Emotional Spending: Stopping it and Other Wreckless Habits

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Emotional spending is a tricky subject. Which has a very similar flavor to other compulsive and reckless habits we may be acting on.

Today we are discussing the difficulty of stopping these entrenched and reckless behaviors like emotional spending. As well as seeking ideas for helping us move on from having these habitual nuisances a part of our lives.

Emotional Spending as Compulsion not Addiction.

With emotional spending I am not really talking about full on addiction. That is its own beast. Though compulsions of any sort are certainly fueled by an emotional driving force.

We at My Life Experiment are addicts in recovery. Our experiences both before and while in recovery have taught us a great deal about the power of triggered emotions. We understand the process that can ignite bodily impulses to act out in ways we don’t actually desire. Sometimes it can feel easier to spending money, eating too much, or stewing in self-pity.

When acting out emotionally, we generally are not eating because we are hungry. Not spending because we need the thing, nor overthinking something because we desire to. These behaviors are compulsive. Meaning that they are difficult or even feel impossible to control.

When it comes to compulsive spending, some days are easier than others.  But generally, when feeling stressed, it is easy to want to spend money on things that aren’t really needed.

In those times, the brain is looking for a fix. It will be a quick fix, and likely won’t be helpful, but the brain is doing its best.

Working Through the Problem.

When it comes to emotional spending, full on shopping addiction, or any other negative form of acting out. If we desire to stop it, then we already know that we have a problem, but we also need to admit that problem as well.

The decision then needs to be made to knock it off. Meaning a commitment to stop acting out on the problem is required. Then we can set up a plan of action to take back our lives in the area in which we feel out of control.

The difficulty of controlling the impulse to act out can be tremendous. There are times when I have refused the impulse to pull into a drive through window or buy something that wasn’t needed. I have also felt the temper tantrum erupt inside when not giving the impulse what it wants. If you can relate, then I empathize with you. I have come to realize that emotional acting out including emotional spending, is really about pain.

Thankfully I have been in recovery from addiction for years now. In this recovery time I have learned essential steps for stopping behavior, so I can get to the core of the emotional pain.

Stopping these compulsive behaviors has not necessarily been easy. But through our experiences with stopping harmful behaviors, I have realized how important preparation is for setting ourselves up for success.


1. Get Grounded in the Moment.

Staying present in the moment is huge when it comes to stopping acting out. When we go on auto-pilot, we are more likely to act out in ways that we didn’t want to. There are many ways to ground ourselves in the present moment. We don’t need to bring a yoga mat wherever we go or keep a gratitude list handy at all times. All I really have to do is slow down, focus on taking some deep breathes, and recite a few things am grateful for. I swear it brings me back into the moment 90% of the time.

2. Remind Ourselves of Our Commitment to Change.

It is difficult to remember all of the decisions we have made about changing behaviors. But we maintain the strength of our decisions by following them up with daily reminders of the commitments we have made. If we have committed ourselves holding off from spending money on fast food for a month, we need to keep ourselves in the loop on this. If it is a deeply entrenched pattern, then we may need to remind ourselves several times a day.

3. Anticipate Possible Problem Areas

Give thought to what is coming up throughout the day. If we are seeking to spend less money, we need to spot areas where we might slip up. We, need to set ourselves up for success. If we feel the desire to go spend a bunch of money, then we can plan our days to avoid situations that will create added difficulty.

4. Avoid Testing Ourselves

Intentionally driving by a fast food restaurant just to have a smell, doesn’t seem like a good idea. Just like walking around the mall just to see what is new, just to browse. Dieticians might say don’t keep cookies in the house if you don’t want to end up eating them, it’s all the same principle. Quitting a behavior is difficult enough without added tests.

We don’t need to test ourselves unnecessarily. Enough temptations will show up in our lives as a matter of course. Being around too many temptations may weaken our resolve and we might be caught of guard as a result of our weakened resolve. So avoid unnecessary temptations but of course don’t avoid living life. There is a balance to be found in this area.

5. Maintain Emotional Support

Making changes in our lives can create great emotional discomfort. When stopping an entrenched behavior pattern, there will be pain that needs to be worked on. Dealing with these emotions requires support. Some of that support can come from ourselves, but don’t overlook the amazing benefits of the support received by trusting other people.

Some of us may be able to take care of these behaviors with the support of our friends and family. But please, if it seems that you need professional support in some way get some help. Especially if these behaviors are effecting you and your loved ones in ways that are harming your relationships.

6. Put rewards in place

Rewards are crazy important when it comes to staying vigilant with moving on from old behaviors. When us writers for My Life Experiment quit smoking, thinking about what we would do with the saved money was huge in keeping us motivated. The knowledge that we won’t be wasting that $75 a week that was spent something we didn’t want in the first place was highly motivating. On top of that we actually were able to think about where that money would towards building a better life. Through the hard times of stopping an entrenched behavior this promised reward was very much needed.

7. Do Your Research

There is a ton of practical information on the internet or in the library about how to stop unwanted behaviors. Study up and learn how to take back control.

8. Be Firm but Kind

Stopping behaviors that are entrenched is difficult work. But hear this. When we feel like acting out in ways we shouldn’t we may have emotional pain going on. That pain of course, does not make it okay to act out. The most loving and productive route we can take is to ask ourselves what is wrong, and then work on what my body has to tell me. That is where the good stuff is.

As I said before, it can be difficult, and sometimes very painful to refrain from acting out emotionally. But in the case of our financial lives and the rest of our lives, the benefits of controlling our behaviors far outweigh the difficulties. It may not always feel like it in the moment, but over time the benefits stack up.

That is all we have for today, and thank you so much for stopping in to My Life Experiment. What is written here has come from struggle and growth. We wish you growth on your path of leaving behind emotional spending and other unwanted behaviors. If you enjoyed what you read then we would love for you to do a couple things for us.

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Welcome! We are Travis and Casey Hagen, the writer’s and owner’s of My Life Experiment. As recovering Individuals, we are no strangers to leaving behind dysfunctional ways of living. Over the years we have become adept at managing our intense mental and emotional worlds. Finding healing from the past, peace in the present and new ways to bring about success for our futures. We promote Healthy Life Experimentation Principles for connecting with ourselves, our relationships, and finding healthier ways of bringing about success in our lives. Stick around and pick up what we have learned. You will not be disappointed.

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