Saturday, April 30, 2011

Emotional Spending: Who Does It, Why & How Can You Stop?

This week I enjoyed being a guest on Texas Credit Union League's internet radio show were I discussed emotional spending with co-hosts Rick Grady and Todd Mark.  Click here if you'd like to listen (it's about 1 hour long) or you can download it to listen later.

Listen to internet radio with Texas CU League on Blog Talk Radio

In addition to having a lot of fun with Rick of  Texas Credit Union League and Todd of Consumer Credit Counseling Service, here are some of the items we discussed:

People and organizations in the Smart Zone have control over their emotions and are able to better manage the impulsivity that leads to overspending. Smart Zone communities create a high trust environment that is free from suspicion and blame.

Why do emotions fuel excessive spending?
Emotional spending occurs when you buy something you don't need, or even really want, as a result of feeling stressed out, bored, under-appreciated, incompetent, unhappy, or any number of other emotions. In fact, we even spend emotionally when we're happy. For example, I bet you bought yourself something the last time you got a raise.

When does emotional spending occur?
It occurs when we are trying to:
  • Improve or maintain a mood.  We think by looking forward to our new purchase we will feel happier. “I will be so happy wearing these new shoes!” Initially when we buy something we DO feel better and this can condition us that to feel better we need to buy something.
  • Cope with stress.  Spending is used to self-soothe and help you feel calm but it can actually backfire on you and, as I say, it can fill your bucket.
  • Deal with loneliness.  We think buying something will help fill the void in our life.
  • Improve self esteem.  We think our purchase will make us a better person or look better to others.
What are ways to control emotional spending?
  • Avoid impulse purchases.
  • Limit your temptation.  For example, if the mall tempts you then find another way to enjoy an afternoon.  If you are tempted to buy more when hanging around a certain friend or relative then try to find less expensive things to do with them (like going for a walk, cooking dinner or drinking coffee).
  • Don’t shop when you are feeling emotional.  If you are feeling bummed out at home don’t get on the internet and go shopping, for example.
What is Severe Overspending and how do you know if you are doing it?
For some people, shopping is much more than a pastime - it's actually an addiction called oniomania. While it may not seem like a dangerous addiction, many of the psychological characteristics of compulsive shopping are identical to those of chemical dependency.

What are characteristics of extreme emotional spending?
  • Buying more than you can afford
  • Getting a rush when you make a purchase and then feeling anxiety and guilt later
  • Going on a shopping binge where you way overspend
  • Taking a second job to accommodate your out-of-control spending
  • Having items around the house you never use that still have price tags on them
  • Fights with your spouse over your spending

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Top 5 Truths a Marital Therapist Might Not You (or Will & Kate)

On a recent windy day here in Texas, my son Sam and my dog Sophie helped me reveal a few juicy things about marital therapy. In this video I reveal 5 tidbits that most marital therapists will never tell you.


There are tons of misconceptions about marital therapy. Many times people wait up 7 years to seek treatment for their issues and by then there is a lot of work to be done.  

Being in the Smart Zone means you are working to the best of your ability, emotionally, intellectually, and behaviorally. Even though marital therapy isn't a requirement for staying in the Smart Zone I think the following is worth revealing.

Here are some truths I give people when I see them in marital therapy and a few tips Will and Kate might appreciate on the eve of their wedding.

