Shards of Consciousness

Beat Emotional Addiction

Freedom, that's what I want...
Jimi Hendrix


A major difficulty we all experience is addiction. "I don't drink", or "I don't take drugs" you may say, because these are what we usually think of when someone mentions the word addiction. But do you get upset when you aren't able to watch your favorite TV show? Do you feel like you have to check your email several times a day? If your girlfriend doesn't call do you get tense waiting for her? Do you get upset if your dinner isn't on time? These are all signs of addiction. An addiction is something that isn't physically necessary, but leads to negative emotional states when the thing we are addicted to isn't supplied. Some of us are addicted to schedules, some of us are addicted to being in control. Some of us are addicted to reading. Some of us are addicted to watching new movies.Are these addictions bad for you? In the short run most people would say no. In the long run are they bad for you? Yes. They limit your freedom, decrease awareness, lead to negative emotions, and decrease happiness. Is it easy to get rid of an addiction? No, its not. If anyone tells you otherwise they are lying or unaware of what they are talking about.

When you are addicted to something, you believe it is necessary to your well-being. To get rid of the addiction, you have to change this belief. The first step in this process is to detach yourself from the negative emotion that the addiction creates when it is not satisfied. We all have thoughts and emotions. That is part of being a conscious being.

Unfortunately, we also identify with our thoughts and emotions. When we feel tension when our desires aren't satisfied, we say "I am tense" rather than "I feel tense". If we feel fear we say "I am afraid" rather than "I experience the emotion of fear". The difference may appear to be small, but it is not. When said the first way, we identify with the emotion, making it a part of ourselves. When said the second way, we see the emotion as an experience, but not as part of us. We detach ourselves from it. We still feel it, but since we are not identifying with it, we have gained in awareness and freedom. So whenever you feel a negative emotion, tell yourself "I feel anger", not "I am angry". "I feel tense", not "I am tense". I am not saying that you shouldn't feel the emotion. All emotions are valid, and we experience them. We are not our emotions, though.

The second step is to detach yourself from the positive emotion that the experience creates. This is even harder than stopping the identification with negative emotions, but it is necessary to stopping the addiction process. Yes, we all feel happy at times, we feel joyous, we feel contentment, we feel comfortable. But we are not these feelings They are experiences that enter and leave our awareness, but they are not us. Again, they are perfectly valid experiences and you don't want to repress them, but don't identify with them.

As I said earlier, this process is hard, but it is worth it. For every addiction that you are able to release, every belief that you need something you are able to change to the belief that you enjoy something, but don't need, you have won that one more bit of freedom and self-awareness. You have attained that one more bit of true happiness.

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14 Responses to Beat Emotional Addiction

  • i think that you are wrong about emotional addictions.
    Emotional addictions do exsist once it starts taking up to much of your time, but doing things that are unneccesary does not mean you are addicted to that or that it is hhurting you. In your world a person would not do anything because everything could be seen as an emotional addiction to you.

  • Hi Adam, and well come.

    I think you misunderstand what I'm saying here. I'm not saying anything about not doing things that are unnecessary. Whatever you do or don't do you are doing something, so keep doing things. I'm talking only about learning to be detached from the emotions that are naturally created by what we do and experience. Emotions are markers, signs and cues, but not ends in themselves.

  • I can agree with some of the statments made about detaching from your emotions because it put you in the driver sit as an observer than the observed. You open your mind to a understanding that the environment around you has been create by you not forced on you. From that point if changes need to be made from a bad situation into a good situation you act on it quicker than that the next person that my linger on in confusing. Very interesting I can respect your philosophy.

  • Hello Denise,

    You touch on one of the major benefits of not identifying with our emotions - the freedom that such detachment brings. As long as we are our emotions, we are driven by them. We react to situations, rather than acting, and so are more likely to act slowly or in non-productive ways.

  • Hi Everyone,

    Rick, I wanted to thank you for your posting. I recently aknowledged my emotional addition. I feel, I act was the way I lived my life until this awareness. You mention consciousness and I wanted to expand. For me I notice I feel with a conscious mind, however I react from an unconscious place. I have told myself over and over that I will not react when negative emotions (feelings) occur, but what I have noticed is when I am emotionally drunk, I stop consciously thinking. So I have enough sobriety today to catch myself when I relapsing.

    #5749 | Comment by Susan on April 9, 2009 1:21pm
  • hi
    the way you described it, emotional addiction sounds just like substance addiction. when you don't receive it, you feel down, frustrated and disturbed. once you do receive it you feel relieved and well. perhaps the brain mechanism for addiction is the same. but to let go of a substance one goes under long sessions of rehabilitation. do you know any solutions for letting go of emotional addictions like "attention seeking", "rage" or thrill...

