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Marketing on Black Friday is Meant To Dysregulate You

A black friday poster with the words black friday on it.In the marketing world, Black Friday is designed with the specific intent to dysregulate you and your nervous system by causing you to go into a survival response that will disconnect you from your discernment skills so you’ll buy shit you don’t need.

This is a Public Service Announcement…

Actively practice staying regulated on Black Friday, and Cyber Monday so you don’t succumb to coercive marketing.

Here’s what you need to watch out for.

You’re going to see the following marketing techniques used to manipulate, coerce, and exploit you:

  • Limited time to access a discount.
  • Limited quantities
  • Special Bundles
  • Spending money = saving money
  • Relentless email campaigns and advertisements
  • Promises of “lowest price”
  • Pressure: “don’t miss out,” and “act now”
  • and dozens more.

All of these are skillfully intended to cause a sympathetic Fight/Flight/Fixation response in your nervous system. If you learn to recognize what’s happening, you can stay regulated (present) and take supportive action.

See, when your sympathetic nervous system is activated, your neurological resources are redirected to your mid-brain, where you process emotion. Your discernment and decision making part of your brain – the pre-frontal cortex – is less resourced, and in scientific studies using fMRI scans, this part of the brain actually “goes dark,” meaning it basically goes offline. That’s not helpful when you’re making buying decisions – especially if it means spending lots of money.

This is exactly what marketing companies and greedy corporations want to happen. They want you in a fear-based sympathetic state, they need you in a fear based sympathetic state – because they know you’re much more likely to buy in a fear-based sympathetic state.

I wanted to share a couple of common nervous system experiences and how I navigate them this time of year. And trust me… I am using all of these actively this week. There is no need for shame if you experience any of these – it’s natural, normal, and healthy to have a sympathetic response. That means your nervous system is doing it’s job. What you want to watch for is this: don’t be in a fear response when making a buying decision.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)

Black Friday marketing is designed to cause a sense of panic, distress, and anxiety. You’ll notice that you feel more alert, on edge, and may have an increased heart rate and tension. Under the surface, you’ll notice that fear is the motivating force (hence the name).

Fear of missing the deal.

Fear of losing out.

Fear of making the wrong decision.

Here’s my personal FOMO rule to keep me regulated:

If I haven’t been seriously considering this purchase for at least 3 months prior, then it’s off the table.

Herd Mentality & Belonging

Seeing images of crowds rushing to buy discounted items, copywriting that references how many others have found the deal, or social media posts with pretty people in nice houses and lots of money can activate a herd mentality response.

We evolved to take cues from the behavior of groups to help ensure safety and belonging. It can be subtle. Under the surface, if we stop to notice, we get a sense deep within (often due to trauma) that we’ll be unloved or unsafe if we don’t do what everyone else is doing. Or, our longing for relief from hardship or struggle will be relieved if only we had this thing that’s being sold.

Marketing, especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, exploits the belonging instinct. You may feel you need to rush and buy too or you’ll miss out on being like those who have the items or service, or that you won’t be as spiritual or qualified as others.

Here is my personal Herd / Belonging rule to help keep me regulated:

Can I access a real sense of safety in my body as I think about how long I’ve survived on this planet without this thing, service, or product? Can I connect with my own sense of self-love, the love I receive from others, and let myself be held in the energy of Divine Love without this? What changes for me if I have this? Does any of that change if I do or don’t have this thing? (Asked in this specific order.)

Novelty Response

Bright, flashy ads and images of the latest gadgets activate your novelty and curiosity instincts. This one happens to me all the time. If I start browsing, I find dozens of things I didn’t even know existed, let alone dozens of items I had no idea I couldn’t live without!

While newness and innovation serve us sometimes, on Black Friday and Cyber Monday it often leads to undue consumption.

Here’s my personal rule for a novelty response to help keep me regulated:

If I didn’t know I needed this till I saw the advertising and the good deal, I have to ask myself, “Would I pay the full price for this thing?” If the answer is yes, then I don’t have to feel pressure to buy during a sale. It’ll be worth it either way (and there is almost always another sale between now and the end of the year anyway). If the answer is no (and is almost universally and emphatically “NO” for me), then what I’m buying is the good deal, not the actual benefit of the product – and I don’t need to spend money to save money. It’s a no for me.

Comparison/Inadequacy

Ads showing happy people with the latest stuff can trigger feelings of inadequacy about what you have. Sometimes seeing what everyone else is buying brings up jealousy and/or resentment. This can lead to a feeling of entitlement. Or, it can bring up a child-like rationalization which sounds like this, “I have been working so hard… I deserve to treat myself to this.”

