For this article’s purposes, your addictions are your psychological, rather than physical poisons.
What are yours? Any ideas? What compelling trivia does your mind routinely escape into?
Hopefully, your food/drugs/sex and alcohol addictions simply bore you by now. You know what you need to do and you even occasionally do it. In the famous words of Winston Churchill, Keep Buggering On with that.
Right now I am more interested in enticing you to wrestle with your mental vices.
Perhaps negative thinking is your substance of choice. Or maybe like me, you are particularly partial to some procrastination. Perhaps you use your phone and Facebook to stay addicted to self-importance and approval-seeking.
Your predilection (I don’t think we can really get away with calling it a selection, seeing as it’s not conscious) will be determined by your Ego Self. That’s your personality, to you and I!
This post looks at what are probably the Universal Top Three forms of addictions:
- Negative thinking – using our relationships, our jobs, people we don’t know, the weather, our landlords, the state of the economy, etc. to reinforce ‘glass half empty’ syndrome.
- Self-doubt – aka, the voice of the Super Ego. Using perceived failures and limitations to take us out of the perfect present moment, and undermine our ability to feel joyful.
- Procrastination – otherwise known as ‘I’m not going to do what I know I need to do’. Using social networks, video games, movies, books and anything else we can get our mitts on, to delay the challenge inherent in showing up to the task in hand.
These subtle forms of aggravation on our psyche have the decidedly non-delightful effect of drawing in more external conditions to reinforce them. If we are addicted to negativity, then guess what the world serves us up! You guessed it; more of the same.
Connecting with the ‘why’ behind making the (significant) efforts required to cease these minor assaults on ourselves is the first step towards breaking our patterning.
So let’s get connected.
Negative thinking reduces the possibilities
When we think negatively, what we are really saying is ‘this is not acceptable’. We get to stay stuck, inactive and small. Negative thinking also allows us to avoid taking responsibility for our conditions.
What happens when you do not accept the conditions of life?
What would have happened if Nelson Mandela had allowed his 27 year long stint in prison to depress him a little? Do you think he would have gone on to bring South Africa out of apartheid and become one of the best leaders of our time?
No. Instead, he said things like this: “Even if you have a terminal disease, you don’t have to sit down and mope. Enjoy life and challenge the illness that you have.”
Being in a state of resistance to the flow of life is a drain of energy and it squarely limits what’s possible for us. We are aligned with a mental state that is conducive to producing further misery.
Here’s an example of a negative thought process in action:
Sam and his wife Nicole are on their annual winter vacation in Mexico, and the rain is steadily pouring down. They came (of course) expecting relaxing beach time, sunshine and warmth. What they found was rain forecast for the duration of the trip. Bummer.
Sam spent the whole holiday bracing himself against the truth: complaining about the unfairness; blaming Nicole for not knowing about the weather patterns; blaming the hotel for not warning them (they should really give you a refund…). Etc. etc.
The antidote is a willingness to be present with the way things are
It’s difficult to resist the lure of a good moan. But let’s please try, because as you see, hopeless resignation and/or spluttering resistance begets an extended period of misery.
Far more fun, then, to practice being present to the way things are – including our feelings about the way things are.
In contrast to negative thinking, this opens up possibility. It helps us to clarify the next step that will take us in the direction that we want to go in.
In the above scenario: Had Sam chosen to exercise his capacity to be present to what was occurring, their options begin to emerge. We could do some reading in the hotel’s reading room! We could have all sorts of interesting conversations with other, hotel-bound guests. We could learn tantra and stay in bed all week! We could catch the next flight out and head to Spain!
Breaking our addictions to negative thinking takes us from victim to empowered creator.
You could even take things a step further and foster an abundance mindset. That is a really cool direction to train your thoughts into. You do it by telling yourself (and being that) there is always enough.
Critical self-talk stops us from being in action
Negative self-talk sounds kind of like your most critical parent. Most women have a running negative commentary about their appearance. Men, maybe you talk down on yourself about your competence and ability to attract women.
Our addictions to negative self-talk are ruinous for our levels of motivation and empowerment. It is as though a big cloud is following us around, ready to deduct the blissful moments from life. Negative self-talk also blocks us from expressing creativity and love.
Recognize that your negative self-talk serves no useful purpose at all. (If you want to change something, you are more effective coming at it from a place of wholeness.)
To stop, we need to be willing to distinguish ego
We have to be willing to catch ourselves in the act of being dictated to by this death voice, and slowly but firmly unlatch ourselves.
To do this takes a lot of self awareness, and a commitment to choosing the path of loving kindness over self criticism.
As we are often taking on extremely well trodden neural pathways, we need to be in this for the long haul.
Procrastination is a waste of our precious time
I probably don’t need to presence you to the destructive force of your procrastination. Of the addictions mentioned here, this one might be the most pervasive.
Hours, days, weeks wasted on social networks, endless researching and an unhealthy interest in executing household chores. It’s grim.
Perhaps even more so than negative self-talk, the decision to deal with your procrastination is a revolutionary act every single day. That’s because even when you stop, you have to deal with the consequences in the form of others people’s reactions. People aren’t used to dealing with you when you aren’t procrastinating.
To stop procrastinating, we have to be willing to see the truth – and embrace fear of uncertainty
Where does procrastination feature in your day? What is underneath it? We begin to break procrastination’s hold through asking the questions.
Distinguishing what’s really at the root of your procrastination is key. Are you telling yourself a story about your capabilities? Perhaps you have a limiting belief or two to expunge around your abilities? (You are not simply being ‘lazy’ and ‘weak willed’. If you were, you’d be having a much better time.)
When we procrastinate, sometimes we are just not compelled by the goals we have created. If that’s the case, then we can create some better ones.
Finally, we procrastinate because of fear of uncertainty. Is this going to be a waste of time? Are we going to actually master this? What is the R.O.I. going to be?
There is no easy way around a fear of uncertainty. I think it’s important to work at improving our tolerance for it (who wants certainty anyway? Boring) and find goals and set intentions that feel so good to do, that we lose attachment to the outcome. Things that we get kicks from just by the doing; we are being pulled along by love.
If you can find the courage to work on something that might not work: well, you’re killing it.
Our other addictions – over-achieving, feeling important and approval-seeking
- Over-achieving. A.K.A Rat Race syndrome or feeling like we never ‘arrive’. Using our jobs/careers, partners and creative pursuits as sticks to punish ourselves with. Our ways through this one is practicing self-acceptance and mindfulness.
- Feeling important. Deriving your sense of worth from your levels of in-demandness, busy-ness or your date-ability (for e.g.). If this is you, you’ll probably be addicted to your phone and email. When we are addicted to feeling important, we can’t relax and just be. It indicates that we need to work on our self-worth (inner-sourced).
- Approval-seeking. Using social networks and people in life to grant us the approval we never grant ourselves. Disentangling ourselves happens through self-acceptance.
Why this is so hard
I probably haven’t told you anything you don’t already know here.
As usual with any psychological/spiritual journey, we need to be willing to do things differently. We need to be prepared to walk a more truthful path, relax into a better self awareness, stop over controlling, be open, get proper support, and cultivate a greater love of self.
The counter practices offered above won’t produce an instant high. Your dopamine pleasure centers will initially take a hit when you cease ‘doing your thing’. But the effort is worthwhile, because they lead to a longer term sense of freedom and fulfillment.
In our quick fix culture, that choice makes you a Revolutionary.