You’ve probably had this experience: You’re anxious or you’re angry or you’re lonely and you want not to feel that way. Right now. So, with a sense of restlessness and agitation and maybe an inner declaration of “I can’t stand this sensation for one more minute!”— you jump immediately into action. You do whatever it takes to move away from the almost-unbearable reality of that overwhelming emotion.
What’s the Big Hurry?
The hallmark of an addictive, compulsive process is that there is a sense of urgency. There is a sense of being in a hurry to find relief: “I have to have a drink now.” “I have to release this sexual tension now.” (Anger and loneliness often masquerade as sexual tension and excitement.) “I have to move away from this discomfort now.”
And, if that immediate obedience to your emotional discomfort becomes a habit, that habit can, over time, become an addictive pattern. You’re angry: so, you lash out at someone, or you drink an “adult beverage” or smoke weed. You’re anxious: so you go shopping for something you don’t need or that’s not in your budget. You’re lonely: so you temporarily boost your serotonin levels with a pint of Hagen Dazs. Or you sit at your computer and distract yourself with online pornography.
Medicating vs. Relating to Your Emotions
You’ve managed to medicate the emotion, but you’ve also managed to abandon a part of your inner self (what I call your “Inner Community”) that needed you to connect and be relational with him or her. After either numbing-out (Hagen Dazs) or distracting yourself by getting emotionally-high (e.g., creating emotional drama) as a way of distracting from your emotions, you will crash. It might take an hour or it might take a couple years. But, you will crash. And you will crash right back into the original emotional state, except now, because this part of your self has been abandoned by you, you crash down to a more intensely painful place than where you started.
Emotions are Addictive
Emotions are the raw stuff of our neuro-chemical responses to people, places and things. And sometimes those emotional reactions reflect our personal history of neglect, abandonment or abuse. Emotions, without the mediating influence of our witnessing consciousness remain primal, isolated and as random as a downed power line in a storm, sputtering, sparking and whipping around uncontrollably. Without some means of being authentically connected with oneself, without all that life-force energy being channeled in some relational way, things can get out of control. In fact, your whole life can get out of control.
Feelings are Relational
For the purposes of this discussion, here is my definition of feelings. My feelings are what happen when I consciously (more…)