Vices: Why We Have Them and What They Stop Us From

I was recently listening to the audiobook of Breaking the Habit of Being Ourselves by Dr. Joe Dispenza and he got on the topic of vices. Of course, being a practicing minimalist, this is always a topic that peeks my interest. Vices are something I talk about specifically in my Shopping Rehab course and is something I get asked about a lot. Taking the time to uncover our vices – because as weird as it sounds, we sometimes don’t even realize we have them.

Getting off autopilot

For a good portion of our lives, most of us are just showing up on autopilot, just kind of doing whatever feels fun or enjoyable in the moment and not taking the time to notice when our possessions or habits begin to possess us.

In this book, he talks about how a lot of times people won’t shake free from their vices or their habits until some traumatic event causes them to shake free. This is similar to a previous blog post I shared where I talked about the results I got after polling  a group of minimalists on what it was that caused them to begin practicing minimalism. Click here to read Traumatic Events That Create Minimalists.

Otherwise, I’m just going to quickly sum it up:

A good portion of the people polled didn’t just decide to start simplifying. They didn’t just wake up and go, Ya know, I don’t need so much.

Most of them decided on minimalism after a tragedy, be it a natural disaster, the loss of a loved one, or fleeing from a toxic relationship with only what they could carry.

This holds true for me as well. Although it was more a string of consistent tragedies/awakenings that helped lift the veil from my eyes and made me realize that in the grand scheme of life, my stuff, my possessions weren’t at all important. And to really send the message home I also had to come face to face with the fact that I had repeatedly kept trying to improve my life or my happiness through STUFF – and finally had to face the fact that it never worked.

All I had were vices. Things in my life that brought me temporary distraction from whatever unhappiness was plaguing me at the moment. At the core of all of our vices, this is generally what we will find. An attempt to cover up a deep-seated unhappiness that we simply don’t want to face.

In today’s episode, I want to share with you how you can start to uncover your vices, and how to work toward uncovering what problems are really lying beneath them and WHY you stuck with the certain vices you did for so long.

What is a vice?

So what is a vice really? First of all, I’m not going to be diving deep into the scientific, psychological side of things. That’s just really not my style. There are most definitely neurons that fire in our brain when we continually go back to our vices, but my brain is just not designed to retain that information and put it back together in a cohesive sentence.

Ultimately, it’s this: we learn that some external factor temporarily improves our state of mind. Our bodies get a rush of endorphins or joy from this vice and then they learn to keep coming back to it because more than anything our brains seek consistency.

What is actually totally bananas is that, even though I just said we get a rush of joy, not all of us will turn to vices that bring joy. We might turn to ones that bring chaos, or anger because this ultimately helps feed that consistency that we seek.

For example, oftentimes people who grew up in chaotic environments where the rug was alway being pulled out from under them, or they learned to live in survival mode. These might be the people who are always running late, saving projects for the last minute, or who constantly need something to complain or stress about. They have adapted to it. 

Chances are you have heard about or know someone who continually goes into the same old toxic relationship. New person, same toxicity. Even though nothing good is coming from this, this might still be considered a vice.

So for the sake of getting to the bottom of your vices, take the time to ask yourself, what is it that you continually turn to because it offers a familiar result?

For me, my biggest one was shopping.

I would spend money so fast, it was almost like I was living in an alternate dimension. Like my mind would leave my body and just go into autopilot. Then I would come home, look at the hundreds of dollars of stuff I bought and sink into a pit of depression realizing I just had spent a lot of money that I actually really really needed.

This shopping addiction conveniently peeked after I had stopped seeing my dad and grandparents as much and perfectly coincided with me starting my first job, therefore getting my first paychecks. Which ultimately created a habit and routine that I would have to spend a lot of time and effort breaking.

Why shopping? Because that was how I learned to form connection and love with people in my life. My grandma would take me shopping. We would comb the aisles holding hands and she would buy me whatever I wanted.

My mom usually took me shopping when she was in a good mood – at a high point. Since she struggled with depression on and off most of my life, I LOVED being around her in these high moods.

My brain learned very quickly that shopping brought variety, connection, and a sense of significance when I would wear a new shirt and get compliments on it the next day at school.

We all have 4 basic human needs that we try to meet be it unhealthy or healthy ways:

  • Consistency
  • Inconsistency
  • Importance
  • Love/connection

And when we meet 3 of these 4 needs (even in unhealthy ways) we will find ourselves with a vice.

Shopping met my need for consistency in that I knew this strategy worked to elevate my mood, inconsistency because I could buy something new every time, importance from me being able to talk about or share my new items and love and connection by shopping with family or friends – or if I went by myself but was able to get complimented on a purchased item…I would feel loved.

Now, I could take my vice even deeper and say that SHOES specifically were a vice.

I did some digging into why shoes specifically were so important to me and it really went back to being a kid and wanting to be like the grown ups wearing high heels.

When my mom bought me high heels I sounded more important going down the halls at school, other kids would peek over their shoulders to see who was walking behind them. I got compliments on my new shoes and of course this made me feel important. 

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What is it that causes us to struggle with shopping vices and other things that hold us back? Here's what you need to know.

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