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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Shopping for a Sense of Self

Compulsive Spending is being taken more seriously as a true problem especially since the economy has taken a turn for the worse and people are looking more honestly at how they budget, rationalize, and manage money. One, of many, purposes of over spending that seems to surface is that shopping behavior leads to a sense of self. For those who have this connection breaking with compulsive shopping is going to be a hurdle because the purpose that the shopping serves links directly to identity. To abandon a behavioral process that is so meaningful psychologically can be devastating and troubling to a person especially if it's meaning is not acquired. Helping people who have attached identity with shopping involves incorporating the process of weaning in therapy. Being realistic about what is possible and likely and creating promising and doable time lines helps a person feel understood and acknowledged. Developing a weaning process is specialized and specific to that person. It is like weaning a baby from a bottle and there will be pain and frustration in tolerating the new freedom and estrangement from the source of "food". As a therapist, holding the emotional reactions for the patient is essential in helping him or her go through the process while it also teaches the patient how to manage and hold their own feelings for the future. A bridge is built. This may be harder to do with out the assistance of a therapist, but it can give hope and understanding to the deeper underpinnings of compulsive shopping and why breaking with it can be so difficult. Most importantly, it will not leave the person stripped of their identity but rather help them continue to develop where the shopping interrupted their sense of self.