If you love your stuff as much as Johnny Depp loves his plane, something is wrong.
Even those who work in fantasy worlds have to face reality.
In June, a 2009 email exchange between Johnny Depp and Joel Mandel, his former business manager, revealed that Depp was on the brink of financial ruin just a few months before beginning filming “The Tourist” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Depp, who claims to have pocketed a combined $55 million from the two movies, is currently suing Mandel and his management group for allegedly squandering his Hollywood earnings.
In the emails, sent in early December, Mandel advised Depp to “take it easy on holiday spending.” To that, Depp responded in desperation: “What else can i do??? you want me to sell some art??? i will. you want me to sell something else??? sure… what??? i got bikes, cars, property, books, paintings and some semblance of a soul left. where would you like me to start???” But one item was a step too far: his private jet. Depp reportedly cited a need to avoid the paparazzi who would follow him on commercial flights.
Needless to say, Depp might be a little too attached to his plane–and experts say that’s not uncommon. And in fact, it’s very possible for a person to love an object as much as they love a romantic partner–or even more, according to a study from the Journal of Consumer Research concluded.
How do you know if your love of an object is bordering on obsession? Here are the warning signs.
- Your time with the object is interfering with your relationships. If your partner says anything to the effect of “You love that more than me,” your priorities need to change, says psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo, author of Better Than Perfect: 7 Strategies to Crush Your Inner Critic and Create a Life You Love. This situation is very common with cell phones and other tech gadgets, says Harvard relationship psychologist Holly Parker. “People will spend so much time with their electronic devices that they’re not engaging with their relationships as much.” If you feel like your phone is keeping you from enjoying your friends and family, she says, that’s a sign of danger.
- You’re buying a lot of complementary products or services. Are you pampering your car more than you pamper yourself? Are you spending a fortune on special cleaners, garage space, car magazines, or decals? If so, Lombardo says, it’s time to re-evaluate. “Ask yourself, if your loved one devoted these resources to something that is not important to you, would you think it was excessive? If so, try to tone it down.”
- You’re stressed when you’re not near the object. It’s common to be protective of objects, particularly expensive ones, but there’s a limit to what’s healthy. Parker recommends spending some time without the object, and seeing how you feel. “If when it’s parted you for a few hours, you start to feel anxious, that relationship may be working against you,” she says.
- The object is tied to your self worth. In 2009, a man in Japan burned his house down after his mother threw away an important toy of his, reportedly telling a Kobe newspaper that “I thought I was going to die, because my mother had disposed of an important plastic model.” To avoid getting to this point, be brutally honest with yourself, advised Lombardo. Do you feel better about yourself when the object is around? Would you feel lost, or less yourself, if you had to give it up?
If this sounds like you, there’s hope. The key is to figure out why you’re so attached to your posession, and find a healthier way to achieve those benefits. “If you feel a sense of purpose related to that object, how can you find meaning in other ways, such as volunteering or spending time with a loved one?” says Lombardo. “If the object helps reduce your stress, try other stress management techniques such as going for a walk, deep breathing, or watching a funny movie with a friend.”
As with any lifestyle change, practice makes perfect. Parker suggests arranging to spend time without the object, to get used to the feelings you get. For a cell phone, “you could say ‘When I’m talking to other people, I’m gonna put it down.’ Or ‘When I’m home in the evenings I just won’t look at it.’”
And if you find yourself unable to solve your attachment problem on your own, Parker suggests finding a support group or a therapist to help you. “There’s definitely help out there.”
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