Some addictions are hard to see because society considers them normal.
Addictions. Huh. That thing everyone whispers about or worse, tiptoes around, yet, has the power to take someone out or ruin their life in the blink of an eye. An addiction, as defined by Merriam-Webster.com, is evident when there is a “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (such as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal”. I think that most of us would agree with this definition.
More broadly defied, Merriam-Webster.com states that an addiction is characterized by “persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful”. And although this might seem more general, this is the definition that I believe to be more important whenever someone is determining whether or not they have an addiction.
Truth is folks, everyone has an unhealthy dependency on something. Absolutely everyone that you meet. And if someone tells you that they do not, then you absolutely know that they do. And this is perhaps, the most overlooked symptom of an addiction. We all have some degree of addiction. The question is not do I have one, but rather, what and where is mine.
Problem is, that when most people think of an addiction, they think of the classic examples such as drugs or alcohol, cigarettes, gambling or sugar. Although these substances and behaviors are common addictions, there are many other forms of addiction that unfortunately stay hidden from most people, because they are accepted by society as within the range of normal behavior.
Things like exercise, caffeine, reading, work, food, religion, and even technology are examples of addictive behaviors or substances when used to avoid there here and now reality of someone or something bothering you. This, coupled with the inability to choose to use or engage or not use or engage in these behaviors when feeling down, can also be an indicator of an unhealthy dependency or addiction.
I like to think of an addiction as broadly defined such as anything that someone uses to feel better, numb out or distract when they are having a hard day or a rough experience. We all have addictions to varying degrees, and the line between what constitutes a “serious” or “diagnosable” addiction between a harmful dependency on something is very small.
And quite honestly, it serves no purpose to mince words: if someone asks you whether or not you could give this person, thing or substance up for a period of time, and you feel panic or even look like a deer in headlights, then there is a reasonable chance that there is an addictive dependency that is present as a way of avoiding uncomfortable feelings or emotions.
Perhaps one of the most obvious addictions, and most socially acceptable addiction present day is right in front of our nose. We all use it. Repeatedly. And sometimes multiple times throughout the day. It is called technology, otherwise known as “screen time” for kids. If we think about an addiction as anything we do to take us out of the moment, there is nothing better than Facebook or the internet to help us pass the time or forget what was bothering us.
An addiction it is something as simple as use of or engagement in something that results in repeated harmful or dissatisfying outcomes, whether those harmful or dissatisfying outcomes are physical, behavioral or emotional. And addictions can not only be on a substance, such as cigarettes or alcohol, but that can also be process addictions, which are compulsive behaviors that have negative consequences for us.
Many abusive relationships are often process addictions that someone cannot break free from. In many cases, these process addictions go undiagnosed or unrecognized, which can be incredibly detrimental to self-esteem and worth.
Ever had a friend or loved one continue in an abusive relationship, saying that they need to leave but just cannot? Well, chances are there was some kind of process addictive quality in the relationship. It has only been fairly recently that there has been an increased emphasis on learning about process addictions in the mental health field, although these types of addictions and dependencies have been around for a very long time.
I tend to not get hung up on whether something is an addiction or harmful dependency because in my experience, anything that “numbs us out” or distracts us when we are feeling down or overwhelmed, or keeps us from having to feel more painful feelings if we were to stop, serves the same purpose: to get emotional relief in any sort of way available.
I am inclined to believe that everyone has an addiction or unhelpful dependency on something, and this dependency generally stems from an inability to get emotional relief in any other way. Depending upon the amount of emotional support in childhood, the degree, amount or severity of addictions in later life will vary from person to person.
If there was not much support for having or processing feelings as a child, then as an adult there is going to be little skill or knowledge about how to handle difficult feelings or experiences that occur in life. And this is where addictions come in- they give us emotional relief when we are unable to do so in more satisfying ways.
Just because we look like an adult, and do grown up kinds of things such as drive cars, pay bills, raise children and so forth, does not mean that we are emotional adults fully capable of supporting all of our feelings in satisfying kinds of ways.
