Aren’t we all addicted to something? Isn’t an addiction really just habitual behavior that is difficult to recognize and to change? I came across a piece in Caroline Myss‘s August newsletter that spoke powerfully about our everyday addictions and the healing process. I excerpted the second half of her article here. To read the entire piece, you can sign up for her newsletter on her site, or read it in the archives once it’s posted. Safe journeys and successful healing to you.
AM I AN ADDICT?
Excerpted from Caroline Myss newsletter article
August 2013 SALON: INTO THE WORLD OF OUR ADDICT ARCHETYPE PART TWO
Are you? Of course you are. Who isn’t? Whatever else you do, do not tell yourself that you are not an addict. You may not be hooked on street drugs or alcohol or any of the obvious substances, but let’s go to the next level – psychic addictions. What about power issues, attention getting tactics, entitlements (endless list of those), manipulation tactics, self-pity (that’s a favorite), lying (another popular addiction), stealing (a nickel or a million dollars – it’s not the amount that makes you a thief), gossip, breaking your word, making excuses for yourself, blaming others for why your life is a mess, – the list is endless. These forms of behavior are character defects, to be sure, but they are also psychic addictions. Why? They are addictions because you automatically rely upon your dark patterns of behavior as a means of survival without a giving these actions a second thought. In general, you do not stop to consider the long-term consequences of a dark action upon others or the entire fabric of your life. Rather, you rationalize your actions by some entitlement – perhaps a wound from your childhood or some injustice done to you at work. Or you tell yourself that you want to avoid hurting others or engaging in conflict. The excuses for deceit are endless but in the end, they are still deceitful actions that you rely upon for safety because you don’t trust the consequences of being truthful. This is classic psychic addiction behavior that allows a person to say, “What did I do? I didn’t mean anything by my actions”. Not taking responsibility for personal actions is yet another flag indicating addictive behavior.
The next questions are, “What are you addictions? How fast are they contributing to the destruction of your health and life, not to mention your psyche and your spirit? And, are you interested in doing anything about any of your addictions?”
When it comes to directing people to heal, I am obviously of the school of mind that it’s tough work and blaming another person for the way you are eventually becomes a weak argument. At some point, if you are serious about healing, you have to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and take charge of yourself, regardless of your background, as healing the authority your background has over you is part of the journey itself. You cannot heal an addiction and play the blame game simultaneously. These two ways of thinking X each other out. Having said that, I always tell people that healing does not in any way mean that a person forgets the nightmares of their childhood or youth or even adult years. That’s impossible. The challenge we face in healing is one of repositioning those memories, of not allowing them to have control over the rest of our life. Healing is not about forgetting though it is about forgiving – a subject for another day.
Deciding to leave the world of addiction consciousness begins by making a decision as to whether you want to actually challenge that part of yourself. If you do, if you actually want to break free of a dysfunctional pattern of behavior to which you are addicted, your next step is to identify it. Observe that behavior in you as if it’s not you, as if you’re observing a stranger. Observe what situations seem to activate that pattern. Once identified, you form and act upon a behavioral pattern that is more positive or at least less destructive. Then you have to stick to your new behavior like a duck on a June bug. That’s where the hard work comes in – and it’s really hard. Old ways die hard and that dark little voice in you that always gives you permission to do the weakest thing, to indulge in destructive behavior, to feel sorry for yourself, to blame someone for your life – that’s a powerful voice. It’s actually a reptile in your psyche that needs to be exorcised and it takes effort, lots of effort because whether or not you realize it, you’ve come to rely on that reptile to make your life easy. And it always has. Moreover, you have no idea what, if anything, will replace that reptile once you dismantle that one from your psyche. All you’ll have left is clarity of mind and for so many people, clear thinking is the most frightening level of consciousness in their world. You may need the assistance of a counselor for this type of work, as this is rigorous.
There is nothing simple about taking on an addiction. But then again, there is nothing simple or easy about healing cancer either or about weight loss or about initiating any real act of personal transformation. Of course it’s difficult. How could it not be? Do you think being an addict is easy? Really? Think of all the difficulties your addictions have created for you and add those up. The difference between the challenges initiated through healing and those created through addictions is that addicts don’t care about the mess their behavior creates. They don’t care about the pain their power plays bring to others or how their endless entitlements place demands on the lives of people.
Healing is a different type of pain. It’s the pain of becoming aware of the power of one’s strength and weakness, of one’s capacity to love or do damage to oneself and to others, and of how the most challenging person to control in life is ultimately yourself.
For those of you who are addicts or are dealing with addicts and need help along the way, let me add that the genius of the Twelve Step Program is that it provides people with an internal value system that touches the spirit without directly being religious or spiritual. The fact that this program provides food for the human spirit is its grace. Likewise, without finding an internal value system that speaks to the human spirit, replacing the shallow needs of the ego, self-serving addictions will continue to consume a person’s psyche. A person will likely continue to want more stuff, becoming terrified of aging, and always think there is something more in life waiting for them somewhere. And that person will be haunted by the fear that every one else will get more stuff then he or she will. Such is the way of the person addicted to the ultimate hell – endless fear.
- Remember we are all addicts. Observe yourself and what shadow pattern kicks in automatically as your primary safety net and why.
- What is an alternative behavior? Are you courageous enough to introduce that into your life? Keep in mind that you do not introduce a healthy behavior just once. It has to become part of your lifestyle.
- Do not look for positive feedback or rewards for any positive changes that you introduce into your life. Any and all changes have only to do with you wanting to be a better person.
- You may want to find a support person – a counselor or a spiritual director. These are not small changes we are talking about.
- Finally, I am always one who encourages inner work, reflection, and prayer as a given part of life, but especially when you undertake personal transformation. You need to read inspiring sacred writings. You need to know that becoming clear and empowered is exactly the true meaning of discovering your inner potential.
- Be blessed on this journey. It’s the only one that keeps getting better.
For more on Caroline Myss, visit her website at http://www.myss.com