
It’s important for those of us who battle compulsive shopping to get in touch with the consequences of our behavior. We often don’t realize how many areas of our lives are adversely impacted by our overshopping. Developing an acute awareness of what our shopping addiction is costing us is an important step on our road to recovery.
One Person’s Trigger Can Be Another’s Aftershock
It’s worth noting that one person’s trigger can be another’s aftershock. While feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, or guilt may lead one person to shop, those same emotions may be the negative consequences of another person’s shopping behavior. In fact, the same thing can serve as both a trigger and an aftershock for the same person!
Below, I outline examples of each type of aftershock and share some of the most troubling aftershocks I’ve experienced over the years. More examples of shopping aftershocks are outlined in the second chapter of “To Buy or Not to Buy.”
When people ponder the negative effects of shopping too much, financial consequences are generally the first thing that comes to mind. Television shows (such as “My Shopping Addiction”) and magazine articles which profile shopping addiction sometimes focus solely on the financial impact.
While many compulsive shoppers struggle with debt, roughly one-third of overshoppers are not dealing with such financial hardships. Most likely, however, these people (including me in recent years) experience a number of other shopping “aftershocks,” including other types of financial aftershocks.
Here are some common examples of financial aftershocks:
- You’re unable to pay off your credit card bills and may even struggle to make the minimum payments.
- You have little or no money for retirement.
- Your credit rating is poor and you’re unable to qualify for a mortgage.
- You’re chronically disorganized with your finances and are often hit with late fees and penalties.
- You have no savings for emergencies or to cover your living expenses if you lose your job or are unable to work due to illness.
Although I am not currently in debt, this was a big problem for me in the past. In fact, I had to be bailed out of my large credit card balances three times and once used a debt consolidation program to manage my overwhelming financial obligations.
In recent years, my main financial aftershock was that far too much of my husband’s and my disposable income went to fund my shopping binges. We still paid off our credit cards every month, but we didn’t have enough money to put into savings or to use toward travel. This aftershock not only impacted me, but it also adversely affected my wonderful and hard-working husband.
There are many potential shopping aftershocks related to our interpersonal relationships, including the following:
- Lying to yourself and others about how much you shop and what you buy.
- Neglecting or withdrawing from your family and friends.
- Having conflicts with your spouse and other loved ones over your shopping behavior.
- Keeping your problem a secret from the people around you.
- Your spouse or partner is considering leaving you – or has already left!
As I wrote about in “Shopaholic Lies and Covert Operations,” I engaged in all sorts of subterfuge as a means of hiding and protecting my compulsive shopping behavior. I hid shopping bags and packages, lied to my husband about how much I bought, engaged in “creating accounting,” and used cash to hide my shopping tracks. I’m not at all proud of these behaviors and they definitely led to friction and distance in my marriage.
As mentioned above, our emotional states can be both the triggers and the aftershocks of our overshopping. In both instances, the emotions we feel can pretty much run the gamut, although aftershock emotions are more likely to be negative. Here are some possible emotions which can follow a shopping binge:
- Feeling out of control
- Depression and hopelessness
- Feelings of unworthiness
I’ve felt all of the above emotions and more following my overshopping experiences. I felt anxiety about my husband finding out what I’d done, I felt angry toward myself, and I felt depressed and hopeless at the seeming “broken record” of my actions. Feelings of guilt and shame ran rampant, and I also felt out of control and unworthy of compassion from myself or others. I had many, many emotional aftershocks and I often fell into a deep depression after my worst shopping binges.
Compulsive shopping behavior can also impact our work lives, whether we work for someone else or are self-employed. Even if we are not currently employed, our overshopping can have affect our choices and behavior related to our future career path. Common work-related aftershocks include:
- Your performance at work may be suffering because of your shopping problem.
- You may work overly long hours or multiple jobs in order to maintain a lifestyle you can’t really afford.
- You may miss work, leave early, or take long lunch breaks in order to shop.
- You may be passed over for promotions because your shopping problem prevents you from doing your best work.
