In my work as an addiction therapist, I have helped hundreds of people in overcoming all kinds of addictions. Usually, when people think of addictions, they think of addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, gambling or internet gaming. But these more commonly known addictions are just the tip of the iceberg, for beneath these conspicuous behaviours lie another kind of addiction: addiction to non-physical things.
By this, I’m referring to certain emotions or states of being. The things that can’t be seen on the outside but take place in a person’s inner world.
This should not be hard to imagine. Even if you’re addicted to a physical substance or an activity, the dynamics of addiction truly take place in your mind.
Here are some of the non-physical things that you can be addicted to:
- Feeling guilty
- Wanting something but can’t have it
- Being betrayed
- The feeling that something is unresolved
- Something is missing/going wrong/out of place/needs fixing
For some people, their addiction comes from a condition I call ‘chronic negativity’.
Sometimes, people don’t want to change, despite their insistence that they do. How can I tell? As soon as the person finds a solution or have a problem resolved, instead of acknowledging the breakthrough, let alone rejoicing and celebrating the succeess, they immediately focus on the next problem. This constant looking out for the next thing to solve, shifting the goal post, indicates that the person is addicted to struggling.
Their minds are constantly interpreting events in a negative way and putting a negative spin on everything. If solutions are offered, they tend to respond with a “yeah, but…” statement. There is always something wrong, somewhere. They’re caught in a typical addictive cycle of chasing the “next high”, i.e. the idea of solving the next problem, except they’re chasing an illusion, much like a heroin addict is chasing the illusory high which the drug can never give him or her.
Pattern of Self-Punishment
For others, they may harbour such a deep sense of guilt that they’re driven to punish themselves. They’re so used to feeling guilty that they’re constantly creating opportunities to give themselves more feelings of guilt – even as they proclaim they want to rid themselves of guilt. Overtime, the pattern of punishing themselves is so ingrained in them that they’re not aware of their behaviours and the decisions/choices they make which align with this pattern.
How do I find out if I’m addicted to something non-physical?
Look at what is not working out in your life, especially recurring themes. What do these situations leave you feeling?
If you repeatedly find yourself ending up in a similar state, then assume that you are addicted to the feelings that these situations give you. Some of you reading this may at this point protest the idea that you’re addicted to this familiar outcome. You may even be outraged by the implication that some part of you might have chosen those situations – the very situations you have been struggling to resolve . If you’re sick of repeating unwanted patterns in your life, then it doesn’t serve you to launch into a debate about how untrue it is for you. It may even be an unconscious attempt at delaying your healing. Instead, it would serve you to simply assume that it applies to you and do the work to free yourself from it.
Just gently reflect on this idea that you are addicted to the feeling it leaves you. What if? If you do this with an open mind, you will likely feel a growing sense of empowerment. Discovering a previously hidden aspect of you often leads one to a place of empowerment.
Decide to drop it. Once you know you are addicted, you can simply drop it.
Gently ask yourself, what if you choose to drop it now?