Cluttered Lives, Empty Souls: Compulsive Stealing, Spending & Hoarding
Guess what? You might just be addicted to stuff!
Published: September 28, 2011
Shulman: There's a wonderful line from Kurt Vonnegut short story where a character asks: "Do you think every advancement in technology is good for humankind?" We often seem to be more concerned about quantity of connections rather than quality. It's been documented that a byproduct of the Internet is addictions to sex, shopping, gambling, gaming and even surfing the Internet itself. Yet, it's harder to avoid the Internet than it is to avoid a bar, a casino, the mall or a strip club. So, we have to find new ways to function without falling into a hole.
MT: Your book is thrust largely on alluring personal experiences of others, so it's not exactly a "how to" self-help guide to recovery. But a close read reveals many recovery answers are in the actual stories. Was this intentional?
Shulman: "Human face" stories are what we relate to most. The fascinating thing about these stories, to me at least, is how similar most people's issues are, even though their addictive tendencies manifest differently. As a recovering person myself since 1990, I relate to addicts and know the struggles of recovery and peeling back the layers of the onion to get to greater self-awareness.
MT: Do you think our culture — that is, American culture — is beginning to revolve around a rising narcissistic idea of self-entitlement?
Shulman: I think we're living in a "me" culture instead of a "we" culture. Look at our political system and the difficulty with compromise. Giving in to others is viewed as a sign of weakness. Kids, in general, see the few stories of those who've gotten rich or famous at a young age and feel like this should come easily and quickly to them as well. Addiction thrives on impatience and entitlement.
MT: How does one detect inner compulsive behavior? What are the signs that it's progressing?
Shulman: It's true that people can be in denial that they have an addiction or a compulsion even though nearly everyone around them sees a problem; after all, denial stands for "don't even know I am lying." But most addicts know they have a problem on some level — they can see or feel it progressing in their stress, anxiety or the various problems in their lives, be they financial, health, legal, relational, etc. But the denial process leads most addicts to blame others, society, God or bad genes for their problems. Change is a process. So, as we see, this is why recovery is a one-day-at-a-time, ongoing journey of change.
Shulman's International Conference on Compulsive Theft, Spending & Hoarding happens Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Embassy Suites, Detroit Metro Airport, 8600 Wickham Rd., Romulus; 734-728-9200. For times and information, see theshulmancenter.com. For more information on the book, see clutteredlives.com.
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