Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

shopping addiction

Making others happyAre you getting bigger because you’re keeping yourself small Part 2

Are you busy making sure everyone around you is happy, i.e. do you spend your life pleasing others? Do the needs of those dearest and nearest to your heart control what your day looks like? Do you feel like you can never do what YOU want?

Part 1 of this series discussed how assuming responsibility for the wellbeing of others can contribute to emotional stress. Feelings of anxiety, worry or pressure can trigger Emotional Eating or other unhealthy coping habits like shopping addiction or internet addiction for someone who has gotten used to soothing inner frustrations from the “outside.”

When you are busy focusing on the happiness of others, it’s easy to get disconnected from your own needs.

What do I mean, when I talk about “needs”? I like the definition of needs by Manfred Max Neef, an economist from Chile known for his human development model based on fundamental human needs.

Manfred Neef identified 9 basic human needs that we all share:

  • Sustenance – the basic physical needs such as food, air, water and shelter
  • Safety and protection
  • Love and affection
  • Empathy
  • Rest, recreation, play
  • Community
  • Creativity
  • Autonomy
  • Identity – need for meaning and purpose – need to contribute to life and how our efforts are making life and our surroundings richer.

In this post I would like to focus on the need of Autonomy.

In my work with clients, I have noticed that a yearning or longing for independence or, shall we say a perceived lack of freedom to be who you want to be and do what you want to do in your life can be a contributing factor to emotional eating, overspending or other self-soothing activities.

We all need autonomy.

Having autonomy implies freedom and choice. Your ability to listen and trust the voice in your heart increases, when you have the freedom to make your own decisions and follow your volition.

Low self-esteem and closed-mindedness dramatically impact autonomy.

When you are the prisoner of your inner critic which is telling you that you aren’t good enough or that you don’t deserve certain things, you lose your freedom. While perhaps nobody in your environment is curtailing your autonomy, you end up limiting your own freedom.

Getting caught up in feeling responsible to make everyone happy, can leave you feeling like there is very little room left for you to exercise autonomy.

Journaling can be an excellent tool to help you get in touch with what you really want and the person you really want to be.

Try this exercise called “Emptying out” at the end of the day. Mentally go thru your day and remember those moments when you felt frustrated, hurt, disappointed or anxious or any other emotions that left you feeling stressed and contracted. If you’re an emotional eater for example, go back to all the times you ate when you weren’t hungry physically.

  • What was going on for you?
  • What inner conflict were you caught in?
  • What would you have really liked to do or say but didn’t?
  • Why didn’t you?

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series where we will look at the need of rest, recreation and play and how playing can impact your weight.

In the meantime, I wish you continued success in making positive life changes.

Beware of advice that is designed to distract you when you want to overeat. Some time ago a client came to me seeking help to get her spending under control. She was afraid that she was well on her way to becoming a shopaholic.

Originally she’d been seeking help for overeating and binge eating. Internet research had led her to a blog post where the author was suggesting that the next time one felt lonely, depressed, angry or sad, one shouldn’t take a trip to the refrigerator but a trip to the mall.

Skeptical at first but wanting to find a way to control her binge eating, my client gave the advice a try.

One day, just when she was about to devour the rest of a birthday cake in her fridge, she decided to get in the car instead and head over to Winners.

What a combination… the thrill of shopping while saving money!

It seemed to work…because when she left the mall she was in a great mood and the frustrations of the previous hours were momentarily forgotten.

The advice my client had found on the internet, suggested retail therapy to shift her mood combined with a “catch and release” technique.

Essentially, had my client followed the instructions “properly” she should have returned to the mall the next day with all her purchases and receipts in hand to get her money back.

Alas, here the plan failed. It seemed a shame to take some of the things back… besides, she was busy the next day. Thus time passed, until the next shopping spree. Shopping continued to leave her feeling thrilled and in a good mood until guilt started to set in.

While her fridge stayed full and her pants were becoming loose, her closet was swelling at an alarming rate…becoming a secret treasure cove filled with items never worn.

Her credit card bills were climbing sky high. Money that had been set aside for other important purposes had been spent.

The good feelings about herself were more and more ephemeral, being drowned out by the tireless voice in her head berating all her faults.

She realized, that she was feeling as poorly as she would feel after overeating. Shopping was definitely not filling her longing to feel good about herself nor her desire for connection. She had only succeeded in trading one unhealthy coping mechanism for another one, just as damaging.

Shopping addicts tend to shop when they feel depressed, lonely or angry. (If you’re wondering whether you’re suffering from Shopping Addiction, read more information here and feel free to contact me for a complimentary consultation).

If you’re trying to overcome binge eating, please realize that distracting yourself with some other compulsive activity is not the solution. Switching from bingeing to shopping did not help my client deal with her feelings of emotional pain.

Given her timely cognizance around this fact however did jump start something positive.

She reached a different level of awareness around her bingeing.

She was clearly able to identify when she was about to eat for other reasons than hunger.

This process of stopping – even if just for a moment – while resting in a place of mindfulness is the first step towards healing binge eating and overeating.

There is an exciting wave of mindfulness sweeping across North America. Ever since Geneen Roth has appeared on the Oprah Show and Oprah has endorsed the content of her new book “Women, Food and God” women and men have found motivation and courage to examine their relationship with food.

I am thrilled at how well Geneen’s Book “Women, Food and God” compliments my coaching course “Stop the Weight loss Boomerang – How to Stop Yo-yo Dieting and Emotional Eating”. Geneen uses a body-centered approach which is very similar to how I work and I am recommending her book to anyone with a desire to examine their emotional relationship with food.

So if you’re about to binge….rather than heading to the shopping mall… head to the bookstore 🙂