Hoarding and Basic Choices about Life: the Blessedness of Simplicity and Following Christ

Although people have always had worries and fears, the amount of stress and anxiety experienced by individuals who are in no mortal danger is a peculiarly modern phenomenon.  Modern stress and anxiety are often related to health issues, anger, and a host of other afflictions that plague contemporary man.  As we take leave of the topic of hoarding, perhaps a reflection upon the role of possessions in our lives would be appropriate.  While necessary possessions are a blessing from God that enables us to live, possessions that feed our desires and our passions can be a curse that damages our … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

Compulsive Buying: Filling the Closets and Emptying the Soul

In contemporary consumer society, the choices of products for sale seem almost endless, and yet those things that are most valuable and most useful for the soul cannot be purchased at any store or ordered online. Nevertheless, many have fallen into the trap of compulsive buying, a behavioral disorder that fills one’s closets, but only empties one’s soul. In her essay, “A New Look At ‘Compulsive Buying’:  Self-Discrepancies and Materialistic Values as Predictors of Compulsive Buying Tendency”, Helga Dittmar theorizes that this form of buying involves psychological deficits rather than material … [Read more...]