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Addictive Behaviours Are a Strategy to Soothe Pain

I did a lot of thinking about sugar over the past couple of weeks. I wrote about it, looked at my own sugar consumption, and attended Sarah Peyton’s teleseminar on Addiction. I also gave and received empathy, and resolved a situation that had been kind of niggling at me for a little while. And I realized these things:

hiking in the rainforest

  • Addictive behaviour gets out of control when it’s being used to soothe the pain of trauma or other less intense emotional distress.
  • Addictive behaviours move gradually from conscious awareness to unconscious response – after engaging in an addictive behaviour for a while there is no delay or conscious reflection between the cue/craving and engaging in the addictive behaviour. In plain language this means that at first you’re making a conscious decision to drink, eat sugar, go shopping, or whatever. After a while, you just go shopping whenever the urge hits without really thinking about whether or not you should.
  • When I reflected on, got empathy for and then resolved my niggling emotional discomfort, the urge to eat sugar at night pretty much went away.
  • However, the addictive behaviour that I engage in automatically all day long is not actually eating sugar. It is looking at my phone.

Duh. I knew this but was kind of allowing it to sit there in my peripheral awareness without acknowledging it. Internet addiction is nothing new for me – I’ve written about it before and have successfully kept it in check before too. I know it affects my parenting. It most certainly affects my cooking. (Burned rice, anyone?) My husband and kids get on my case about it, teasing me about looking at my phone too much or flat-out asking me to put it away. Google even made an auto-awesome video of me looking at my phone. Oh, I do have a hard time leaving my phone alone.

If addictive behaviours are a strategy to soothe pain, which I believe they are, what pain am I trying to soothe by distracting myself with my phone? Something to think about for the next few weeks, I guess.

(An interesting side note: both of those past posts were written in the late winter/early spring time of year. Hmmm.)

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{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Emily van Lidth de Jeude February 22, 2014, 10:34 pm

    Oh YES! I do think it has something to do with this quiet, reflective, renewing time of year! And I, too, have an internet addiction. I don’t have a phone but I have to check my email Every. Single. Time I walk past the computer… and sometimes make trips to this end of the house just because too much time has elapsed since the last time…
    The only thing that keeps me from that is getting engaged in my activities. then I can go a whole day without the slightest concern for who might be emailing me… no matter how important the things I’m expecting may be (because unfortunately, my job, volunteer work, kids’ activities and schooling AND my art career all revolve around internet communication, now. My personal unscientific opinion is that we have these internet addictions because of the inherent isolation and boredom of parenting. As much as we love time with our kids, it can be tedious, and we become attached to the internet as our lifeline. That’s why I try to have tea with my friends! To break up the constant monotony of cooking and cleaning and managing my kids’ busy social lives. Because I’m a human and I need a social life too!! :-]
    But I also think personal contact is much healthier and more rewarding.
    Emily van Lidth de Jeude´s last blog post ..Self Discovery: Patience

    • michelle March 1, 2014, 9:27 am

      Yes, I think you’re right. I definitely reach for the internet when I’m feeling bored, lonely, disconnected, and “not needed” with whatever is going on in the moment. I wonder what it would be like if I reached for a notebook to write in or a nice thick, interesting book to read instead, or called a friend to actually talk on the phone… Would those things be more or less nourishing than facebook? More or less likely to meet my needs?

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