Readers Note: I wrote this post when I was in the midst of some agitated emotions. I took the time while was in the eye of the storm, as it were, feeling all those fairly uncomfortable feelings, to sit down and write this, when it was most present, and, I suppose, raw and real. And I hope, most illuminating or instructive. This is what it’s really like when you are so caught up in a sticky feeling state, and the urge to go shopping is strong.
Since writing it, I’ve done minimal editing of this post, just a few smoothing steps, nothing that changes the essential nature of the post.
A Wobbly Moment of Weakness
I’m almost itching to buy something right now. I’m a bit agitated, a bit worked up. Not terribly so – not dance around the living room naked, throw things across the room, howl at the moon agitated.
But enough agitated that you’d notice. I’m a bit jittery, jangly. When I’m in a buying situation and I feel this way, I call it a fluttery feeling. I’ve come to recognise it for what it is, and to recognise it earlier than I used to – before I’ve done any damage.
It’s still sticky. Thorny. Tricky. Sticky. Lower case yuck.
If I were a body of water, I’d be the top level of water of the ocean when a storm is on the way. The storm may blow over and never hit land – let’s hope that’s what happens.
Or it may come full force and turn into a tornado. Bringing with it destruction and people crying on television over the loss of all their possessions as hopeless, hapless politicians look on and shake their heads.
But I’m getting a bit carried away with the metaphor there.
I know I’m in a precarious mood, shopping-wise. When I’ve been here before, one remedy I’ve sought is to go out and buy something. Shopping seems to have a momentarily salving effect.
But like scratching at irritated skin, after the immediate “Aaaaah – that felt GOOD!” moment wears off, it actually feels much worse. You wish you’d never done it. You wish you’d left well alone.
Why so agitato?
I’m agitated because of some irritations to do with my work. Some things I can control, and others I have absolutely no control over. Some real, some possibly made up (but oh my, do they seem real in my brain, especially when I go over them for the 101st time up in there).
I’m agitated because my cat was in inadvertently put in danger this morning – the front gate was left open and she got mistakenly locked outside the house. Not a big deal you might say, but she was raised in an apartment, doesn’t really know what “outside” is, and certainly doesn’t know what cars are, and what they can do to little furry kitty cats who aren’t street wise. No harm became her, but it upset me a little bit.
It actually doesn’t even matter why I’m agitated. I’m here, in the land of agitato, and it’s feeling awfully real right now.
Because I know these aren’t big things, and on many other days I would be able to let them wash through my day without giving them more than a second, or at most, third thought.
But today I feel a bit jittery and jangly. I found myself on eBay, looking up items I didn’t need (yellow handbags!), page after page of (rather ghastly) items.
I didn’t buy anything. But I could feel how easy it would be to just hit that Add To Cart button. Tap! And it’s done. Barely the work of a moment.
If I didn’t have a client meeting at 1pm, I would be sorely tempted to leap into the car to head down to the local shopping plaza for some stimulation and diversion. And quite possibly come home with bags of items I didn’t go there specifically looking for.
I’m feeling a bit better now. Writing these 500 words has had a calming effect on me. I feel like something has shifted.
I feel like I’ve traversed this wobbly moment of weakness with at least a scintilla of grace and even some learning.
I haven’t given in to my undigested feelings of agitation and employed the immediately gratifying but in the longer term deeply unsatisfying ‘solution’ of buying something.
What happened instead of shopping?
Instead of hitting the shops, or the Buy Now button, I did these three things, while the moment was literally upon me:
- Clicked off the online auction site where I could buy something. Visited a site that has nothing you can buy but lots of interesting things you can watch and read. That got my brain distracted and even a little stimulated by things other than the sticky feelings I was experiencing
- Sat outside and had something to eat, a snack I prepared myself with a little bit of care. This slowed down my somatic response and gave it a new environment through which it could reset itself
- Wrote this article. This channelled those thoughts and feelings into something purposeful. Even it will require some editing before even the vaguest consideration can be given to it being published on my site
(readers note: precious little editing happened before publishing this as I felt it would distort or diminish the power of the post, whatever power it may have. And I added the next bit quite a while after).
3 tips for when you’re in the grip
Women who have overshopped or who still overshop will know what I’m talking about here, even if the specifics of their shopping triggers/drivers are different to these.
So in the interests of completion and being helpful to all my friends out there who either regularly or occasionally find themselves in the grip of strong emotion urging them to shop, here are some things to remember and do when in the grip of that emotion:
- This feeling state will pass. Eventually. Sooner. Later. At some point. Feelings are a bit like clouds – they do move on, usually of their own accord although you can give them a little nudge if you want or need to. The point is: you will not feel this way forever! And if you don’t do anything rash whilst feeling this way, you will likely get through this uncomfortable feeling period unscathed, and possibly wiser. Recommendation: don’t do anything rash whilst you are feeling this way.
- Distraction really does work. Do something else, do something different, do something – but just don’t go shopping (in real or virtual stores). You will just be perpetuating the pattern if you do, and you’ll feel much (much) worse if you end up buying something (highly likely when shopping in a triggered state). Find something physical to do, like a brisk walk, or a 10 minute stretch, or dance to a pop song in your living room, or anything else physical that’s simple, quick and easy to do. Find something to occupy your mind – read something interesting, watch a fascinating video online or a distracting TV show, talk to someone (possibly about something other than your situation – give your brain another topic to focus on).
- Being outside or in nature is helpful. Even if you live in a city and it’s snowing, you can still get a bit of ‘outside’ happening, even if it’s just a brisk 10 minute walk to get the blood pumping. If you can, put yourself in nature – a park or gardens, your front yard, the beach, a lake, a pond, a trail. There’s something about being outside, especially in nature, that has a calming and ‘resetting’ impact on our systems and psyches. This is most helpful when feeling in the grip of a triggering emotion.