I am worried that shopping this holiday season may cause me to have a relapse. I have been free of compulsive shopping and debt for over 1 year but I have had extra stress this year and wonder what you would recommend?
We Â Answer
You bring up a common concern, relapse, that people who struggle with or who have a history of process addictions express. Because process addictions, such as compulsive shopping, suggests that the addiction is to the process of shopping rather than a substance, a black and white solution such as quitting shopping simply does not exist. During the holidays a lot of stimuli exists in our world encouraging us to do things that are fun, exciting, expensive and indulging while at the same time triggers are going off all around us like family situations, stress to please and accommodate and a vast sea of emotional reactions within us. Relief is desired during these times and really, it is hard to come by other than riding out the feeling and continuing to develop emotional regulation skills that someone with a process addiction has had to do if you already have one year of freedom.
Emotional regulation exists to a certain extent in all of us because when we are infants and our caregivers provided us with soothing our emotions were regulated. Emotional regulation is related heavily to emotional vulnerability so if a person has a high level of emotional sensitivity then emotional regulation is more difficult to come by because the feelings seem so intense. In the world of Dialectical Behavior Therapy, emotional regulation skills development is key to living a more balanced life. The skills build on each other, so the more a person allows for the experience of a feeling to be felt the more of a foundation of containment is created. Here is a link to the www.dbtselfhelp.com website that has very simple and helpful handouts to assist you in maintaining your freedom from compulsive shopping and debt this holiday season.
Angela R. Wurtzel, MA, MFT, CEDS
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