The question is not “do I have an addiction” but rather “what is my addiction”. An addiction is anything we use to feel better that we cannot give up or stop voluntarily for an extended amount of time.
So the next time you feel compelled to get on the computer or to go for that run, or even notice that you have to have your Starbucks before you can do anything else, you might ask yourself: “what would happen if I didn’t do this”…?
And if there is any sort of negative reaction that happens inside at the thought of not making that next move, you might want to explore that further to determine whether you are avoiding some emotional experience thing that isn’t going to go away on its own, and actually limits the amount of satisfaction you can feel in your life.
Kate Schroeder is a therapist and coach who utilizes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ® and the Enneagram, as well as body-mind-spirit healing practices to access one’s inner wisdom in order to create a life filled with satisfaction. Start changing your life today by downloading her guided imagery program, Soul Meditations: Building A Relationship That Lasts, or visit Kate at Transformation Counseling, LLC for more information on how to connect with your best self.
Don't fall for the hype, you need a little of both!
"Introversion" is the trendy word right now. Or should I say the non-trendy word? Often, when I am working with a client and we discover that they are truly an introvert (as determined by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)Personality tool) I get some sort of scrunched-up facial expression from them, as if they’ve just smelled something undesirable.
This is generally followed by some kind of response similar to, “But I like people and I like doing things,” followed by all sorts of facts and arguments about why this cannot be true as if they’ve just gotten some sort of terminal diagnosis that spells the beginning of the end for them.
And the exact opposite happens for those who are determined to reallybe extroverts by the MBTI personality tool (in my experience, everyone wants to be an extrovert but far fewer actually are than statistics show).
As I sit across from them, they look as if they’ve just won the lottery.Like someone has just told them they have found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I generally get some kind of comment like, “See, I knew I was an extrovert — I am really social!” followed by an enormous smile on their face.
The truth is that even introverts require a connection in the world and with others, and all extroverts require solitude to some degree. These are signs of being human, moving toward and away from connection according to one’s needs. And is also a sign of living in balance and harmony with one’s needs.
The problem is that as a society, we often get fixated with only one end of the connection spectrum: either totally connected all the time and unable to easily move into solitude or totally immersed in solitude and unable to easily move toward connection.
Finding the balance between solitude and connectedness is an age-old concern, that often gets muddied up when we are living from anything other than our true self and needs.
Trying to find a healthy balance between being happy on your own and with yourself and how to connect in meaningful ways with others is not something we can “figure out” with our brain — we have to live the experiences and learn from how they impact us in order to determine what we need at any given moment.
Here are 5 suggestions for how to begin to find your own unique balance between solitude and connectedness:
1. Know thyself.
Seriously. Even Socrates was on-board with this idea. He observed that people were trying to know obscure or hard things before they knew about themselves. He called them ridiculous. So did Plato. Even St. Augustine supported this notion when he stated that “People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”
The ancient philosophers were on to something a long time ago that we have a hard time remembering today.
How many people dedicate extensive amounts of time, money and energy traveling the world or immersed in the pursuit of knowledge about topics outside of themselves? Lots. But very few people put the resources or efforts into knowing themselves, which is perhaps the most important knowledge we can acquire.
And then they complain that they're not happy. They isolate and avoid relationships. And then they complain about that.
Or else they cannot be without “doing” or “producing” or “socializing” lest they have to begin to feel things that they have kept running from feeling their whole lives. And they complain how they are too busy and stressed-out.
Self-knowledge and deep understanding of our true needs and desires, as well as deeply understanding the habitual ways we all have learned to unconsciously protect ourselves emotionally, leads to greater satisfaction in life.
Because for those still living out of protection mode, life is much more limited and dissatisfying. And for those who are interested in learning how to find a balance between separateness and connectedness, here’s a place to start.
