Sponsored by the HealthcareTrainingInstitute.org providing Quality Education since 1979
Add to Shopping Cart

Section 13
A Field Guide to the Materialist

CEUs Question 13 | CEUs Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Addictions CEU Courses
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CE, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

Things! There is little that Victoria Frances enjoys more than thinking about, looking at, and acquiring them. As an editor at a Manhattan-based interior-design magazine, Frances (not her full name) sits at her desk all materialist compulsive spending social work continuing educationweek, flipping through catalogs in search of lamp shades, pillows, and candelabra to borrow for photo shoots. On Saturdays, she shops. "I start at 10 o'clock," she says, "and I do what I call 'The Four B's'--Barney's, Bendel's, Bergdorf's, and Bloomies."

For the past decade or so, Frances has spent thousands of dollars a week on clothes, shoes, home accessories, jewelry, and furniture. Pleasure with possessions remains integral to her sense of self: "I love to be surrounded by beautiful and exotic things," she says.

Frances is an unabashed materialist, a high-end version of the mildly object-obsessed masses in our capitalist society. The pressure to buy and acquire, after all, surrounds all but the most isolated Americans. Moreover, everything from our sneakers to our salad dressing telegraphs something about who we are to the world. "The main way we present our self-image is through stuff," says Tim Kasser, associate professor of psychology at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, and author of The High Price of Materialism.

Frances is all too aware of how her love for objects is tied up with a long-held desire to adopt a certain identity and social status. "Starting in college, I probably wanted to appear like the kids I was going to school with--rich and WASPy," she says. "When you're really insecure there is nothing worse than appearing different--you just want to go unnoticed and appear to be the same."

But adorning yourself and your home with the latest and greatest may offer no more than fleeting glee. "Buying stuff doesn't seem to make even materialistic people happy," Kasser says. A materialistic lifestyle is associated with an inadequate sense of security, competence, relatedness, and autonomy, he's found. In addition to perpetual feelings of ennui, the materialist runs the risk of burgeoning into a full-blown shopaholic, a person so obsessed with buying that they fall into debt and suffer dire personal consequences. A recent Stanford University study found that about 5.5 percent of men and 6 percent of women fit the criteria.

Ever the extremist, Frances is taking dramatic steps to stop herself from sinking too deep into her own materialism. This year she plans to quit her job, travel around India, and move to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to spend time skiing and volunteering. "I'm going out there with the primary purpose of not shopping," she says. "I think it will be a wonderful feeling to shed all of the symbolic artifacts that clog, distort, and sway people's perceptions of me. I think it will be cathartic." The turning point came when she received a gift she refers to as her Jeep Cherokee--a handbag that costs as much as that iconic SUV (yes, literally). When friends and co-workers began ogling her new possession, Frances suddenly realized she was embarrassed to own it. "First of all, nothing that small should cost that much," she says. "And second of all, there are so many better uses for the money. The whole thing started making me sick."

To the Mall Born
Are certain kids destined to get dollar signs in their eyes? Lan Nguyen Chaplin, a professor of marketing at the University of Illinois, and Deborah Roedder John, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, found that materialistic values (like preferring "nice sports equipment" to "being good at sports") surge between the ages of 8 and 9, and then again between 12 and 13. Tellingly, children with low self-esteem value possessions much more than do kids with higher self-esteem.

Frances believes her own materialism is rooted in shameful feelings about her home life: She grew up poor, raised by grandparents with Depression-era values who forced her to wash tinfoil for reuse. Her outstanding abilities as a soccer player gave her entrée to exclusive team clubs, and through those Frances was exposed to the homes and lifestyles of very wealthy people. She felt inadequate in comparison. Buying things--the right things--later became a way for her to attain a sense of parity.

While deprivation can foster materialism on one hand, families that worship the almighty dollar can also breed the stuff-obsessed, Kasser says. People who had parents who placed a high value on money, status, and image tend to be more materialistic than others.

Brainwashed to Buy
A materialist’s consumption is driven by more than family values or attempts to compensate for what was lacking in childhood, though. We can't underestimate the influence of corporations that go to great lengths to connect their products to the promise of emotional fulfillment, Kasser says.

The manipulation begins before we even know what an advertisement is, argues Susan Gregory Thomas, author of Buy Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds. Marketers rely on an idea they call KGOY--Kids Getting Older Younger. "They know that a lot of O to 3-year-olds are now watching TV. But all that babies and toddlers get from television is character recognition--there's no understanding of narrative. And the only time they run into the characters is when something is being sold. So they're just absorbing information about brands."

How to Think Before You Buy
If you’re lusting over that black leather Armani coat, it won't help to ask yourself whether you really need it, says psychologist Nando Pelusi. "We are justification machines, so you'll think, 'Yes I do! With this jacket I will please the ladies!'" Here's how to shift your mind-set in the moment:

* Don’t beat yourself up. Your desire is borne of your "mental architecture to acquire, acquire, acquire." So don't feel bad, but be alert to this tendency.

* Conjure up some shopper’s skepticism by playing devil's advocate. Ask yourself, "What are the disadvantages of buying this?"

