You can’t hoard happiness

You can tell if you are addicted to a behavior or an outcome when the absence of it causes you to abandon your happiness.  This is the  definition of addiction from the book “When Everything Changes, Change Everything. ” The word “abandon” indicates that we are aware on some level that we have placed our happiness on something external to ourselves.  This definition becomes evident when we consider a popular television show in the United States called “Hoarding, Buried Alive.”

If you have not seen this show or even heard of this thing called hoarding, it is quite shocking to see what types of distorted reality some people are operating out of.  In one of the most disturbing hoarding cases, a man had gone to his mother’s house because she hadn’t been seen in a few weeks.  He couldn’t get into the house and then he noticed a strong smell coming from what seemed like the basement. “I thought, there’s no happy ending here,” he said. “I just had a feeling. I had a bad feeling for years…It’s a terrible thing to deal with.”  Three days later, the police found his mother’s body under a pile of trash.

Watching the people on this show, as well as knowing some personally, the hoarder is so attached to the items they possess that those items end up possessing them!  The idea that happiness comes from within has been so deeply forgotten that they desperately search for the thing that will bring them happiness, only to become buried under the weight of attachments.  So where does it start?  How does one get so distorted that they have become accustomed to living in squalor, with dead animals, feces, and mountains of garbage, clothes, and material possessions in some cases from floor to ceiling in their dwellings?

One theory is that a trauma has occurred in the affected person’s life that has created the belief that their life depends on these items being in their possession.  The trauma was such that denial of their true nature was too painful for their ego to handle.  Childhood traumas can be neglect, they can be physical abuse, including sexual abuse, or they can simply be from growing up in a house where emotions are not shown.  These are just a few of the abuses many in society heap upon children.  These traumas will manifest themselves differently in adults, and even more so if the individual does not have a strong sense of resiliency.

From the outside looking in, the obsession with materialistic possessions confounds most people because they look solely at the despicable conditions and wonder how anyone can tolerate that.  What is clear from the addictions and compulsions specialist’s point of view is that through a predictable path of events in the hoarder’s life, they suffer from a disease, and a lack of ease is exactly what it is.  They cannot easily ascertain their own ability to survive and find pleasure outside of the parameters they have set for themselves;  that is, they feel they must keep on collecting items and never give them up.  To give them up, they perceive they would be letting go of their comfort, happiness, and even possibly their survival.

Can this type of behavior be changed?  Is there a chance for a recovery for the hoarder?  Of course there is a chance; it is rare, however, due to the reclusive nature of the disorder.  The statement “With him, all things are possible” comes to mind here.  The more difficult question is, however, how does the afflicted get to the space where they can even entertain seeking a spiritual resolution to their disease?

How can we as a loving, caring community support these people and help them to find themselves once again and lead a productive, happy life?

(Kevin McCormack is a Conversations with God Life Coach, a Spiritual helper on, Addictions recovery advisor. To connect with Kevin please email him at

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