2. Find and build the community that will support who you really are — not who they want you to be.
I love this one because it is so simple. Not easy, but simple. Find a way to do what makes you happy and not to do what doesn’t make you happy. That’s it. Avoid those people, places, and things that do not make your heart sing— you know them: these are the experiences or relationships that feel obligatory or required.
And in order to be able to do this, you have to know who you are and what makes your heart sing. What brings satisfaction. And the only way to know this is to begin to dive deeply into building awareness of who you were designed to be. Once you have that a deeper understanding of who you really are, you can begin to notice more quickly when you are doing something you want to do and when you are not.
Some people are even so dedicated to supporting their true self that they have learned how to track on an energetic level when they are moving towards something that will be satisfying or when they are in protection mode and following the steps outlined for them so that they don’t rock the boat.
In fact, some of these people are so astute that they can tell the distinction between isolation and solitude — which on the surface can look the same — by deeply connecting with a physiological experience inside. Talk about having a GPS that will never get you lost.
And when we begin to be able to deeply discern those people, places, and experiences that are supportive of who we really are from those experiences that are not, then we naturally begin to gravitate toward what feeds us and what does not. It’s kind of like having super powerful emotional taste buds.
3. Clear out the emotional debris that gets in the way of easily moving in and out of separation and connectedness.
About those people who are molecularly-connected toward a deep wisdom inside that guides them toward satisfaction and away from dissatisfaction: These are people who are deeply committed to their own personal growth and have spent years working on their emotional process.
Rest assured, though, that even those of you who are just getting started can build a beginner’s awareness of what gets in the way of being able to find balance. And it doesn’t take an incredible amount of time. But it does take commitment to yourself and to your discovery of what you really want.
You can start by simply paying attention to how your body responds to the meaning of the different words "solitude" versus "isolation", "connectedness" versus "socializing".
Generally speaking, the things that we want and need create a softening or relaxing experience in our body and energy, and the things that are against our grain tend to create a hardening or tensing physically and energetically.
And for some of you, it may take the help of a therapist to begin to be able to see how your defensive structure differs from your true spirit. A defensive structure is always about protection and survival emotionally. Isolation is an example of a protective or defensive behavior. Especially if the isolation does not feel like a choice.
Separateness is an example of a healthy behavior, a boundary that is creating space for you to get your needs met. It is always about choice, although we may have some strong feelings about needing to be separate from others for a while to regroup. And although on the surface they can look similar, they originate from two very different energies and motivations in our body.
Simply speaking, isolation leads to dissatisfying experiences and separation tends to move us toward satisfying opportunities. It may take some help to begin to see the difference between these two experiences and what gets in your way of being able to easily distinguish between these two experiences. You’re probably going to have to do some work to learn more about this and to solidify your knowing deep inside.
4. Keep in mind that balance doesn’t look the same for everyone.
Balance is not always a 50:50 split between things. In fact, it's defined differently for everyone, and will look different for everyone. Some people need more time on their own to recharge their batteries, but for others, they may need more time with others in order to regroup and rebalance. So we have to keep an open mind that your balance is likely going to look different from another person’s balance, and that is OK.
What we’re talking about is the difference between extroversion and introversion — as well as differences between things like being a feeler or a thinker — all preferences on the MBTI personality tool.
There are also differences in defensive structures, as well as leftover needs from childhood. Many factors play into how everyone determines what feels like enough alone time and how much contact they need with others.
When I start working with a client in therapy, one of the first places that we start is by using both the MBTI and Enneagram personality tools to gain a beginning understanding of how they were truly designed to be, and how they’ve protected that vulnerable child inside from heartbreak and disappointment.
Over time, with the use of this self-knowledge, people can begin to see when they are off balance or out-of-center when it comes to a need, and when they are right in line with supporting themselves. And it does not generally take that much time to begin to be able to do this. And the wonderful thing about this work is that in this process, they organically begin to move toward what makes them feel good and away from what doesn’t bring satisfaction.
Remember that your balance is going to look different from another person’s balance, and that is OK. Sometimes it can help to create daily reminders that it is your right to be alive in whatever way that you need. And to call on your support, both inside and outside of you, to back yourself up on this.
