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Shopping as Therapy
Mom with a View

Shopping as Therapy

Like binge eating, it may feel good for the moment but the after-effects are devastating.


I was helping out my daughter. Really. She had moved across the country and it wasn't worth the cost of packing to ship her Pottery Barn pitcher to her. I would return it and give her the gift card. Proud of what a selfless mother I was, I took time out of my busy(!) day to go to the mall (in the true spirit of self-sacrifice). I was sure there was a Pottery Barn there. And there was…until about five months ago (I guess I can at least take pleasure in the fact that I don't go to the mall often enough to know).

Fortunately, the trip wasn't completely in vain since I saw this cute jacket on the way out, perfect for spring, just my size -- and completely wrong for my budget. So I did as many women before me have done. I bought it.

Slightly daunted but not yet ready to cry uncle, a few days later I entered another mall where I was certain there was a Pottery Barn. It wasn't worth asking when it had vacated the premises.

But I did find some cute summer dresses -- with sleeves and everything. How could I pass them up?

Yet how could I pay? Shopping as therapy is like binge eating. It may feel good for the moment but the after-effects are devastating; especially if you shop and binge!

But of course the problem is much deeper. As is the solution.

We are constantly trying to fill our inner emptiness.

We are constantly trying to fill our inner emptiness. We do it literally with food. We do it metaphorically with shopping. We decorate houses, we chair committees (a more productive strategy but frequently a strategy nonetheless), we keep moving and doing in an effort to avoid the hole inside.

We may even recognize that nothing really works. Yet we do it anyway. We numb our minds and we numb our bodies. We push "submit this order" or sign up for a ceramics class or add more hours to our work-out.

It's not so easy to break out of this cycle. Not only is our inner voice demanding satisfaction but the outer voices are screaming loudly too. In catalogs at our doorstep, in unsolicited emails in our inbox, on billboards and the sides of buses. The world cries out "Buy me!" "Eat this!" "Come here!" with products and experiences that are guaranteed to provide true happiness.

We're not stupid. We know we're being duped. We know it doesn't last. How long can a new bag provide satisfaction? New shoes? (well, maybe shoes do work!) Ice cream? Chocolate?

We need to dig deeper (no pun intended) if we really want to fill the hole. And we need to imbue our lives with meaning, with constant purpose, and with our relationship with the Almighty.

It's so much harder to tackle the ephemeral in the face of the material.

It's so much easier to curl up with a magazine than to try to learn and grow.

It's so much easier to fill our heads with noise than to think quietly about our Creator.

It's so much more immediately gratifying to go shopping than to grapple with the awesomeness of a transcendent Being. And in the end so much less satisfying. In the end, not therapeutic after all.

Unless of course it's a really good sale…

May 24, 2008

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The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Greta Elkayam, June 8, 2008 11:46 PM

It''''s a psychological problem

Addictions,to buying *or* to food,are a psychological problem related to low frustration tollerance and mainly also to low self esteem and should be treated with psychotherapy.

Inner emptiness is related to low self esteem and maybe also to low frustration tollerance,addiction to shopping *or* eating is a way to fill this inner emptiness,psychotherapy is what''''s needed together maybe with antidepressive drugs.

(4) cc, May 29, 2008 11:05 AM

Rita''s, an italian ice and custard shop with several franchises in my area, has a very telling motto: Ice, Custard, Happiness!

(3) chana, May 28, 2008 2:10 PM

it''s a joke!!

Her last line is a joke!!!! Get it, J.C.????

(2) Anonymous, May 27, 2008 6:39 PM

A very appropriate article for these times, but I''m not sure if I understand what you mean by your last sentence. J.C.

(1) David, May 27, 2008 11:31 AM

Sad, but True

I''m definitely a binge buyer. Especially on EBay. The thrill of the chase, the easy PayPal payment to the credit card, and the few days of expectation while the Item is being shipped. Then you really get to see what you bought, and its not that exciting, just someone elses junk.

But, in the end, it''s a few minutes of excitement and a long time wondering why you bought someone elses junk.

I try to remind myself,


I even bought the coaster with the saying!

I have finally started to take out all MY junk from closets and boxes and keep it in sight so I can see that I have enough already. Leave the closet doors open.

Thanks for the reminder today.

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