Did you know about 80% of waking life is ruled by the unconscious, a sphere we know almost nothing about? Addiction is a classic example of this. We know we shouldn’t, but we do it anyway. We get stuck in a rut. It happens slowly, outside of our awareness and is fueled by unconscious energy.
The place where the conscious and unconscious meet has no definable boundaries. Needless to say, we humans do not like uncertainty. So we suppress it and override it. But it doesn’t go away because it’s out of sight. This “energy” shows up as troubling behaviors and self-proscribed “treatment plans.”
Stuck in a Rut
In most cases, our symptoms tell us how what is driving the anxiety. But it’s usually not until we reach a tipping point that are we compelled to act. Until then when our body aches persistently, we pop a pill. We do this because this is what we are told to do. We’re not taught how to listen to our bodies and connect with our inner healer.
The willingness of ego to be lulled by excuses or seduced by strategies is what also keeps us stuck. The only way through these dilemmas is “through” them, which is what our protective mechanisms are protecting us from experiencing.
Habitual Ways of Being
All addictions are anxiety management systems. Since no human is free of anxiety, we all have our habituated, reflexive means of coping. The logic of addictive behaviors is that we experience something adverse and through connection with some “other” (thing, person, substance) we feel a momentary good. For most of us, addictive patterns lies so much at the heart of daily life that we simply look upon as our routine.
If we are ever to address an addiction, we have to root the beliefs to which our psyches, and therefore our addictive strategies, are in service to. This is no easy task. After all, how many of us are able to bring core fears and anxieties into consciousness, see the source and set about a plan of change?
Freeing ourselves from addictive behaviors requires identifying what emotional reality and risk bearing what has been perceived as unbearable. Sometimes the first hurdle is getting over the shame. It’s normal to fear abandonment, suffer boredom, or experience depression. Our anxiety is not making stuff up. Life is lethal and real dangers exist. The point is that until we can feel these things – really feel them and not anesthetize them – we will remain unmotivated to change our lives.
Insight sometimes is the easy part. Finding the source of our anxiety is the real work, without which we stay stuck and at odds with our self.
First we must stop scapegoating the ego and acknowledge that anxiety is real. Second we must compassionately ask what purpose the maladaptive behavior serves and from what it is protecting us. If what we discover can be confronted, then we may step into a larger journey, having discovered the path to freedom.