5. Commit to yourself, not to behaviors.
One of my favorite quotes is the old saying that goes something like this: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” I like this because it is all about teaching someone how to be self-sufficient over the long haul — not just how to acquire immediate change, which is never usually sustainable for very long.
This is the idea behind committing to yourself, not to behaviors.
Changing your behaviors, although perhaps helpful in the short term, is not going to be very sustainable as you go throughout your life.
All it is going to take is one or two hard days in a row, and fairly quickly you’re going to find yourself back in old behavioral patterns. This is old safety and because it is so familiar, it is the default. So, if you have a tendency to isolate, it is not going to be very long before you run out of support inside and find yourself back into your isolation no matter how hard you promised yourself you were not going to do that again. Or for those of you who cannot be alone no matter what, it’s only going to be a matter of time before you find yourself back out in the world again because the solitude was unbearable.
But committing to yourself means that you will learn not only how to be more in touch with your true needs and desires, but also how to discern more easily between your true need for separateness or connection or hiding out in isolation or socialization when that arises.
By committing to you and not just to a behavior, you will build a skill that will last for your lifetime, and if you’re committed to it, get passed down to your children and their children and so on.
This will also allow you to experience greater freedom in your life, as you learn to depend less on environmental feedback about what you need and more on the messages inside of you. And this is what emotional maturity or “growing up” is all about.
Being unable to easily move toward or away from others is a sure sign that there are deeper issues going on that are motivating the fixation in either place. If you find yourself getting stuck on either end of the continuum of connection, then it is time to go get some help to discover what is in the way of easy movement back and forth.
It is also important to also remember that balance doesn’t always reflect a 50:50 split. The balance between solitude and connectedness is different for everyone, and it is important to discover what that balance looks like for you. Keep working on deepening your understanding of yourself — in this manner, you’ll be able to deepen your connections with others and find meaningful relationships in your life whether in solitude or connectedness.
Kate Schroeder is a therapist and coach who utilizes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ® and the Enneagram, as well as body-mind-spirit healing practices to access one’s inner wisdom in order to create a life filled with satisfaction. Start changing your life today by downloading her guided imagery program, Soul Meditations: Building A Relationship That Lasts, or visit Kate at Transformation Counseling, LLC for more information.
Originally published on YourTango.com
Ah…happiness. The ever-elusive quest we are all on from birth… it is the one thing that drives us to be in a constant search for that “right” person, the “right” job or house or to reach our ideal number on the scale; a static goal line that once we get there, will secure this state of wellness for eternity.
It is the number one goal most everyone has for their life- even if their more immediate goal is materialistic, it is always driven by some esoteric belief that if they just acquire “enough” of this material item, then they will feel satisfaction or happiness FOREVER. As if somewhere in our minds, we believe that we can just unlock the secret to happiness, we won’t ever have to feel unhappy again.
Ah…what an idea. How wonderful would that be to never wake up again in a bad mood or feel disappointed by a friend or partner, or get rattled and begin to go down the rabbit hole of emotions after a difficult interaction with your child or boss. If we just…have…do…more, then maybe we’ll get there.
Trying to be “happy” and stay there is like trying to catch smoke. Impossible. Just about the time that you think you have a jar full of smoke, and open it up to see how much is in there, it all drifts out and you’re back where you started.
What an impossible idea really: to hinge our enduring well-being on a dynamic state of being that is designed to ebb and flow in its most natural form. Trying to be happy forever would require us to become robots, capable of feeling only what is programmed into you upon design.
As humans, we are wired to feel an enormous range of feelings, which creates the beauty, drama and mystery of life. Feelings, are spontaneous emotional reactions to something happening around us in our outside world. As such, when we have a particular feeling, we are responding in a particular way to a stimulus outside of us.
And in this manner, our feelings can tell us much about how we regard and consider this particular experience, person, thing, but ultimately what we need about the situation. To have our settings get stuck on “happy” all the time, would actually be a disservice to us in that we would never have the benefit of our other filters to tell us about our preferences, needs and desires, and to create the nuances that makes each of us unique, and ultimately “us”.