- You may be in danger of being fired for shopping during work time or poor performance related to excessive shopping.
I started my wardrobe styling business as a way to try to make “lemons into lemonade.” I had been a shopaholic for many years and had also struggled to find a fulfilling career. Since I was an accomplished shopper, I thought, “Why not help others to shop and get paid for it?” Sounds good, but it ultimately backfired on me, as my compulsive shopping behavior intensified greatly during the two years of my styling business.
That’s one aftershock of sorts, but the main work aftershock for me over the years is that I spent so much time and energy on shopping that could have gone toward my career development instead. I wonder if perhaps I’d be in a better place now career-wise if I hadn’t burned so much energy on shopping-related activities.
Physical Body or Living Space Aftershocks
Shopping addiction not only affects our emotions and our bottom line. It can also affect our physical bodies and our homes. Here are some examples of how compulsive shopping impacts those domains:
- Your anxiety about debt from overshopping leads to stomach problems, high blood pressure, headaches, or insomnia.
- You neglect your need for regular check-ups and medical care because you’ve spent your money on shopping.
- You skimp on high-quality food and physical exercise because you’re spending so much money and time shopping.
- You resist having people over because your home is so cluttered and disorganized.
- The utter disarray of your home makes you feel stressed, overwhelmed, and emotionally exhausted.
I’ve mentioned my health issues on the blog before. I have some of the ones mentioned above – and more. However, I don’t think my overshopping is responsible for most of those issues (maybe the insomnia…). Rather, my shopping often serves as an escape from my health worries or as a welcome respite on the days when I feel well.
In terms of my living space, my primary aftershock has been an overly stuffed closet (or at some points, closets). I kept buying and buying and because I live in a relatively small apartment, I soon ran out of space for my clothing and shoes. My poor husband got squeezed out of the closets and we had to buy a wardrobe from Ikea for his clothes! I’m very happy to be paring things down now and gradually cultivating a much more manageable closet.
Personal Development Aftershocks
Famous television psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw has a saying, “You’re either moving forward in life or you’re moving backwards.” If we don’t consciously focus on our personal development, more than likely we’re moving backwards instead of growing. Compulsive shopping can definitely adversely affect our personal growth, as the following examples illustrate:
- You may have wanted to go back to school or take classes, but you’re unable to afford it because of your shopping.
- As a result of your overshopping, you’ve let go of a hobby you previously enjoyed.
- You spend so much time shopping that you have little or no time to nurture your creativity or think about your personal development.
- You’ve stopped challenging yourself intellectually because you’re so preoccupied with shopping.
- You’ve been unable to travel or broaden your horizons because of your constant focus on shopping.
I already mentioned my lack of travel due to insufficient funds, but that’s only one of the personal development aftershocks I’ve experienced. I also neglected previous hobbies and failed to explore new ones. I stopped engaging in writing and other creative pursuits, but I’m happy to be turning that one around. I’m glad to be writing again and I plan to pursue other creative avenues and hobbies very soon.
As mentioned above, approximately one third of overshoppers are not in financial debt. However, virtually all compulsive shoppers experience what Dr. Benson terms a “poverty of the soul.” Spiritual and transcendent pursuits often fall by the wayside in our relentless obsession with shopping and the acquisition of new possessions. Here are some examples of spiritual aftershocks:
- A feeling as if your life lacks meaning or is going nowhere.
- You’ve lost your connection with nature and the outdoors.
- You have difficulty being alone with yourself and your thoughts.
- You’ve lost a sense of community in your life.
- You feel as if your values and your lifestyle are mismatched.
This category of aftershocks has been a big one for me. My life became more and more unbalanced as my shopping problem intensified. At this point, I have little sense of community (although I love the community this blog has brought into my life) and I feel disconnected from most of the people I was once close to. As shopping became my primary pursuit, my life started to feel even more empty and meaningless than it did previously. While I used shopping as way to feel a sense of purpose in life, it ultimately backfired on me.
