Shopping…shopping…shopping…..Today, the Monday after Thanksgiving in the United States, has recently become yet another hyped up day on our endless calendar of bargain shopping. This cyber Monday has a very short history, designed to lure shoppers away from stores on “black Friday” and purchase products online. Like most things in our consumer culture, this day seems to have morphed out of control into yet another avenue screaming at citizens to “buy something NOW!” Today’s art exercise will explore our relationship with buying things. Although it would be fun to analyze our nation’s historical journey to our current predicament of overabundance, we will instead explore where we fit into this current paradigm.
Please take a few minutes to ask yourself about your shopping habits. Are they “normal” for a 21st century culture of massive abundance? Do you shop to get things or do you shop to make yourself feel better? Do you feel better after you shop? Do you like to shop? Do you have a healthy relationship to shopping? Do you have too much stuff? Are you in debt but still shopping to escape reality?
Find some paper and a pen. Write down the last thing you purchased and include your mood before during and after the excursion. Did the item improve your mood temporarily? Did the item or experience help you escape from your current reality? This blog entry is not intended to ruin your shopping experience which can usually be quite pleasurable, but to keep yourself in check from developing a habit, or curbing one if you seem to have developed a shopping addiction. These are very scary questions to answer, and like any addiction, most people might be in denial about their habits, especially one so prolific and integrated into our culture. Admitting you have a problem is the very first step to getting better.
For awhile, shopping was a cute thing, and “shopaholic” was a cute term, found on paper napkins at ladies’ luncheons and on merchandise in trendy boutiques. From a mental health professional’s point of view, compulsive shopping is being lumped in with other addictions including: alcohol, gambling, drugs, sex, etc, and often treated with antidepressants. Control is a big factor, in that when one feels out of control in their life, purchasing something allows a consumer to “control” that thing and that experience. There are often feelings of shame connected to shopping when it has turned into an unhealthy habit.
Please take a minute on this cyber Monday to explore your connection to shopping. Although it can be painful to come to terms with the root of a problem, the truth will set you free!