* Dig deeper and ask "What is the real reason I want this?" If it's to lift a blue mood, know that the boost will be temporary. If it's to quell status anxiety, remember that keeping up with the Joneses is a losing battle.

How to Dematerialize
When Judith Levine, author of Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping, renounced all but necessities for a year, she saved $8,000, had more time to spend with friends and do meaningful work, and felt liberated. But she also felt lonely and bored, because she couldn't go out to the movies, and lost, because her identity was shifting and her usual sources of stimulation were gone. It's not an easy road, but if you're ready to give things up (or at least cut back), here are a few practical steps to take:

Be more scholarly about stuff: Learning about the history and craftsmanship behind possessions can deepen your superficial interest and help you develop your own tastes, not those dictated by advertisers. Sotheby's, the famous auction house, runs a master's program that offers students a chance to choose one particular type of object and study it in depth. After a year or so in Jackson Hole, Frances hopes to enroll in the program to turn her obsession into expertise.

Get outside of yourself: If you can't stop thinking about those peep-toe sandals and how much you need them, distract yourself with a nonshopping-related activity, Levine says. Pick up a good book, take a bike ride, or meditate. Better yet, do something nice for a friend or neighbor. It'll fill up your soul without emptying your piggy bank.

Embrace your inner beatnik: "I reclaimed an old Bohemian identity that I'd always been comfortable with," says Levine. Once her life was structured around ideals such as living for art and fighting against conventionality, it was easier to avoid buying stuff. "I stopped thinking of myself as a consumer and started thinking of myself as a citizen."
- Rosenberg, Amy; She’s gotta have it; Psychology Today; May/Jun 2007; Vol. 40; Issue 3.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.

Personal Reflection Exercise #6
The preceding section contained information about a field guide to the materialist. Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 13
According to Professor Chaplin & John, between what ages do materialist values surge? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Answer Booklet.


CEU Answer Booklet for this course | Addictions CEU Courses
Forward to Section 14
Back to Section 12
Table of Contents

The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
Real Life Stories of Forced Addiction Treatment - March 09, 2018
The subject of forced substance abuse treatment is a hotly debated one. Last week we published an interview with an addictions expert and registered nurse, who spoke about the upside to forcing a loved one into addiction treatment. But even Diane Jones admitted that addiction treatment is only as successful as the level of engagement ...
The post Real Life Stories of Forced Addiction Treatment appeared first on Addictions.
Does Forcing Someone into Substance Abuse Treatment Work? - March 02, 2018
A recent article on slate.com discussed the topic of forced substance abuse treatment, trying to determine if it is a successful option for addicts. Ultimately, the article stated that the answer is inconclusive, and more research is needed. Here at Addictions.com, we wanted answers, and a deeper understanding of this topic so we consulted Diane ...
The post Does Forcing Someone into Substance Abuse Treatment Work? appeared first on Addictions.
Real Life Stories on Valentine’s Day about Life, Love and Addiction - February 14, 2018
Loving an addict, or being in love while addicted, is one of the hardest emotional struggles you can face in this life. There is a treatment gap in America, where it is estimated that one in seven people suffer from addiction, but of those suffering, only one in ten get help at a treatment facility. ...
The post Real Life Stories on Valentine’s Day about Life, Love and Addiction appeared first on Addictions.
Tramadol – 9 Risky Tramadol Side Effects and Symptoms - January 16, 2018
Tramadol use in the U.S. has become much more widespread in recent years, with the number of tramadol prescriptions having increased by 88% from 2008 to 2013. Tramadol is a pain reliever that works similarly to opioids like oxycodone, but that produces side effects and symptoms that differ in type and severity, that are often ...
The post Tramadol – 9 Risky Tramadol Side Effects and Symptoms appeared first on Addictions.
10 Reasons to Treat Your Bath Salts Drug Abuse Immediately - January 11, 2018
Bath salts are from a new family of dangerous designer drugs. These highly addictive stimulant drugs are affordable, and easy to obtain, as they are often openly sold in packaging labeled as “plant fertilizer” or “phone screen cleaner.” Bath salts drug abuse leads to bath salts addiction, as well as horrifying side effects including panic ...
The post 10 Reasons to Treat Your Bath Salts Drug Abuse Immediately appeared first on Addictions.

CEU Continuing Education for
Social Worker CEU, Psychologist CEU, Counselor CEU, MFT CEU

Get Social Worker CEUs, Psychology CEUs, Marriage and Family Therapist CEUS, Counselor CEUS, or Addiction Counselor CEUs for license renewal. OnlineCECredit.com offers 150+ easy, fast, affordable CE courses to earn your Continuing Education Credit. We are an approved provider of CE courses by APA, ASWB, NBCC, NAADAC, and various State Licensing Boards.

Our objective is to provide you… the Social Worker, Psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist, Counselor, or Addiction Counselor with continuing education courses that contain practical, how-to interventions. Do these CE courses meet the requirements of your state licensing board? Select your state and profession above to view your Licensing Board's continuing education requirements.


OnlineCEUcredit.com Login

Forget your Password Reset it!