The tagline of this blog is “Trade your full closet for a full life.” I know I’m not the only compulsive shopper who has a jam-packed closet juxtaposed against a comparatively empty life. Thus far, I’ve focused far more on the full closet portion of the equation, as it was easier and less overwhelming to contemplate (although it has been far from easy!). As I get my closet under control, I’m feeling more of a push to address the full life question. Although many of my shopping aftershocks have been difficult and painful, the spiritual void in my life is by far the most devastating.
What are Your Shopping Aftershocks?
I’ve presented the categories of shopping aftershocks, highlighted some primary examples, and shared some of my personal experiences. Now I’d like to hear from you.
- What are your primary shopping aftershocks?
- Which categories have been most troubling for you?
- If you’ve managed to turn things around, did the realization of your shopping aftershocks play an important role in that process?
Wherever you are in your overshopping journey, I’d love for you to share your insights with me and your fellow readers!
Upcoming Course with Dr. Benson Starts November 5th
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, April Benson and I will be co-leading a 3-session course beginning next Tuesday. For those who are interested, here’s a brief overview of the course.
“Tame Your Closet Monster in 3 Easy Lessons”
The course will be held on November 5th, 12th, and 19th, all Tuesdays. The time will be 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 p.m. Central, 7:00 p.m. Mountain, 6:00 p.m. Pacific.
This 3-week telecourse will teach you specific skills, tools, and strategies for taming your closet monster. Each week, you’ll learn effective strategies which you’ll practice during the week. This, along with being a part of our online community, will help you integrate these strategies into your everyday life confidently and competently.
Here’s what we’ll cover during the course:
- Session 1 (November 5th): We’ll be focusing on intentions and goals. We’ll teach you how to transform an intention into a goal, and we’ll formulate goals in four areas: Financial, Wardrobe, Shopping, and Life. You’ll learn a process for formulating a goal in a structured way that gives you the best chance of achieving it.
- Session 2 (November 12th): We’ll turn the focus over to your wardrobe. We’ll look at the extent to which your wardrobe is actually a reflection of who you really are rather than who you think you’d like to be. We’ll introduce concepts such as closet “all-stars” and “benchwarmers,” wardrobe tracking, and closet auditing. You’ll start to identify common themes among the pieces you typically reach for, as well as the clothes you almost never wear.
- Session 3 (November 19th): The final session will focus on shopping. We’ll delve into how to know what you’re really shopping for, psychologically, and how to avoid buying mistakes and serial returning. We’ll teach you how to identify danger zones and deal with social pressure, as well as how to shop consciously. We’ll also discuss the benefits of having a spending plan and shopping rules and we’ll help you to create both.
What’s Included & Course Fee:
- Three 1-hour educational and experiential telephone sessions.
- Each week, you’ll receive a handout after the class, summarizing key points.
- You’ll also get an exercise to practice during the week to further that week’s concepts.
- You’ll be invited to participate in a private Yahoo Group for course participants only, so you can communicate with each other between sessions. April and I will also be part of the group.
- All class members will receive recordings of all three sessions.
Course fee: $99.00
As you can see, the 3-session course will cover a lot of ground! If you participate, you will be able to make a powerful shift in multiple aspects of your overshopping problem.
- You’ll be able to clearly understand where you are today and where you want to go in terms of your finances, your wardrobe, your shopping, and your overall life
- With our help, you’ll be able to create a tangible and doable plan to get there.
- You’ll also be able to make sense of your wardrobe and make some good headway in making it work better for your unique lifestyle, body, and personality.
- You’ll be armed with a multitude of techniques to help you shop smarter, make fewer buying mistakes, and buy clothes you’ll actually love to wear and which fit your budget.
In just three short weeks, you will make significant strides toward getting your overshopping problem under control once and for all. You’ll not only be ready to meet holiday challenges, but you’ll also be ready to forge a new reality for yourself in the coming year!
Ready to Sign Up?
To register for the course, please click on the link below:
We hope to have you in the class!