Impulse Control

Isabella Fels
It's very hard for me to control my impulses. Food and shopping are my addictions. I cannot help myself with them sometimes and often have to take extreme measures to combat my urges. However, I'm trying to be more moderate, even though it's very difficult. By playing a numbers game with the calories I consume and the dollars I spend before I indulge, I curb temptation. On the whole, I feel a lot better about myself when I exercise impulse control. I hope to keep on fighting temptation with the strength I've built up over time.
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Isabella Fels on 11/01/2013
Woman looking longingly at donuts

Learning to control impulses can be empowering

The impulsive life comes at a price

I have very little control over my impulses. My whole day is spent fighting impulses to eat junk food, buy more junk food or the urge to acquire lovely things to fill up my poor, cluttered little apartment.

My place is so filled up with junk that large storage boxes often get in my way as I move around. I often don't feel complete unless I buy whatever it is I am obsessed with at the time. The trigger could be anything, a t-shirt, piece of costume jewelry, a handbag or a pair of shoes. The item just keeps playing on my mind until I give into it - usually at great personal cost. I then feel fulfilled, but the feeling doesn't last for long and something else will start to creep in as a new obsession. Then the cycle starts again.

Generally I find I cannot fight the impulses. They are so strong that I have to act on them immediately, both swiftly and greedily. I can't stand the thought of missing out on something, particularly if it's a bargain. If I do happen to miss out, I feel depressed and will often mourn the lost item as if I already owned it, doing everything I can to find a substitute, even if I am destitute.

Living with constant temptation

Lots of situations in life tempt me. Parties, end of year sales, smorgasbords. Left unchecked, I will keep coming back to a smorgasbord like a greedy seagull. I want to sample everything and get a taste of the good life, earning the same kind of fulfillment as I get from going into shops and acquiring beautiful things. I often feel like I am on a huge treasure hunt, but will then find I have no direction and lose my way, particularly in the busy city streets or huge urban shopping centres.

Sometimes the only way I can resist bingeing is by leaving the room, the very same coping mechanism as not going into shops. Otherwise I become like a vacuum cleaner, sucking up everything that comes my way and paying for it both physically and emotionally.

Strict self denial just makes things worse

Occasionally I get so desperate and frustrated that I will go completely the other way and deny myself anything and everything. I will also do everything I can to avoid potential environments that erode my self control, including parties, lunches and dinners, so I end up becoming isolated and a social recluse. When I deny myself this way, I come crashing down, in more ways than one. This kind of physical and emotional fasting means I miss out on enjoying life.

Seeking approval and permission to reduce guilt

I also cannot be quiet or sit still with my obsessions in general and feel the need to share with close family or friends what I have bought, or even ask for their permission or approval before and after buying it. If they do not like what I have bought, or disapprove of it, I feel terrible. It's much the same feeling as asking people if I have put on weight, and then having them saying yes instead of no. It's a crushing disappointment.

Gaining confidence from exercising control

I still have yet to find a middle ground where I can allow myself a little bit of everything, without feeling guilty. One way I try to cope, particularly before overeating or overspending, is by doing a numbers game of either how many calories I will have consumed, or how many dollars I will have lost if I give in to my urges. Often this gives me a surge of confidence in myself. The more I practice this, and the less reassurance I seek, the greater the control I feel.

Readers comments (1)

Isabella's article is remarkably frank in its couragous ability to expose problems which are an important and intimate part of her life. "Impulsive life comes at a price" is a powerful phrase which signicantly exposes Isabella's desire not to keep paying that price and, perhaps unknowingly, it also speaks of every other human, torn between what is most desirable but should be resisted and what is less desirable and easy to resist; the major fact of what it is to be human.
This and the rest of Isabella's prose and poetry not only show that Isabella gives much time and energy to the hard, the very hard work, of writing which, when done well, exposes one's essential self to the world; it also offers her insight and the change she feels of "greater...control". We are here given a gift which can change our lives too.

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