So, I’m going to share with you a little secret to how you can both be more satisfied, i.e., happy, in your life AND maintain your uniqueness as a human being. Are you ready? Here I go… happiness isn’t determined by how you’re feeling, it is determined by how you FEEL ABOUT how you’re feeling…
There it is folks. The simple truth about how happiness and satisfaction evolve. Or not. Now, the concept is a shockingly simple one, as you can see, but absolutely not easy to achieve. And here’s why.
At some point in your development as a small child, likely in many cases even before you began to have conscious memory, you began to be shaped by others’ judgements and reactions to your feelings. Intentional or not, how others responded to your feelings and needs, began to encourage or discourage repeating those feelings or not.
For example, if when you cried, you were responded to, enough of the time, with gentleness and patience, compassion and understanding, then it is likely that you grew up to become an adult who can easily be vulnerable and open with your sadness. If, however, you notice a hitch at all in your ability to easily be sad and openly stay with your sadness as an adult, then it is likely that you have some internal and unconscious judgment and resistance towards the feeling of sadness.
So, that’s why when you feel sad now, it feels like some kind of predicament or problem when it happens or like something that has to be hidden or stopped. And for those who have a fair amount of body awareness, you might even notice a body response when you start to feel sad: you might notice that you tense up, collapse energetically, get a headache, or even have to leave the room.
Not your fault. You were programmed long before you had the ability to have choice or boundaries against this kind of assault on your feelings and aliveness, when you were met with less than satisfying responses to your sadness. Problem is, it is still an unconscious reaction that happens inside whenever sadness begins to come up, because the earlier experiences around how your sadness were consistently met, were so unpleasant.
It’s called conditioning, and is much like when we come across a food that once made us physically ill, we have an involuntary body response towards moving away from this food because the experience of getting sick was so unpleasant. It’s involuntary and cannot be overridden by thought alone.
Anger is another perfect example. How many of you were encouraged to be angry as a child, to have a “no” or a protest towards what was happening to you or around you? If you’re anything like most of the rest of us, anger was an experience that was quickly punished or stopped. And so now, there is an unconscious association inside, whenever we begin to feel anger, that it is “bad” or “wrong” or something to be avoided or stopped, and so we often do, along with a physical body response to shut this energy down.
The dilemma around all this is two-fold: even though this shaping and judgement around your feelings when you were a child, was not your choice originally, it is now interfering with your ability to feel your aliveness and satisfaction (happiness) in your adult world. And here’s the kicker: it is also your responsibility, now, as an adult to clean this mess up, if you so choose to have more satisfaction and happiness in your life.
Really. You might have some feelings about this. It would sure make sense if you do. And the tricky part of this all is that most of how we feel about how we are feeling is unconscious. We were not born to judge feelings as good or bad, we were blank slates on which feelings just were experiences, not good or bad.
So, when you find yourself having a feeling that feels “bad” or like something you want to stop, that is a sure sign that you have some healing to do in this area. And this healing is not just a cognitive healing- that only works with your thoughts. The healing also has to encompass the body and spirit too in order to fundamentally change your unconscious response to your feelings. It is time to get out of the box with your healing.
So, happiness isn’t about how we are feeling. It’s about how we feel about how we are feeling. When we can reach a place of unconditional support for ourselves, no matter what it is that we feel, think, choose, want or do, then we begin to have more of an experience of peace and satisfaction no matter what is happening inside or outside of us.
And I cannot think of a better definition for happiness than that. Can you?
Kate Schroeder is a therapist and online life coach who utilizes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ® and the Enneagram, as well as body-mind-spirit healing practices to access one’s inner wisdom in order to create a life filled with satisfaction. Start changing your life today by downloading her guided imagery program, Soul Meditations: Building A Relationship That Lasts, or visit Kate at Transformation Counseling, LLC for more information on how to connect with your best self.
