walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_To Buy or Not To Buy_, April Lane Benson (kindle)

Subtitled: Why We Overshop and How to Stop

May have existed under another title previously in hardcover. Anyway. I don't have an overshopping problem, at least as understood in this book and I didn't buy the book because I thought I had a problem. I bought the book because (as noted in an earlier entry), I suddenly realized that overshopping was a Thing and it was a Thing that was fairly well-defined and I could understand that, possibly by reading self-help books aimed at people who had the Thing. I was married to a guy with this and I (briefly) had a friend with this and knew men married to women with this and knew guys (acquaintances) with this -- and I found it really mysterious and inexplicable.

The book helps with that. It is -- and this makes sense -- written from a Buddhist perspective. There's a problem with that, actually. From around location 4087 (80% of the way into the book):

"maybe we need to start thinking like the government of Bhutan, which in 1972 threw out the usual economic progress indicators and replaced them with a "Gross National Happiness" index. This revolutionary concept, embracing everything from the protection of natural resources to the promotion of a strong culture and the ensuring of democratic governance, puts the overall well-being of citizens at the forefront of national policy. No dark underbelly there!" Written without apparent irony, despite their relatively recent exercise in ethnic cleansing (see Bhutan wikipedia entry, paragraph starting: "In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the country expelled or forced to leave nearly one fifth of its population in the name of preserving its Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist culture and identity." Basically, they booted out the Hindus.). Oh, they also had a ban on TV and the Internet until 1999.

No dark underbelly there. Whatever. In general, the author uses Buddhist mindfulness techniques layered on top of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs to help people (mostly women, but there are some examples including men -- the inclusiveness is erratic, however, so a man reading this is going to find it less helpful, and a woman with a different style of shopping problems likewise) replace their addictive, substitutive behavior with actions that help them fulfill their authentic needs, develop and connect with their authentic selves and generally behave better.

Like Jaclyn Friedman in _What You Really Really Want_, Benson's book is built around writing exercises.

Benson identifies as being in recovery from this difficulty and doing clinical work to help people with this difficulty. I have every reason to believe she knows what she's talking about. Because her advice in this work is aimed at a general audience, she mentions issues like bipolar in passing, in the way that many books about recovery will in passing mention the need to gain some control over underlying mental illness in order to stably deal with addiction.

Unfortunately for me, the aspects of this book that make it most generically useful for its audience limit its utility to me: it uses writing exercises to draw out of the reader what is driving the reader to overshop, identify triggers, create better substitutions and frameworks for avoiding relapse and so forth. Those don't help me understand what's going on. The first quarter of the book, which describes the kinds of emotions and issues underlying overshopping in general were more useful to me.

If you have a problem controlling your shopping, this is a reasonable text to try to get better. If you are looking for financial advice (for getting out of debt and building a structure for meeting you and your family's needs now and in the future), I would recommend ignoring most of what Benson has to say, in favor of getting a copy of _All Your Worth_ by Warren and Tyagi. If you are trying to figure out what the heck is going on with someone you know who has this problem, I'd get a copy from the library and stop when you get past the first quarter of the book.

If Buddhists annoy you, stay away.
Tags: book review, non-fiction
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