This blog identifies 3 ways addictive behavior controls your life. Continue reading if you are ready for self-awareness.
According to Wikipedia, the definition for addictive behavior is a behavior, or a stimulus related to a behavior (e.g., sex or food), that is both rewarding and reinforcing, and is associated with the development of an addiction (repetitive participation in an activity regardless of harmful results). Even though we usually think someone else has an addiction, not us, we all have addictions to some degree. Granted, some might be more harmful to our bodies and lives, like an alcohol addiction, but all addictions serve a purpose and could be harmful. Once you know the purpose your addictive behavior serves for you, you will at least be more aware, and you might even chose to make a change. Addictive behavior controls your life in the following 3 ways.
1. Provides distraction from your feelings
Do you know someone who works "all the time"? If they are not at work, they are involved in a side hustle or in some money making activity with their friends or community organization? Maybe they are not getting paid for all this "work". They may be engaging in volunteer work - with the church, students, or other community organizations. Whatever they are doing, they are busy everyday, or almost everyday. I know someone, and that someone is me! Keeping busy can keep us distracted from our feelings or uncomfortable relationships or situations in our lives that we don't want to deal with. Just like, drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs, it can numb us from things we may feel when we are not busy. That is not to say that being busy, and using time wisely, in the end is an addiction, but it is something we are rewarded for that has that potential to interfere with our overall health - and keep us distracted.
Well then, how do you know you are engaging in an addictive behavior pattern, and you're not just being a good steward of you time? Some indications you may want to take notice of are the following:
1) You get ill or catch a cold every winter and spring or every few months.
2) You start to develop physical symptoms like high blood pressure, weight gain, insomnia.
3) Your relationships start to be stressful, develop strain or end altogether.
4) You hate sitting still, without a distraction of television or your phone.
5) You avoid your feelings, good or bad.
Of course, there are other reasons for these symptoms or behaviors, however, in the context of you never having time for the people and things you say you love, you may want to look closely. If you find yourself in this situation, I challenge you to take time to be still in body and mind to reprioritize. If you want ideas on how to be still or what to do once you are still and realize you need a change, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Gives you immediate gratification
How many people do you know who tell you about goals they have, things they want to do, or plans they want to make, and every evening, they watch their favorite shows instead of working on their goals? How often do you do that? It is immediate gratification to watch an entertaining show and then have that reference to talk with your co-workers about the next day. It can become addictive, in that you do it every night, and pretty soon years have gone by.
It is a lot harder, with no immediate return, to go the the gym to lose weight or goals to lower your cholesterol. It is a lot harder to go back to college to finish your degree. There is not immediate gratification, and in fact, you lose out on immediate gratification of stimulation and discussion with friends who are stuck in the immediate gratification cycle. It may not matter in the long run if you live your life this way, but it is important to know that becoming addicted to things that bring immediate gratification can interfere with things you want to accomplish.
3. Cognitive dissonance hides your addictive behavior
All of us use the coping mechanism of cognitive dissonance to some degree; it is the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions. We tell ourselves things about our behavior, so we don't feel bad, or to rationalize what we just did. In fact, we tell ourselves these stories so often, that we believe the story and not the action or behavior. We do this so we don't feel bad, so we can still think good of ourselves, or not have to change our behavior. For example - You are a person who smokes cigarettes. You know, and your loved ones tell you, that smoking causes cancer as well as other negative physical problems. You rationalize that you only smoke under stress to relax and only here and there. You even tell yourself you rarely smoke; it isn't that bad. If you wrote down when and how often you smoked, it would be much more difficult to tell yourself you rarely smoke, when you see you are smoking at least one cigarette per day. You could also tell yourself you don't smoke much, because you have not bought cigarettes in a month. However, you don't count the cigarette's you bum from a friend after work. We do this rationalizing all the time. I do it when I don't want to know how much of my "extra/leisure" money I use from my budget on Starbucks. When do you use cognitive dissonance?
How to reduce addictive behavior
The most important thing to decrease addictive behavior, is to let yourself feel, know, and see yourself for who you are. Stop judging yourself and start learning about yourself. Then you have to awareness to decide if you want to make a change. With the awareness, you will be happier for it.