Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The down side of avoidance

(As if avoidance has an up side.)

I found myself shopping for multiple big-ticket items last week, and the problem has only waned slightly this week. I don't think it's only because my friend bought a new car, although that certainly started me off. It's hard not to be jealous of a new car and want one for yourself. I have an 8 year old Corolla that is utterly reliable, so my only real reason to get a new car is boredom (not to mention greed -- but we weren't going to mention that). My car, it used to seem so shiny and new. It had all the latest features. Now it looks old-fashioned since all the cars have been redesigned over the last 8 years. Bonus feature of my car, though: it's been paid off for 3 years. No car payments is a powerful incentive for curbing car shopping impulses.

However, I've also looked at computers (does everyone see a Dell ad every 10 seconds, or is that just me?), lcd tv's, furniture, drapes (not as big a ticket, but still), and who knows what else... I've just been doing a lot of shopping. Usually I am stopped dead in my tracks once I realize (a) I have no money and (b) none of these things will really make me happy. Of course, things don't make people happy, but I don't mean that. I mean that I see no real evidence that these items will even increase my happiness at this point in my life. In fact, because of the financial impact, I'd say they might decrease my happiness after the initial "ooh, shiny" period wears off.

It started to seem to me that constant shopping and wishing for material things was probably a sign that I was avoiding something, and that I needed to sit and be quiet and let the feelings come out. Which I managed to do, to some extent. They're scary feelings though, like loneliness, feeling superfluous, feeling scared of aging and death and just what the future holds in general. The fear of the unknown. When I experience the feelings, they don't stick around for too long. It's when I avoid them that they dig in and take root. Why is that, I wonder? Why can't we avoid feelings and just not experience them? I guess I could if I found distractions that would put them off forever. I could just keep buying and buying. I could work 70 hour weeks. I could stay busy busy busy. But somehow none of that seems terribly fulfilling, and if you let up for one minute, the feelings come up anyway. As a wise person once told me "you can't keep from experiencing the bad... but by avoiding it, you can keep from experiencing the good."


KathyLikesPink said...

A very interesting post, and well said. It gives me a lot to consider. I am guilty of retail-therapy as an avoidance tactic myself.

Catherine said...

Retail therapy is very American! And sometimes buying something nice/pretty/helpful/decorative etc. really can uplift one's mood. I find that especially true with pampering-type things (mani, pedi), books, and music.

But shopping for big-ticket items that one (I) can ill afford is a pathway to doom!