By Shreya Raj ©
I am a 21 year - old aspiring counselling psychologist, a mental health/wellbeing blogger and the daughter of a teacher and an ex-army officer. A compassionate, caring, fiercely loyal and selfless person who is ambitious, driven, humble and outgoing.
The Theory Of Shopping For Pain
“In the end, some of our greatest wounds become our greatest strengths” - Anonymous
The theory of shopping for pain explains that when a person relives, tries to overthink, or think about something that one felt in the past, it's called shopping for pain. It is not specific to a particular person and subconsciously each of us has done it at some point or another.
The problem doesn't lie in the shopping itself, it lies in the discounting of our worries in the process. This kind of discount lessens the price, but it costs much more because it reduces our struggles, it reduces us to creatures who dwell in the past.
Working and studying in the field of psychology has taught me more than I can express, and one fact that I use profusely is the 90-Second Rule. The 90-Second Rule states that a person feels an emotion for approximately 90 seconds and that if the feeling lingers on beyond that then it is the person who wants to feel it (and consequently, live in it) by his/her choice. Something to ponder over?
Now, if I may, let us connect the theory of shopping for pain and the 90-second rule. If some constant pain from the past is pricking you, then you have to remember that it is in your control; it is up to you. If you keep thinking about something that has happened in the past, then it is you shopping for pain unintentionally or intentionally. Further, if that thought or some old wound stays open for a long time, think about the 90-second rule.
Shopping for pain is something that comes to us naturally, and it is not something we force on ourselves or purposely try and get, but do you know what is forceful? To stay in that feeling, in that feeling of past grief, disappointment, hurting, guilt, or sadness. Yes, it is immeasurably difficult and overwhelming to move on from something that affected us in the past, regardless of whether it is traumatic, heartbreaking, shameful or hurtful.
Let me ask you something, why move on from something or someone when you can move forward from it?
What do you think is the difference?
Here It Is:
In one of my therapy sessions, my therapist/counselling psychologist told me that all of us always try and take the toughest and most winding path while trying to heal something because we feel our struggle will justify our pain. We choose to move on over moving forward. Moving on flows like a river.
Imagine that we are flowing in that river; wherever it takes us, we follow, often, not by choice. Very soon, and inevitably, a waterfall approaches. Since we are flowing with the water, we are unaware of what lies ahead. We don't know that we are in for the ride of our lives. What lies below the surface of the waterfall? It can be rocks, a smooth ground under the water, fish, anything.
Very often, when we are moving on, we follow the path of the river and dive into the waterfall, where the river ushers us, without thinking about what is going to be there when we land. Now, moving forward is when we learn that flowing with the river is not the best solution; that we are out of control. But, we also have a choice to stop flowing and walk on the banks of the river. We can walk to the waterfall and see what we are going to land on, and then choose whether we should dive into it or forego the path of the river and continue down the path of the shore.
When we choose the path of moving on from some pain in the past, we are unaware of what is in the store for us; we go with the flow and follow wherever it takes us. Why do we choose to let go of the driver seat of our life?
It is the river, i.e. the pain or the urge to get over the pain which controls our life. Now, when we move forward, we sit in the driver seat of our life, control everything that life throws at us, focus on bettering our present, and plan for the future.
Can it really be as simple as that? Moving on means dealing with the past, moving forward means dealing and aspiring for a good, stable, peaceful and content future. Our choices, more than our conditions, define our future. What would you want to choose?
If we all start to move forward from the past and not move on from it, then in a way, there will be no shopping for pain. It all depends on what you feed your mind. If you feed it your dreams, goals, aspirations, and plans for the future, then it will consciously and religiously make you work towards that. However, if you feed it moments, memories from the past, “the could-haves,” and "should-haves," then it is going to hold you back each time you want to take a step forward or step out of the past.
The 2019-20 pandemic has made us rethink so many things we let go of or, more often, brushed under the carpet when it came to our mental health and emotional stability. In one way or another, it has affected us all in inexplicable ways. If nothing else, the year 2020 will always be remembered for the rollercoaster ride it has been.
So ask yourself, why should we not give importance to our mental health? Why? How must our physical health stay peacefully intact if our mental health goes haywire?
Think about it, when you have a bad day, or when you are tired after a busy day, and your brain shuts down to any more work, do you feel like giving rest to your body and do nothing? Yes? That is how our bodies tell us that we are mentally tired, exhausted, and drained out. Essentially, our bodies have no energy to weather any more load. It is when our brain pumps us up that we look forward to the day and get ourselves to do some work. Do you think so?
We need to move past celebrating mental health only on its elected day. Make each day a mental health day, and you will have nothing to worry about yourself. Your coping mechanisms and adjustment styles will keep getting better each day.
You are much stronger than you tell yourself to be, and you can overcome anything and everything. Let your fighting spirits be that of a warrior, a soldier. Do not let anyone ever tell you or make you believe otherwise. The biggest lesson this year has given us, has been to take care of our mental healths at all costs. Let us all put a stop to shopping for pain and only welcome shopping for happiness, contentment, and stable mental health.
Remember, when you shop for pain, the only discount you get is the reduction of your experiences to sad stories. And you are much more than just sad stories.
You have got this! More power to you!