Mental Health

Materialism as an escape from reality

Recently I’ve become overwhelmed by the amount of advertising that I receive daily using social media or doing a simple research for this blog and my other projects. In fact, I’d call every post and almost every video I see an advertising. 

It can be emotionally overwhelming for many reasons. I am talking about one of them in my post about shame. Constant comparison and a sense of competition can make us feel we are "not good enough". That in order to be happy and successful we should buy things. 

Another reason is the way new purchases make us feel. Despite of many people thinking that "the pleasure hormone" dopamine is released when the brain receives a reward, it actually happens in anticipation of a reward[1]. Once we bought something, that pleasure doesn't exist anymore, so we have to constantly buy in order to feel good. That is how shopping addiction comes into place.

One thing is enjoying something from time to time, another - is becoming addicted to it and needing it on a regular basis. 

I actually use this knowledge, that helps me not to buy things. It takes me a long time to look around and think about something that I might buy in the future. That's how I basically trick my brain, so it stays in that anticipation mode. Perhaps it is not the healthiest way of dealing with an urge to buy things, but at least it helps me save my money.

 

Buying as an escape

I would also say that buying new things on a regular basis is a form of escapism. It is of course connected to an addicting nature of shopping, but I would like to mention it separately. It becomes problematic when we try to fill the void or solve some inner conflicts using "retail therapy". As any other addicting "remedies" it is another distraction, but not a solution. And even though most of us prefer temporary relief to constant pain, it would be much better to at least try to find out what problem is hiding underneath this pain.

Because at the end of the day you'll have to deal with the consequences of this "therapy" such as debt and overall dissatisfaction. 

 

Broken society

I think, though, that in today's society it is quite hard not to be materialistic. In fact, there is a fine line between simply being "wealthy" and mentally unwell. I truly believe that people who have money can suffer from anxiety and depression that come as a result of consumerism, however these people are usually envied and praised by others. That's where the problem lies. In our overall confused perception of success. I'm not going to write about it in detail right now, as this post will become long and more complicated, but it is worth saying, that there is no such thing as individual healing. Only when we as a society learn to recognize existing problems and label them the same way, regardless of how they look on the outside, those problems can be solved in my opinion. 

Now we are talking about 18 mln of americans, suffering from shopping addiction[2], it's only 5% the US population. It's probably those who admit they have a problem. But what about others who identify as "successful"? 

Overall it is not about labels, but everyone's well-being, in my opinion. It is not the act of buying things, that is problematic, but that it distracts people from solving their real problems and leads to even more of them.

 

Mindfulness and honesty

I think that many problems come from inability of people to be mindful about their feelings and honest with themselves. The reason why is because we are scared to face our problems, and perhaps deep inside there's fear: what if I can't deal with it.

Maybe some of you will say I pay way too much attention to this subject or I take it way to seriously, but shopping or "need" for constant buying or/and having things is a serious addiction, because it may lead to destruction of human's life. Some consequences might not be very noticeable on the outside, but we know there's a void inside, if we try to fill it in with drugs, sex and things. 

The question is: can we be completely mentaly healthy in today's society or the system is built for us to fail? 

Unfortunately I don't have the answer to this question, because it is more complex than it seems. I can be an idealist sometimes and hope that somewhere at the end of the tunnel there is a light, and we must follow it. The light to me represents mindfulness, unity with nature, love for all living beings and of course yourself.

But these concepts as old as they truly are have become new to us. We left our roots and started something new, something that we were unfamiliar with. And we weren't ready for the outcomes. So I think time will tell how capable we are to adapt to the changes in the world and to keep our sanity.


References

[1] Susan Weinschenk Ph.D., Shopping, Dopamine, and Anticipation, article, 22 October 2015, <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-wise/201510/shopping-dopamine-and-anticipation>

[2] Mara Tyler, Shopping Addiction, article, 21 June 2016, <https://www.healthline.com/health/addiction/shopping>