Do You Shop With Your Brain in Neutral?

Posted by Jill Chivers in Attitudes and Habits, Shopping Strategies, Shopping, Clothes and Emotions

Today I’d like to talk to you about shopping with your brain in neutral.

What inspired me to write to you about this was a story I read in the last few days about a young woman who “trigger” shops.  What I mean by that is she shops when she’s experienced an emotional upheaval – she deals with the emotion by shopping.  Except she doesn’t deal with it.

The cycle goes something like this:

  1. Feel bad – some ‘below the line’ (usually) emotion has been provoked, and now I feel awful.  Upset.  Depressed. Down. Miserable.
  2. Shop in attempt to feel better/numb the pain/get revenge (on who or what is not known).
  3. Feel worse.  Not only was the emotion not assuaged (let alone processed and let go of), but now I have bags of stuff I don’t want and am hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars in the hole to boot.

This is a cycle that women who overshop are familiar with.  It is often the jolt that wakes them up — AHA!  This is what I’ve been doing — feeding the vicious cycle! 

Awareness precedes choice, so the most important and empowering step to take is recognition that this is your pattern.  From there, you can start to make better choices.  More life-affirming, spirit-enhancing choices.  Ones that are not only kinder on your emotional state, but on your bank balance as well.

I’ve talked before (many times, but try here and here for starters) about the dangers of shopping when you are emotionally compromised or simply not completely focused.

This is shopping when your brain is switched to the neutral (or worse – the OFF) position.   Auto-pilot shopping.  

This is how a lot of people shop. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

And shopping when your brain is switched to the neutral or off position is positively unhealthy.  For your wallet.  Your wardrobe.  And your self-esteem.

I know about shopping with your brain in neutral from personal experience.  I once purchased a pair of shoes and conducted the entire transaction whilst on the phone.  And I do mean the ENTIRE process — from walking past the store window and sighting the shoes, to walking in and pointing them out to a tolerant sales assistant, to getting my size and trying them on, to paying for them, and walking to my car. I didn’t skip a beat with the person I was on the phone with.

That entire shopping expedition was conducted with my brain in neutral — I was most certainly NOT paying attention to what I was doing. Now that’s what I call shopping with your brain in neutral! (and for those curious, yes I still have the shoes – I got lucky in that they turned out to be a good purchase, but that hasn’t always been the case when I have auto-shopped).

What you can do

Every person who has shopped in an unhealthy way has a unique, personal pathway of healing from that overshopping.  Here are three suggestions to add to the unique mix that is your personal journey.

  1. Only shop when you are focused, tuned in and alert to what’s happening for you, and what’s happening around you.  Many of us who have shopped in an unhealthy way have gotten into trouble because we have not be awake and tuned into ourselves and our shopping situation.  Make today the day you change that – only place yourself in a shopping situation when you are aware and tuned in.
  2. Tune into what your emotional state is before you shop, and if you are feeling a ‘spiky’ emotion (one that spikes the graph), find something else to do than trying to numb or erase the emotion through shopping.  We can often be aware in hindsight, looking back on a shopping expedition and realising where we went wrong:  “Ah there’s where I should have turned right, but instead I turned left!”  And by then, of course, the damage has been done, the shopping has happened and we are left, literally holding the bags.  Before you go shopping is the time to do a quick check in by asking yourself some simple yet powerful questions: How am I feeling right now?  Is shopping the best activity I should engage in right now?  And if the answer is that shopping isn’t the best activity for you right now, then turn your attention to all the many and varied things to inspire your life, instead of shopping (here’s 365 ideas to get you started).
  3. Feel the feelings -this is one of the quickest ways to letting feelings go, by simply feeling them.  No need to judge them , make them wrong, analyse them or even label the feelings.  They’re there, and by the nature of their existence they are valid.  Here’s the other thing about feelings, as real as they are:  in their own time and way, they will dissipate and soften – such is the nature of feelings.  They aren’t solid objects as many of us have treated them.  This is a big topic, the emotional aspects of shopping, and it’s one we explore in Months 4 and 8 of our program.

If you are to develop a healthier relationship to shopping, and I’m guessing that this applies to you in some way otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article, then you need to break that cycle of feel bad – shop to feel better – feel worse.  It is a journey of many steps, I’m still on mine, but here’s something I know to be true:  It can be done, change is possible and the pathway to healing from overshopping exists, it’s real.  Each of us who has overshopped can find our own unique healing path, it’s there – waiting for you.

Awareness is the first step.  That’s all you have to do to start – shine the gentle light of awareness onto your shopping situation.  Once that first step has been taken, you are on your way.  When the next step needs to be taken, you’ll know what it is and have the courage to take it.


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