Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Psychology of hoarding

Psychology of hoarding--explained?

1) When most of us look at an object like a bottle cap, we think, "This is useless," but a hoarder sees the shape and the color and the texture and the form. All these details give it value. Hoarding may not be a deficiency at all -- it may be a special gift or a special ability. The problem is being able to control it. (Randy O. Frost, interview with Thomas Rogers, “‘Stuff’: the psychology of hoarding,” Salon, 25 April 2010)

The hoarder is Robin Williams from the Fisher King: a humble life-poet who sees the magic in the (quote unquote) junk. Or a young Luke Skywalker, in touch with the energy field created by all things.

Future prospects: A future magician who will show us the magic in everyday life, help us move away from a consumption-oriented society. Must learn to control his power, so it doesn't control him.

2) If you spend one weekend with someone with a camera crew, a cleaning crew and no therapy, you’re making some educational contribution by showing people what hoarding is -- and that it’s really an illness [. . .]. (Randy O. Frost)

The hoarder is mentally ill. Tread with care.

Future prospects: One house-cleaning away from the crazy-house.

Patrick Mcevoy-Halston is mentally ill

Tread with care.

Dude, I'm all for esoteric, but WTF are you talking about? (untimelydemise, response to post)


We are offered two different accounts of hoarding here. One (the first quote) makes it primarily a gift, possessed by someone who feels the beauty in things in a culture that can no longer do the same. The other (the second quote) makes it primarily an illness, to the extent that a cruel show that effectively traumatizes those it pretends to help still deserves kudos for it at least making this point clear.

If they're wizards, then not just house cleaners but therapists too need to tread carefully, for they are dealing with those well beyond their capacity to understand, and whom they must primarily not so much try and help but begin to try and learn from.

If they are sick, then all this appreciation for shapes, textures, colors of objects the rest of us understand less meaningfully, has to be contextualized so we understand that the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer appreciated certain objects this same way too.

Hope that's clear.

- - - - -

Culture Changes

In the U.S., we've also gone from a culture where some degree of hoarding was helpful and even necessary (when items were expensive and stores were far between) to a culture where "things" are widely available and cheap. It's not surprising that some people go overboard.

My mother grew up in a poor farming family during the Depression. To my grandparents, saving things was a matter of survival. You saved every bit of wood and piece of string, and reused every container and washed out every bag, because you had to. My mother lived in the suburbs, but she had a closet full of carefully saved plastic bags and magarine tubs - it was just too ingrained in her to save and reuse, she just couldn't throw away something that was still good. She wasn't a hoarder - she didn't buy extra things just to save them and she threw things out when she ran out of space - but that impulse to stock up and save things "just in case" is something that used to be a necessary part of life, especially in rural areas. So many people now think of it as dysfunctional and puzzling now that we live in smaller spaces and when you can easily replace anything you throw out, but the hoarder is just an extreme version of what many people were doing a couple of generations ago. (KayWWW, response to post)


So if by some odd bit of luck, and if your mother had been born a bit earlier -- in the free-wheeling '20s, not "your grandmother actually knew best" '30s -- your mother actually found way to considerable income during the depression, she wouldn't have developed into a hoarder? Having known an era where treats were, if not quite allowed, still very much enjoyed, every time she went out and bought something new she wouldn't have said to herself, "this is selfish -- I'm selfish," and more or less learned to just sit on her fortune, still reusing the same container, over and over again? Possible, but many people in the '20s thought they were going to be punished for all their fun -- thought they DESERVED to be punished for all their fun: the 30's ruination actually "fit" their sense of justice.

Some people actually take pleasure when the drift in society is toward war or depression, because it makes their own (truly) pathological tendencies (sadism, anal-retention) seem too widely shared and too appropriate to be anything other than rational. For a taste of this, witness how delighted some now seem that the apparently near-certain upcoming ruination of the Earth means that we all need to live as invisibly, as minimalistically, as possible. Should have us begin to suspect that things like wars and depressions, are actually things us still sin-focused people will into existence to make sure we stick to living in ways that make us feel guiltless or properly repentant.

Link: "Stuff": The psychology of hoarding (Salon)

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