Are you just giving up?
Have you ever, in the middle of a fight or particularly painful moment in your relationship, flashed to the idea of “just breaking up” as a way to end the problems? You just want some relief from the conflict that is going on between the two of you, and your instinct is to simply get out.
There is nothing more painful than to be in conflict with someone you love, especially a romantic partner. Especially when it's an ongoing situation.
Many couples have conflicts that continually resurface, and despite engaging in these conflicts over and over, the blocks never seem to really go away. There might be a truce for a while as everyone is on their best behavior, or one person in the relationship finds a way to put up with their partner’s questionable antics — but the problems never seem to go away. Instead, the problems change or shape-shift as couples learn more about each other. This is because their deepening understanding of each other allows them to arm themselves with more intricate, unconscious ways of playing out childhood issues in their relationship. But this isn't all bad!
That's because, if this is happening with you, it means your relationship is unfolding in exactly the way that it needs to in order for you to have an opportunity for incredible personal and emotional growth.
Some people believe that we get involved in romantic relationships (unconsciously) in order to heal our wounds from childhood, as this is the stage upon which all of our attachment and relationship issues from childhood are triggered and play out front and center. And doesn’t this make sense? Our romantic relationships are, generally, the closest opportunity to mirror our attachments to our primary caregivers.
Given that our romantic or closest friendships most closely resemble the intimate attachments from childhood, this is where we project all of our unfinished business from childhood.
And it generally is never a “coincidence” that our partners often have some resemblance, emotionally, structurally, or even on an energetic level, to one or both of our parents or caregivers. This is not random at all. That can make it scary to be vulnerable. So, when these ongoing conflicts arise, what they are offering you is an opportunity to learn about your unfinished relationship business from childhood, and how you are also impacting the conflict between you and your partner.
The actual dilemma that you feel, the part of the conflict that you are hung up on, believe it or not, lies within you.
Your responses and your reactions, as well as what you believe that you need from them is based upon your unfinished developmental and relational issues from childhood. Think about the last time you asked your partner to take out the trash and they didn’t do it — or acted like they didn’t hear you. The upset that you feel isn’t fully about the trash sitting in the bin for days on end.
Sure, neglecting to take out the trash might be something that you are not ok with in any circumstance, but the discontent and upset about this that keeps you up at night, or drives you to talk with your friends about it, is really about something much deeper.
Perhaps it's about how you don’t feel heard or important perhaps, or taken seriously in the relationship, and the inability to work through these and resolve them is about some unmet childhood need around this. Because if it was just about the here and now, you’d be able to work through them easily and move on with things.
If something feels complicated or ongoing, it’s because it’s the past getting projected onto the present. It’s never really just about the trash.
You and your partner actually might be more compatible — or incompatible — than you know, but there is no way to really know this unless you are willing to look inside and examine whatever unfinished places are showing up front and center in your relationship. Both of you. And if your partner is not interested in looking inside at their own part while you look at yours, then this would be a sure sign of incompatibility between the two of you, and a great time to decide whether you are willing to take 100% responsibility for the health, well-being, and outcome of the relationship. But don't let your fear of commitment keep you from doing the hard work. And if not, walk away.
Unless your physical safety is compromised, walking away from a relationship just to stop the pain or end the problems is never going to be the solution that brings you the most satisfaction.
It may bring you relief, but relief and satisfaction are not the same things. And I can guarantee you that you are just going to be walking into the same problems in another relationship — it is just a matter of time. Hanging in there and growing together is incredibly fulfilling and awonderful way to build intimacy in the relationship. But it takes two for this to happen.
Kate Schroeder is a therapist and life coach who utilizes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ® and the Enneagram, as well as body-mind-spirit healing practices to access one’s inner wisdom in order to create a life filled with satisfaction. Start changing your life today by downloading her guided imagery program, Soul Meditations: Building A Relationship That Lasts, or visit Kate at Transformation Counseling, LLC for more information on how to connect with your best self.
Originally published at YourTango.com