Last week I spotted an article on shopping that classified the different types of shoppers that we are. Appropriate, I guess, in the midst of the busiest shopping time of the year.
The article got me thinking about a shopping phrase I’ve heard a few times in recent years. . . usually from people who you think would know better than to use it. The phrase? . . . “retail therapy.” I got to wondering how entrenched the phrase really is so I googled it and found that there’s actually an entry and a definition in Wikipedia. Here it is. . .
Retail therapy is shopping with the primary purpose of improving the buyer’s mood or disposition. Often seen in people during periods of depression or transition, it is normally a short-lived habit. Items purchased during periods of retail therapy are sometimes referred to as “comfort buys”.
Retail therapy was first used as a term in the 1980s with the first reference being this sentence in the Chicago Tribune of Christmas Eve 1986: “We’ve become a nation measuring out our lives in shopping bags and nursing our psychic ills through retail therapy.”
In 2001, the European Union conducted a study finding that 33% of shoppers surveyed had “high level of addiction to rush or unnecessary consumption”. This was causing debt problems for many with the problem being particularly bad in young Scottish people.
Researchers at Melbourne University have advocated its classification as a psychological disorder called oniomania or compulsive shopping disorder.
I find it sad and ironic that at the very time we should be celebrating the coming of the One True Redeemer, we spend our time, money, and effort looking for redemption at the mall. It never works though. Didn’t we listen to what John Mayer sang in “Something’s Missing”? . . .
I’m dizzy from the shopping mall
I searched for joy but i bought it all
It doesn’t help the hunger pain
And a thirst I’d have to drown first to ever satiate
And I don’t know how to fix it
And I don’t know what it is
As a young child, I thought that all the stuff Christmas morning would bring would fill me up, make me happy, complete my life. But in a few hours, I could see the gauge on my satisfaction level dropping. Then, the next Christmas, the vicious cycle would begin all over again. It’s because we look in all the wrong places. Many of us who are Christians complain about the fact that the cashier is not allowed to say “Merry Christmas” anymore. It’s “Happy Holiday” only. They took Christ out of Christmas! But so do we when we think that stuff will make us happy.
The late Mother Theresa warned about this empty cycle that so easily entraps: “Once the longing for money comes, the longing also comes for what money can give – superfluities – nice rooms – luxuries at table – more clothes – fans – and so on. Our needs will increase – for one thing brings another – and the result will be endless dissatisfaction.”
Are you there yet? It’s been a week and a day since you opened your presents. If you’re feeling empty, don’t be surprised. That’s why we have Christmas to celebrate in the first place. He’s the “something missing” . . . and He came to fix it.
Sometimes I think the phrase gets a bad reputation by being a convenient slang. My friends and I will talk about retail therapy as a short hand. For us (and I believe others), it means I’m stressed, let’s go to the mall, have lunch, shop, and talk. I guess we could go for a hike in a park, but the temperature controlled mall is our choice. We know that buying things isn’t going to fix anything major, and it’s more of an opportunity to talk. I think others, especially women, do this and there’s a mistake in thinking we are trying to buy happiness.
Have you ever read the Ashley Stockingdale series (probably more your wife’s speed)? A Christian heroine who has a similar perspective. Sometimes when you are nervous about a presentation, a new lipstick or outfit will give you more confidence in yourself.
I think what we need to learn is how to identify the urge – is it over something minor that can be indulged WITHIN our budget or are we trying to fill a space that only God can fill?