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The Store Metaphor – Shane Knox

The Store Metaphor

By Shane Knox

Let’s imagine that your mind is a giant store. Since this store is your mind, you’re the only customer. Oh, and you also have virtually unlimited money! All the merchandise in the store symbolize your thoughts, emotions, memories, urges, etc.—everything that goes on in your mind. Some of the merchandise you like, some you don’t. Some of it seems really important to you, and other items are trivial. Some products are useful, or fun, or trendy, or unhealthy. Just like a real store, you probably have positive or negative judgments about lots of the items in the store, and others you just feel neutral about.

As a customer of this store, you don’t really have direct control over what merchandise the store has for sale. But what do you have control over? Well, you decide what to buy! Your purchases will probably influence the store’s future inventory. For example, if you buy lots and lots of staplers, the store will likely order more. And if they continue to sell out of staplers, the store will probably make a bigger stapler section to accommodate the apparent demand. So as customer, you do have some control over what the store sells, but it’s a slow power, and there are no guarantees—it’s really ultimately up to the store what’s on the shelves.

So you can’t control what’s on the shelves, but you do get to choose what to buy. You choose what to take home with you. You likely don’t like certain products, so why do you buy them? Are there any thoughts or feelings that you’ve “bought” that have actually made your life less rich?

What might it mean to “buy” a thought or feeling? It means you’ve “taken it home with you”. To “buy” a thought or feeling is to think you own it, to strongly identify with it as part of who you are. It might also mean you feel you must act on it. Or to put it another way, you believe this thought or feeling as if it’s real and not just a thought or feeling. It’s to mistake it as a solid object rather than just a passing experience. (Spend some time thinking about what it means to “buy” a thought or feeling, using personal examples if you can.)

It’s not easy to scale back our spending and make conscientious purchases—we’re often tempted by products that deliver short-term benefits at the expense of long-term well-being. We sometimes think we need something we actually don’t, or get addicted to buying things in general. Even if we try to avoid the store altogether, there are bound to be reminders about what to buy in the form of advertisements and societal messages.

Ultimately, though, the “merchandise” you buy is your decision.

For me this metaphor lifted the fog, I am my own worst enemy and it’s my own thoughts about myself (and potentially what others may think of me) which causes me to snap at others, worry, stress and shut down.)

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