Monday, August 7, 2017

Shopaholic: a silent addiction of our time

A hundred year ago or so the middle class in most parts of the world has lived in dire circumstances. Conveniences, which we take for granted, such as electricity, running water and indoor toilet were lacking, appliances, such as refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, lawn mower were non-existent. If you are reading my blog, then your life is very different from the above description. In our modern world we rely on our increasingly sophisticated environment for support. We gaze into the screen of our cell phones, like Aladdin into the treasure cave. This gadget is constant companion for communication with friends, family, weather forecast, news, appointment reminder, and for self-adulation. Cars are ubiquitous signs of material success, but in certain parts of the world such as in the US, cars are almost obligatory part of adult life. The home is the great cultural indicator of personal, professional status, which holds utilitarian objects, personal mementos and decorations that personalize the dwelling. Our reliance on our belongings, from the bed that provide comfortable night rest, to the nourishing morning meal, ensures a stable, reliable lifestyle.

Thus, a highly organized structure of objects provide the backbone of modern life. However, modern existence makes us more and more reliant on the store not only for big ticket items, such as housing and car, but for midday meal or for coffee at Star Bucks. Advertisements and credit make it easy and almost unavoidable to roll out the bucks for new kitchen counter gizmo to the jersey of your favorite player, the latest phone, or a goofy Halloween display.

The problem becomes that the gadget, appliance or technical gizmo is only interesting for a short while; it might be delegated to the closet corner, collecting dust and occupying valuable space before all its capabilities are figured out. So you paid good money to artificially reduce the size of your house. Goods, which supposed to support your lifestyle, now dangerously encroach on it as the things you enthusiastically bought a few months or years ago take up closet space. You even forget that these gadgets exist, which allows you to keep buying stuff, cluttering our home further. Goods that supposed to support your life, now begin to handicap it. And it is not possible to forget about the dark, unknown secrets lurking in the closet. The stuff might be out of conscious perception, but it causes an uncertainty, because you never know for sure what is lurking in the closet, attic or basement. Instead of support, these objects hinder your life. Like quick sand, they pull you down, hurting you when we least expects it: when you are in a hurry or managing an emergency. Just like any other addiction, it takes long disciplined work to get your shopping addiction under control. 

It can be shown that advertisements work by interfering with already existing intentions, desires. So buying goods in excess is a sign of your own mental hesitation. Goals serve as motivation toward the future. The inability to focus on a goal, without guidance, you tend to invest hope in every sweet promise, which is brilliantly supplied by advertisers. A shopaholic might feel an arousal of a treasure hunter, which grows into a strong urge to shop and buy the item. But buying gives only a temporary feelings of relief. Because all addictions stem from seeking power at the wrong places, remorse, feeling of guilt, which is necessarily followed, only aggravates the problem.

The lack of inner progress against the relentless progression of time translates into a loss of control and insecurity. Addictions serve the immediate, although painfully transient, gain of control, in order to catch up to others, to society, to time itself. To produce accomplishments quickly, without investing time and work, is only possible by cutting corners, by getting a good deal or feeling high. However, the problem only gets bigger at each repeated offence, after each shopping spree, because the aftereffect of these shortcuts is always the realization of loss and failure, which actually exacerbates the addiction. Is there hope for a change? 

Two ways to change: (1) Start a motivating activity that reins in your wayward attention. When you take part in an activity than produces positive change, you spur an inner movement toward the future. (2) Give away your excess belongings. When you share with others, you make world a better place and liberates you from guilt. The price of industrial products are coming down and probably will in the future. When you practice a thoughtfulness about your buying habits, you force yourself to focus on the future, which will turn into a habit. Focusing on the future is a goal oriented living, whether you are saving money for a new house, car or retirement. Be patient! Success does not happen overnight. When you take your first step toward the future, toward a better life, it will generate a sense of movement. When you are moving forward, your restlessness and uncertainty will subside. Your better life is the greatest reward.

More detailed explanation for some of these and other questions about the mind can be found in the book, The Science of Consciousness.

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