Before the Buying Comes the Beliefs

We live in a materialistic culture. That’s as plain as the noonday sun. We live in a culture that glorifies wealth, power, physical beauty, youth, trendiness, and popularity. That’s also as plain as the noonday sun. In this culture, an Iphone is not just a means of communication, it’s a symbol of who a person is. Clothes are not just clothes. Cars are not just cars. It’s not about being covered or getting from point A to point B. In this materialistic world, trademark and brand have a certain aura that people covet and people mistakenly believe will make them into the people they wish they … [Read more...]

Slowing Down and Being Still

One of the characteristic trademarks of compulsive behavior is the rapidity with which the behavior is performed.  In the case of compulsive buying, a voracious urge to buy overwhelms the calmer, rational mind and overpowers the higher, wiser will.  In my last post on this subject, I mentioned the important role of mindfulness in counteracting the powerful desires that arise from past engagement in compulsive behavior.  Equally important in dealing with the compulsion is physically slowing down and mentally thinking about the consequences of one’s present actions. Saint Ireaneus of Lyons notes … [Read more...]

Taking Captivity Captive: The Role of Mindfulness in Overcoming Mindless Compulsions

In our busy world we often perform routine tasks without giving them much thought.  We’ve performed them so often that after the rote tasks are completed we often wonder to ourselves, “I don’t remember doing that” or “I was so deep in thought about work or family that I don’t remember the drive to work this morning.”  This isn’t to say the work was done in a sloppy fashion or the drive to work was reckless.  It does tell us however that we didn’t have our focus on what we were doing at that particular time.   Most of the time there aren’t any adverse consequences in “spacing out”.  Yet, when … [Read more...]

Compulsive Buying and Getting some Help from a Friend

In the last post, I spoke about learning not to act on the impulse to go out and buy and the use of the exposure and response prevention technique, which is very much about the real choice we have with respect to our actions that the fathers speak about at length. I also mentioned the relationship between this process and the life of asceticism in general. Of course, it is not easy to live an ascetic life, especially at the onset and in isolation from others. Likewise, it is not easy for someone who is used to medicating feelings of sadness, anxiety, or other emotions with a shopping spree, to … [Read more...]

Compulsive Buying: the All-important Distinction between the Thought and the Act

In Ancient Christian Wisdom, I note, “After the distinction between temptation and sin in thought, the ancient ascetics instruct the faithful in the obvious, but crucial difference between sin in thought and sin in deed as well as in the need to prevent the former from slipping into the latter. Origen views sin in thought as tolerable and treatable, but sin in word and deed as dangerous and difficult to cure, if not incurable. For this reason, when a wise man is disturbed by a storm of thoughts, he keeps that tempest of the mind hemmed in, neither uttering a word, nor moving a muscle.” … [Read more...]

Compulsive Buying-Avoiding That Which Leads You to Act

Compulsive buying is a psychological and a spiritual disorder that is symptomatic of a distorted and dysfunctional view of self, others, and the world around us.  The real danger in this disorder, besides the obvious social and financial ruin it can wreak, is the compulsivity with which it is practiced.  Compulsivity can easily become a way of living, a modus operandi for daily life if not checked and dealt with effectively.  In the next few posts, I will offer practical steps in dealing with compulsion. For the fathers, passions and compulsions are related concepts that distort reality and … [Read more...]

Breaking the Cycle of Compulsive Buying by Cutting off the Thoughts and Edifying Readings

There is something truly tragic about compulsive buying even beyond the accumulated guilt and the threat of debt. Compulsive buying, like so many other disorders, is a bad solution to real problems, “a solution” that keeps one trapped in a vicious cycle that feeds on itself and locked within a harsh inner world that conforms to the shallow and manipulative world of marketing. Healing can only come by breaking that cycle and by taking cues from a world with another set of values that encourage, strengthen, and offer hope. For cognitive therapists, learning self-regulation over impulsive and … [Read more...]

Towards a Definition of Compulsive Buying: Chaotic Thoughts and Chaotic Lives

According to Christian teaching, when our thoughts are preoccupied with something other than seeking first the Kingdom of Heaven, when our behaviors seem to be controlled by something other than our will to follow the commandments of Christ, we find ourselves in a vulnerable place spiritually and by extension psychologically.  Compulsive buying disorders, like pathological gambling, and other impulse control disorders are places of great vulnerability in which the sufferer can’t rationally make sense out of certain unfortunate courses of actions that are taken over and over again. Saint John … [Read more...]

Acceptance That Heals

In the last blog post I mentioned a tenet from Acceptance and Commitment therapy: “We can choose to react to negative thoughts or simply accept the fact that we have had a negative thought.” This is also a fundamental principle in the spiritual life. Our choice has more than temporal, psychological repercussions. It has eternal significance, for repetitive choices set up patterns of behavior that can either draw us closer to God and neighbor or drive us further away from the two poles of our existence. Let us assume for the sake of this post that the choice made involves acceptance of the fact … [Read more...]

More on Suffering

In reflecting further upon the nature of alcoholism and recovery, there are certain parallels one may make between those conditions and the plight of the sinner turning towards repentance.  In both instances, the alcoholic and the sinner are encouraged to make self-referential statements that, on the surface, appear to be negative.  In AA, once one acknowledges one’s alcoholism, that person always introduces himself to the group by stating his name and his alcoholism: “I’m Bob and I’m an alcoholic”.  The sinner, in turn, is encouraged to pray the Jesus Prayer in which he introduces himself to … [Read more...]