  1. Always go to bed angry. I believe it's a myth that you should always make up with your spouse before going to bed. You are tired at bedtime and trying to settle a dispute when you are tired is futile. Plus, sleep is a great stress reducer. I say, "Go to bed - you're tired!"
  2. Fighting is a good sign. One indication that couples are in trouble is when they aren't engaged or talking to each another. Indifference to each other tells me a marriage is in big trouble. At least couples who are fighting are interacting. Couples who care enough to fight still care about each other.
  3. Communication isn't the most important thing. Talking about your feelings and making "I" statements doesn't solve problems. What's more important is the way couples respond to each other after an argument in order to build your relationship and make it stronger.
  4. Don't try to resolve issues. Some issues just aren't resolvable. For example, Easter and Passover were in April this year. Fighting over different spiritual beliefs is not a resolvable issue. Repairing your relationship should be the focus. Acknowledge that your differences exist in a satisfactory way rather than trying to get your spouse to see your point of view at the expense of the relationship.
  5. Every marriage is saveable. Both people have to be committed and it will be a lot of work. But it's worth repeating that - every marriage is saveable.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How To Deal With Anger Instead of Hiding From It

Traditional ways to manage anger don't always work. Watch this video for better ways to manage anger that that will make a difference and how you can get anger under control.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Celebrity Apprentice Freak Out - How to Control Anger in a Tough Situation

I have seen anger.  I've worked with people who have been victimized, couples whose marriages have suffered extensive damage, and various people coping with trauma.  Anger is an emotion that communicates a lot to other people but it may have incredible consequences to the person who feels it and expresses it.  Did you see the anger displayed by Meat Loaf on the Celebrity Apprentice a few weeks ago?  Click here to watch it.

Anger can contaminate your gut, create shaky emotions, and push people away. It is the extreme to being a "Debbie Downer." I enjoy reality TV because I can watch it and I don't have to process, defuse, or redirect anyone. But when I saw Meat Loaf on Celebrity Apprentice recently loose it with Gary Busey, it was a bit uncomfortable, even though I was just a spectator...sitting on my couch...eating ice cream...with my kids.

Being in the Smart Zone means you are working to the best of your ability, emotionally, intellectually, and behaviorally. The Smart Zone is where you display well developed Emotional Intelligence. When the tirade during Celebrity Apprentice happened between Meat Loaf and Gary Busey, it was a classic example of an exaggerated response. Meat Loaf was way, way out of the Smart Zone. He was freaking out.

We all would be lying if we said we haven't had an exaggerated response ourselves. We have all freaked out before. We just flew under the radar because it wasn't on national TV. Next time you feel like Meat Loaf, here are some Smart Moves that will keep you from freaking out and help keep you Living in the Smart Zone:

  • Try to feel your toes: I don't mean literally. You start bending over when you are angry and people will really be worried about you. Instead in your mind, concentrate on what the bottom of your feet feel like and get your breathing under control. I'd tell you to walk away but many times you can't. I'd tell you to count to ten, but that isn't enough. Concentrate on your feet and get your breathing under control.

  • Identify your one key message you want to communicate: Often when people are really angry, they say way too much. Sometimes people don't make sense. Do you want to say, "What you are doing is unfair" or "I'd like to suggest an alternative to your proposal" or "How can we work together to find a solution?" It is like a sound bite on TV. You will benefit from identifying the main message you want the other person to hear as their take away.

  • Keep it short: Especially in a work environment, don't let expressions of anger be a tirade where you go on and on about whatever it is you are upset about. But don't be a pigeon either. A pigeon is someone who swoops in and drops ammunition (my mother will appreciate my censoring this) and then immediately flies away. If you do that when you are angry then you will condition people to be fearful of you when you appear (just like I'm fearful with seagulls being fed French fries on the beach when I am visiting my hometown of Clearwater Florida).

  • Check your emotional temperature: If people in your circle of trust have told you more than once that you don't have control of your anger - believe them. It is very difficult for each of us to know how we actually come across to other people when we feel emotions of anger. If you have been told that you can be "scary", "like a bully" or "out of control" when you are angry, you will benefit from taking responsibility for the perceptions that other people have of you. Each of us is a bad judge of how we come across when we are angry, even if your intentions are good let yourself get caught up before reacting. 
Let's all hope that Meat Loaf learned something about himself when he watched how he acted on Celebrity Apprentice. It was a bit of a mess, even if his reaction to Gary Busey was justified.

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