Print Friendly, PDF & Email

handishopthereforeiamFor all-too-many people with Mental Health Challenges, shopping has become a distraction meant to substitute for self-soothing, help people forget their worries and fears and emotional or physical pain and try to fill a psychological void with material things. This is what is referred to as “Emotional Shopping”. It is not over-all helpful, practical or advisable.

For many this distraction, shopping, looking to get the next hot, in thing, is a way to stay focused outside of self. It is not healthy when used in this manner. It is out of balance when over-focused on to the denying of the feelings behind this materialistic focus that drive so much troubled and high risk spending.

There can be depression, anxiety, feelings of agitation and emptiness. Perhaps a low-grade anger or feeling of being a helpless victim, unworthy, and being someone who takes out their own self-hatred or release it by shopping for more material stuff. Feelings get shoved aside. They get shoved down deeply, so deeply at times, that while these feelings still effect you they are more in your subconscious than in your conscious mind.

This split between what is subconscious and what is conscious is a very important one to be aware of. Why? Because it will determine whether or not you continue to use shopping as denial and distraction technique leaving your feelings suppressed and stuck inside so deep it’s no wonder that you want to focus outward because nothing feels very good on the inside.

Impulsive and/or compulsive shopping like this is an on-going obstacle to finding the internal balance that can lead to recovery and to wellness. Are you shopping too much? Are you interested in the latest fashion trend, the latest celebrity gossip, merchandise? Are you trying to fill an inner-emptiness with outer materialistic things.

The biggest issue with shopping as a distraction – trying to feel better through external things- is that if you do not address what you are feeling and why, you are unlikely to stop using this shopping as a means of   shoppinglikefoodaddiction   deflecting what you need to be facing for your mental health and well-being. This leads to debt for most and increased stress, increased feelings of shame and guilt, and feeling more negative to filled with self-hatred than the original feelings you were trying to avoid by shopping in the first place.

We live in a world that encourages us to look outside of ourselves to feel better, to be validated, to be seen, to be heard, to get your 15 minutes or more of “fame” – anything to run and escape what really needs your attention emotionally and psychologically inside.

The way to recovery and wellness, to self-esteem and a higher self-worth and to more positive feelings about yourself, from the inside out, is to take the time to feel what you feel, identify what you feel and then seek to understand why you feel as you do and what you can do about it – how you can learn to cope versus seeking external and immediate gratification to dull that inner pain, anxiety, depression, fear and/or worry.

So often people add so much to what is an already intense amount of emotional and psychological pain inside by ignoring and running from their feelings and by focusing on the materialistic world of shopping and other distractions that are “other-focused” and you wonder why you don’t know who you are? Do you wonder why you aren’t feeling very positive about yourself? Do you find buying stuff or impulsively doing something else takes your negative feelings away, supresses them, however briefly?

Outer distractions are not healthy self-care or healthy self-soothing. They are the opposite. They are getting you deeper into what you so long and are trying to escape and/or distract from. It becomes a vicious circle. The victim in all of this is you and your mental health.

Are you ready to get real with yourself? Are you ready to look inside to find the answers you need? Your mental health, wellness, and being a person in balance in your life is trying to call you back, back from the distractions of stores, movies, technology, so much to buy or to go get lost in just focusing on.

Mental health challenges have many ways of coming out sideways creating more and more pain, shame, guilt, denial and remaining obstacles to the very changes and healing that deep inside you know you want and that you know you need.

Time to make that shift? Time to learn and practice being with yourself and your feelings mindfully? You can observe your thoughts and feelings without engaging them as you have in past patterned ways within which they have always felt overwhelming. DBT Skills practice can help you to learn to sit with your thoughts and feelings while not focusing on them, disengaging them with full mindful awareness, observing of them, and describing them in ways that will break the cycle of how they have felt intolerable to you, up until now, or in the past.

Shopping or many of the other impulsive and compulsive things that people do to escape feeling badly – badly about themselves, empty, aggravated, lonely, and so many other feelings, only adds to your problems. In the long run, you end up still with not knowing how to just be in the “now” with yourself and in the case of shopping compulsively or to try to feel better, likely debt and even a lot of stuff you may purchase that you really don’t want or need after that brief rush of escape passes.


© A.J. Mahari, October 21, 2014 – All rights reserved.

Shopping as an Emotional Distraction