    #6196 | Comment by allen A on May 2, 2009 4:44am
  • alien A,

    In a way, this site is about decreasing emotional addiction. More to the point, psychotherapy, meditation, practicing contentment, or even practicing Buddhism or yoga can all help.

  • I realized when physically separated from addict husband that I was emotionally addicted to his chaos...been a long, self-discovery process. When the counselor @ YWCA's Domestic Violence Program questioned me about what function the communication had for me, a lightbulb went off in my head- Wow! I've gotten something out of the insanity. I had to look deep within myself for the answers. That inner voice inside me said, "You are waiting for this person to affirm who you are." Why would anyone need someone else (rather than him/herself and their Higher Power, who unconditionally accepts & loves us all) to AFFIRM THEM? I realized how sick I was and now I am heading in another direction, making different choices. It isn't easy to change, but there is NO ALTERNATIVE. I want a happy life and I've learned that it's an inside job. I continue to wrestle with the voice in my head that wants to spar with my insane ex-husband, but if I choose to entertain this choice, my self-respect goes down the shitter. He's not worth my time or energy. I am FREE. I set myself free when I relinquish that toxic part of me that believes I will change him or anyone else. God, I feel grateful to be kicking my emotional addiction. Thank you for your great articles!!!

    #7061 | Comment by Margi on June 29, 2009 10:57am
  • Congratulations, Margi!

    I want a happy life and I've learned it's an inside job.

    That's the crux, isn't it? Having learned that lesson, you're on your way. There'll be ups and downs, but if you retain that, you'll have happiness.

  • Im in a bad relationship right now. This is the worst one yet. Not only is he emotionally abusive with jealousy, suspicions, accusations, allegations, etc. etc. but he has been physical and threatening. Somehow he always keeps sucking me back in. My friends have said what happened to the strong woman who stands up to everything went. I don't know I have to say to myself. I feel beat down and tired of it all. Sometimes I wonder would it just be better he kill me and get it over with then I don't have to deal with it anymore. I'm tired of being afraid or waiting for the next time to get or make my get away. My whole life has been turned upside down in the last 10 months and I need to get my life back. Why do I allow this jerk to keep doing this to me? I going to get to the bottom of it though with myself. You would think when he tried to strangle me because I wouldn't listen to him, that that would have been enough, or when he threatened to kill me, or if he ever caught me with someone that he would kill him, make me watch and then kill me. You would think all of that would have been enough. What the hell I say to myself. What the heck have I done.

  • Sharon,

    My advice to you is to pay a visit to the local women's shelter. They see people who experience what you are talking about every day. They understand the complexity of how a woman gets involved in such a relationship, the type of man that acts in such a way, and the psychological, emotional, and economic complexities that keep her in such a relationship. They can point you to resources to help change your situation.

    I know it isn't as simple as Just leave. There would a lot more happy people in the world if it were. But you do have the strength to leave. You're too close to see it. Work with some of the resources the women's shelter can point you to can help you understand the roots of your attachment, and allow you to reach that strength within.

  • I have just realised in the space of the last four days that I am addicted to negative emotions! It's been a revelation. I go on binges by looking for something to get upset about. I know that when I am looking, I will not have to look far. It's usually the TV, the newspaper, someone else being in a bad mood, or the usual run-of-the-mill stuff with my family of origin. So then I get angry and start criticising. Then I will feel ashamed because I lost control of myself. Then I will feel bad and depressed for a few days. Then I will eventually cry and feel relieved. Then the cycle starts again. I am just in shock about all of this. I cannot believe that I have been doing this to myself, for YEARS! I am ready to stop and have been using the twelve steps from AA. I know it's going to work and I can't wait to see what life without addiction is going to be like. One other thing I want to mention. The way that I figured this out was that I was reading a book about fear and it asks you to look at the payoffs for not accepting responsibility for something. The light bulb just went off. I have also read some recent research which has demonstrated the chemical component of this addiction. Apparently whenever we choose a negative emotion, the pituitary gland in the brain secretes what are called neural peptides which then lock into every cell in the body and chemically alter their functioning in numerous ways. Mind blowing. All I can say is, I feel like Alice, I just fell down the rabbit hole. I know this will increase my ability to be a peaceful happy person because I don't have to choose to take the drug.

  • Thank you for your story, carly. I congratulate you on the self-awareness you have shown. Good luck!

  • i think your words apply totally and completely to my condition and i feel my happiness is dependent on one person alone but i need to r please helpecover from this addiction but not from the relationship

    #7321 | Comment by anoo on January 3, 2010 8:25am

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