Remember, comparison is the thief of joy. I makes you lose sight of your own needs and values. Jealousy distorts reality and breeds ingratitude. Resentment is ignoring your own power. It falsely empowers others. Entitlement disregards context and dishonors interconnection. Rationalization denies personal responsibility and provides cover for poor choices.

Underneath all of those human feelings is a deep need to be enough… to be loved and cared for… to feel valued and worthy… to be seen, held, witnessed, and understood. That is sacred territory.

So, here is my personal comparison / inadequacy response to help keep me regulated:

I start by deeply acknowledging myself – who I am, what I’ve done – and connect deeply with my own worthiness. Then, I remind myself that the Love is not found in having that thing. Love and worthiness and enoughness isn’t sourced in buying. When I can feel this deep in my heart, and sometimes in co-regulation with others assistance, the urge to buy fades. And, if it arises again… then I ask myself, “Can I wait till next year? 3 months? Or can I wait till it’s on sale next time?” Almost always, by the time any of those happen, I don’t want it anymore.

My personal strategies may or may not resonate for you and you’re encouraged to make them your own. The principle behind each one, however is where the beauty and power lay. The principle is this:

  1. Notice the discomfort. Pause.
  2. Regulate, which means to be present with your nervous system. Bring awareness to the fear response with loving compassion.
  3. Support your nervous system by connecting intentionally with love and safety. Ask some supportive questions. Get support from others if needed.
    More helpful tools to help you make healthy purchasing decisions

Here are a few ideas that will help your nervous system stay out of a fear response, and keep your discernment resources in your brain fully online:

Mindful Awareness

Be conscious of your emotional state and recognize when fear-based responses arise. Before buying anything, try stopping and doing some meditation or Remembrance. If you can’t do that (but usually can), it’s a sign that you’re dysregulated. Postpone buying till you can connect more deeply with your heart.

Pause and Breathe

Before succumbing to urgency, take a moment to breathe deeply and ground yourself. Notice if you have access to a full, deep, and complete breath. If you are breathing from the top part of your lungs, very shallow… that can be a sign that you’re in a sympathetic state.

Create a Shopping List

Know what you genuinely need and stick to it, avoiding impulse buys. If you weren’t looking for it before Black Friday or Cyber Monday, chances are you don’t truly need it… you’re responding to an impulse. A shopping list helps you avoid impulses.

Set Budget Limits

Establish clear spending boundaries to prevent excessive purchases. I notice myself saying “I can’t afford that” a lot, which isn’t the healthiest of mindsets. What’s true is that I can afford the things I prioritize as important. Unfortunately, from a survival, fear-based sympathetic state in my nervous system – those priorities get all wonky. So, setting a limit for myself and respecting the limit helps free me from overspending. This gives me freedom to choose, to buy, to enjoy some shopping, without feeling like I “can’t afford it” or that I’m denying myself pleasure or getting some needs met.

Unsubscribe and Unplug

Minimize exposure to relentless marketing by unsubscribing and limiting screen time. I unsubcribe from more email lists during this season than any other. If any company sends me more than a couple emails before Black Friday, or between November 15th and the end of December – they’re gone. I don’t need that extra pressure.

Another tool I’d put in this category, combined with the Shopping List one above, is to create the list of things I may want to shop for first. And then… go and scour my email and shopping sites for the best deals on the things on my list and in my budget. That way, I know what I’m looking for, and reduce any impulse decisions.

Seek Community Support

I don’t think this one is as common as I believe it ought to be. I think it would be helpful to share your intentions with friends or a trusted community (like The Village) to reinforce your commitment.

Another way to use support of others to co-regulate is to share a purchasing struggle you’re wrestling with. For instance, for about 6 months, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of purchasing an Elgato StreamDeck (like this). I am using the tools above to help regulate my nervous system because it’s on sale this week – so I know what to do. But if I was struggling, I’d post about it in The Village. The public discourse, inquiry, and accountability of standing up for my decision to buy or not would really, really change the game.

Practice Self-Compassion

One of the most surprising tools I know is simple self-compassion. Acknowledge any feelings of pressure or fear, offering yourself understanding and kindness. Often, as I practice this way, I notice that my urgency and fear start to fade, and I realize that all along all I really wanted was safety, love, connection.

Self-compassion and attentive presence is a miracle around this time of year.

Are there other types of pressures you face regarding Black Friday or Cyber Monday during this time of year?

Or, perhaps you have your own strategies you use to help you make better buying decisions and staying regulated during the marketing pressure.

Please share in a comment below. Let’s talk it out and support all of us in benefitting from being here together.

more love, not less – all-ways.💜™