How to understand that your things own you, and not vice versa
We stick to things if they satisfy certain emotional needs. For example, it seems to us that buying a yacht will make us more important, significant, and acquiring a new car or an ultra-modern gadget more popular. We mentally equate the purchase of something expensive and our own achievements. As for inexpensive things, they can evoke certain memories in us – so, spontaneous purchase of a toy transfers back to childhood.
And in general, there is nothing wrong with trying to make yourself happy in all accessible ways (by itself, legitimate and not harming others), but hoarding and attachment to things in the long run do not contribute to this at all. If this were so, the mental health of the millionaires, whose houses are full of luxury goods, would always be simply excellent. However, we all know that this is far from the case. When we “languish over gold”, we turn into a mythical dragon guarding the treasure, and this legend does not smell of happiness and mental well-being.
Yes, things can be valuable, bring pleasure and practical benefits, but they do not give us what we so long for. If we want to become happy, we need to learn to cultivate this feeling inside, not relying on external attributes. A teddy bear from childhood can return us to that treasured carefree state, but not for long, and any, even the most expensive purchase will not relieve anxiety. Every time we hope that shopping or the things that we already own will lift our spirits, we neglect other, healthier and more effective ways to become happy.
Moreover, shopping sooner or later can turn into a real addiction. Ruth Engs, a doctor and professor at Indiana University, explains it this way: “When we make purchases, the body releases endorphins and dopamine, and some of us – according to some estimates, from 10 to 15% of the population – may become dependent on this pleasant sensation” .
She names the following signs of shopaholism. Such people:
- spend more than they can afford
- go shopping when they feel upset or depressed,
- they don’t realize how much shopping addiction harms their relationship (exorbitant costs lead to conflicts with a partner),
- just can’t stop.
Satisfying desire helps us experience a rush of dopamine, but only for a short while
The consequences of shopaholism can hardly be overestimated: according to Engs, a shopping trip turns out to be an acute sense of guilt and shame for such people (which, in turn, makes them seek consolation … in fitting rooms or appliance departments), leads to financial problems (including huge debts) and quarrels with loved ones.
Does all of the above mean that you need to urgently distribute your property? Of course not (well, except that if you have long dreamed about this). Things are designed to make our lives easier, more convenient and more interesting, and thank them for that. Problems begin when we suddenly decide that our key to happiness is in them. Healthy relationships with things – when we own them, and not vice versa.
Have you ever had this: you passionately dreamed about some thing, bought it and forgot pretty soon? Satisfying desire helps us experience a rush of dopamine, but not for long. Keep such examples in mind in case you suddenly want to make another unplanned purchase. Ask yourself: what do I really expect from this thing? Do I want her to make me happy? If so, consider what other ways you can achieve this goal.
For example, if you are going to buy a new smartphone model, honestly answer yourself the question why you need it. Do you really like technical innovations or just hope that the purchase will increase self-esteem? You may be a real technophile, but if not, save money and find another way to take care of your own mental well-being. For example, figure out how to extend yourself beyond the comfort zone – believe me, this will affect your self-esteem much more favorably.
Owning things is neither good nor bad, but it is always worth remembering that any item is just an item, and do not expect miracles from it. All miracles are in our hands.
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