Many people are unable to reach their wellness goals because of their struggles with various addictions. The word addiction brings to mind things like alcohol and drugs. But there are more subtle forms of addiction that can sneak into your life and cause havoc.
Subtle addictions, sometimes called soft addictions, can cause real problems. This is because they are not often recognized. Addiction is defined as great interest in a particular thing to which much time is devoted, or a state of physiological or psychological dependence on a substance or behavior.
Judith Wright, author of The Soft Addiction Solution explains that, “Soft Addictions are those seemingly harmless habits like over-shopping, overeating, watching too much TV, endlessly surfing the internet, procrastinating-that actually keep us from the life we want. They cost us money, rob us of time, numb us from our feelings, mute our consciousness, and drain our energy. And we all have them.”
These kinds of addictions steal your time, but they do it in a way that appears acceptable. That is the rub, in moderation or for the right reasons, they are harmless. However, when you begin to use the behaviors to distract or numb your feelings on a regular basis, they can become destructive to your total wellness.
Because these activities appear not detrimental you allow them into our life. You start occasionally engaging in them, until eventually you become dependent on them for the feelings they provide or lack of feelings they provide. Often these behaviors are chosen as a distraction to numb your feelings and keep you from facing a hidden personal truth.
Behaviors like zoning out in front of a screen, either watching TV, playing games or surfing the net, can steal your time very quickly without you even realizing it. While some screen time is fine, too much becomes a problem. The process is insidious. Screen time can numb the mind, leading to more and more of your time being spent in front of one. Time spent being passively entertained costs you something.
Begin by asking yourself, “What do I give up when I sit in front of a screen too often?” Things like, meaningful face to face relationship building with family and friends, much-needed physical exercise, fresh air, sunshine, personal development activities, accomplishing responsibilities, reading, hobbies, helping others, and the list could go on and on.
The other alternative is deriving a replacement-feeling from the behavior. Replacement emotions occur when you get some feeling from the behavior that compensates for a feeling you are not getting from another source. For example when feeling lonely or sad, you over-eat sweets to boost your mood. You would like that boost to come from positive relationships but since it does not you choose to get it through indulgent foods.
Another example is over-shopping. When you purchase more that you need on a regular basis, there is likely a replacement emotion driving that behavior. You get a boost or sensation from your purchases that would be better derived from other things in your life.
Although seemingly harmless, practiced overtime you will regularly deny yourself that which you really need, in lieu of the behavior you have used in the past as a pacifier. This is a second-rate substitution and in the long run will leave you unhappy and unsatisfied with your situation.
Recognize these behaviors; look for areas in your life where you might be using a behavior for the wrong reason, behaviors that are not adding value to your life. Target each behavior. Discover the payoff you get from doing them. Decide what emotion or feeling is attached to the behavior. Examine more deeply what the behavior is actually covering up.
Begin by asking yourself: What am I avoiding by participating in this behavior? What is making me want to dull my emotions? What area of my life do I not want to confront? What issue needs to looked at? What more could I get from my life if I limited or avoided this behavior?
When you pull back the curtain and look at what these behaviors are hiding, you will begin to see what is lacking in your life. From that point you can start to look at what replacement behavior would add value to your life. Replace the old behavior when you become aware of it.
It is this process of Recognize, Target, Discover, Decide, Examine, and Replace, that you can begin the healing process. It will allow you to break free of the soft addictions that have been robbing you of the abundant life you are meant to have. This journey of self-discovery is not an easy one but arrival at the destination is worth all the effort involved.