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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  • Mark Michael

    Great article Kevin. Addiction in any of its forms is like you said, when we look outside ourselves for our happiness. Fortunatly, once willing we can move beyond out addictions and into a productive life once again.

  • mewabe

    I would like to see a television series (hosted by Michael Moore) showing a different kind of shocking hoarding: billionaires…treated with the same clinical approach to psychopathology, looking at what sort of childhood traumas caused these people to seek happiness in obscene wealth, the grotesque accumulation of physical possessions, and inordinary power over society.

    Somehow, I don’t think this idea would fly with TV executives…too bad!

  • Marko

    Kevin, I’m aware of such shows but never watched one or had the desire to.
    I have heard that often it is a result of mental illness & that’s part or the whole reason for hoarding.

    My guess is, that most of these people are single?

    You said “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?”

    We can support people only as much as they are willing to be supported. They have the right to live this way & the right to be unhappy as weird as that sounds. Of course, if there is health risks. that’s cause for intervention.

    If they decide that they truly indeed desire to change their situation, they will seek the help they need to improve their condition. If they can’t even see the need to change, that too, if it does stems from mental illness then, should it not be approached like any other form of mental illness?

    They would then need professional clinical psychological help.

    Yet even so, we support them in any loving creative way we are inspired too. I would if confronted with it imagine them enjoying cleaning up the mess & leaving a more healthy life style. That by my visualizing them in this way they may get the energetic influence & life would help them take the necessary steps in resolving this issue.

    There is another softer issue or soft addiction if you will. They call themselves pack rats. Not as bad as horders but have similar issues on a smaller more manageable scale.

    In fact you may want to address in an upcoming article “soft addictions”. Like watching tv, spending too much time on social media etc.

    Magical smiles,