Other Selves: On Problems, Struggles & Addictive Tendencies

I have realized over the past year that I enjoy shopping. Correction. I have always known I enjoy shopping. What I’ve realized in the past year is that this “enjoyment” was starting to lead to some problems, some addictive tendencies, and some secrets.

When I really don’t want to say something, I’ve learned to see that as the sign that I really should say it.

And so I did. I explained to my husband what I thought was going on. He recognized it in me too. And we made a plan. It was not an easy plan, nor did I follow it perfectly all the time. But over these many months I have seen positive changes in myself and a shift in the way I approach shopping and the acquiring of things in general.

There is a large outlet complex called on the outskirts of a city near where we live. It is the first place we drive past when we get to the city. It is also the place where my daughter and I spent the better part of a day shopping for school things for her this winter. That evening when we got home from the shopping, I was able to see clearly how I’ve changed and how far I’ve come this past year.

I could see how I’d changed because the manner in which I approached and lived out that day was different than it would have been a year before.

This is the picture that came to my mind:

As you enter the outlet centre, there is a major turn off from the main road. I imagined standing at the side of the road by that turn-off an “other self” of mine: the “shopaholic Dixie”. When I let myself reflect on what this “other self” looked like, it was not a well put-together, stylish woman standing casually at the side of the road with a number of shopping bags in both hands. Rather, it was a tall man, empty-handed, in a long, dirty trench-coat, who was very sneakily (but also desperately) looking to jump into my vehicle unsuspected as I drive by.

Do you see the difference? One is neat and in control. The other is sneaky and desperate.

This was the difference that I saw in myself when I had my first full day of shopping since a year of working on my shopping and purchasing habits. I was no longer secretive. I was no longer desperate. I could let things go. I was in control.

This “other self” isn’t just about shopping, of course. We display different versions or aspects of ourselves in lots of different areas of our life. You likely don’t talk like an accountant when you get home to your toddler. You probably don’t talk like a kindergarten teacher when you meet your friends for drinks.

We are not talking about multiple personalities. We are talking about how different parts of who we are become more evident in certain situations. And, I think it bears special value to look– really look– at those parts (who we become, how we think/act/behave) of ourselves that come out in areas of our life where we struggle. The struggle could be an addiction, a difficult relationship, or it may be a lack of authenticity. We all struggle.

Exercise:

The following is meant to help you to become mindful of what’s going on right in the middle of your struggles. It will allow you to create a picture in your mind of what you become and what you desire in the moments when it is all too easy to give into the struggle and whatever temptation it offers. Slowing down that process, becoming curious about yourself in that moment, and listening and reflecting on what you experience is in itself a new posture to the struggle!

See what you can learn about yourself in the following questions:

Think of something that you struggle with.

Is there a particular place or time when the struggle is more apparent, more difficult, more overpowering?

If you were to imagine a picture of who you are at the moment you give into that struggle, what would that image look like? What does this “other self” look like? What is its mood? What is it saying to you? What is it doing?

Now, imagine that when you give into the struggle it is like you are listening to that “other self” and allowing it to get into your vehicle and accompany you in that moment, maybe even sit in the driver’s seat! What does this other self do for you in that moment of struggle? Where does it take you? How does it change you?

Now, imagine being in that moment where the struggle is real, but driving passed that other self. Not letting it join you. (It’s hard. I know that those other selves can be very sneaky, they can grab onto your bumper without you even suspecting!)

Imagine being in that moment and remembering this path of struggle is not the one you want to take. Can you drive passed without letting the “other self” in? What might that look like for you? What will you have to do or say or think? What will you have to not do or not say or not think?

How would that make your experience different?

Bonus: Is there a way that you can look at that “other self” with compassion? What does he or she really want standing there?

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