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BPAL Madness!
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Psychology of Retail Therapy

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filigree_shadow

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I'm really enjoying my psychology class. It's Psych 110, just the basics. I resist the temptation to play amateur psychologist armed with only half a quarter of 100-level knowledge (because it ANNOYS THE HELL OUT OF ME when college kids think they're an expert on a subject after taking one semester of it), but my professor has a PhD in cognitive psych from the University of Chicago and she's a damn smart woman to boot, so I trust what she says.

 

Last night we were talking about motivation and emotion. She was discussing the various reasons why people are motivated for certain behaviors, and she briefly touched on compulsive shopping and hoarding. Her explanation was that people use this behavior to fill the void in their lives that is usually caused by depression. If someone experiences a sadness mood, they are motivated to change circumstances in their lives. Some people misdirect this motivation into changing material things in their lives (selling a bunch of their own crap on eBay and then buying a bunch of other stuff) rather than changing the things that SHOULD be changed (i.e. their partner, their job, whatever). Ultimately this makes the person more depressed because they've just racked up a bunch of new bills and the new material things didn't make a difference to their depression.

 

I was all set to get defensive and huffy about this because I hoard perfumes and bath/body stuff, and I also sell stuff I don't want and buy things that other people didn't want. I don't think it has anything to do with trying to fill a void that's caused by depression -- I actually LIKE swapping and hoarding. I feel very pleased and happy when I look at all my BPAL bottles. They're little bottles of beauty, and I'm glad that they're in my life.

 

If I feel particularly sad one day and I try to soothe myself by buying a BPAL bottle from somebody's swap post, I don't think I should feel bad about it from someone telling me that I'm screwed up psychologically for doing this. Dammit that perfume DOES make me feel better, and I love the anticipation of waiting for some lovely BPAL to show up in my mailbox.

 

So as I was feeling all defensive and ready to raise my hand and tell the professor "You're WRONG, I indulge in retail therapy on occasion and it's not due to depression it's because I LIKE IT."

 

And then she said, "People who exhibit this behavior will buy 40 sweaters in one day and never even take them out of the bags, they'll stash the bags in hiding places around the house so that their significant others won't see them. They get no pleasure from actually having the things they bought, they just feel a compulsive need to buy something. Then they'll have no money when it's time to pay the rent or the electric bill or the car payment, so their depression becomes even worse."

 

Oh. THAT kind of compulsive shopping. Um, yeah. That's not the kind that I do.

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You know, I am very glad I read this, for two reasons

 

a.) I am glad I am not the only one who gets so irritate with those "I read one book and now I am an expert" college kids

 

and

 

2.) I always sort of worried that I might be one of those women who indulged in compulsive "retail therapy" behaviours. But you know what? At the end of the month I CAN pay my rent, I CAN pay ALL of my bills, have money for BPAL and STILL HAVE MONEY LEFT OVER.

So...that means I'm ok right? I don't stash...I actually use what I have (and if I don't, I decant a lot and give it away), and trust me, I have never bought 40 scents all at one time!

 

Whew! I'm...ok!

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You know, I am very glad I read this, for two reasons

 

a.) I am glad I am not the only one who gets so irritate with those "I read one book and now I am an expert" college kids

 

and

 

2.) I always sort of worried that I might be one of those women who indulged in compulsive "retail therapy" behaviours. But you know what? At the end of the month I CAN pay my rent, I CAN pay ALL of my bills, have money for BPAL and STILL HAVE MONEY LEFT OVER.

So...that means I'm ok right? I don't stash...I actually use what I have (and if I don't, I decant a lot and give it away), and trust me, I have never bought 40 scents all at one time!

 

Whew! I'm...ok!

 

We're OK! ;)

If the warning signs of a bad behavior are that you buy just to buy and you don't really like it, you overspend and can't pay bills, and that you stash bags of stuff you've bought all over your house -- we're in the clear.

 

It's interesting because in the last chapter we were talking about cognition and intelligence, and one of the things the professor mentioned is that people with high intelligence often collect things (stamps, coins, etc.), which seems to conflict a bit with what she was telling us about what depressed people do. I think a whole lot of education goes into being able to figure out what characteristics/behaviors indicate certain conditions. Like, what's the difference between a hobby collector and a compulsive hoarder? Or an interest and an obsession? I can't tell where the line is, I just know I haven't crossed it. I'm glad there are people out there who have had 8 years of education and can tell.

 

And about the college class = expert syndrome, I always have this urge to say, "You're quoting that out of context" when someone offers her "expert" opinion that's based on something she read in a textbook. The context she's missing is any sort of real-world experience. I remember when I was doing a public relations internship my last semester of college, and it was humiliating to realize that all that spouting off I'd done to family/friends about what PR is like was completely false. I mistakenly thought that the textbook was like the real world. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I was so completely disillusioned that I never worked in PR again after doing that internship.

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