Learning Addictive Patterns

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I was curious to know which topics you might want me to speak about in my next podcasts. My poll on Facebook resulted in different requests. One of your requests was anxiety. Another one was addictions.

The latter one is a much more complex topic. I might need to preface, that I am not an addiction councillor. One way in which I can speak to the topic of addiction is in how far it has touched me personally. Another way is to share my understanding of the origin of addictive behaviour. I grew up with a close family member who was an alcoholic and thus have experienced how destructive and challenging an addiction is for the entire family. I was also at one point in my life in a relationship with a man who had an alcohol problem, until I realized that we cannot help somebody who is not ready to change. I had to make the self-loving choice to get out of that relationship.

I believe it is important not to downplay addiction, no matter how socially acceptable the substance or activity somebody engages with in an addictive way is. I believe that as parents, grandparents and educators we can make a huge difference for the next generation if we understand how addictions begin. Making sure that children do not learn addictive patterns of behaviour is as important as teaching them their ABC’s or math skills. What can we do to address addictions? Let’s explore why addictive energy shows up.

We need to begin with a definition of addiction. Recognizing addiction can be quite intuitive and you might feel that you will recognize an addiction when you see it, but in order to discus the topic we need to come to an agreement as to what qualifies as an addiction. An addiction can be defined as “something to which we have a strong predilection for and have little control over our actions in relation to the desire” (Dr. Alexandra Katehakis). We may find that a lot of our time is spent either engaging in the addictive behaviour itself, or in preparation for the experience of it. Unlike other things which we enjoy a lot, an addiction can have a certain component of secrecy and also shame connected to it. This is especially true when the behaviour we are engaging in is at odds with our own personal value system. Denial might also be part of the addiction.

Most people think of drinking or taking drugs when they hear the term addiction. However, there is a long list of addictive behaviours we engage in. Just a few examples of those behaviours are addictive eating, depending on alcohol, smoking cigarettes or marijuana, taking drugs or medications, addiction to sex or pornography, engaging in workaholic behaviour, addictive exercising or working out, gambling, compulsive shopping and overspending, addictive consummation of TV, video games or other electronics, obsessive engagement in social media and much more.

Why do we interact in an addictive way with certain substances or activities? What is going on with these behaviours?

These are all short-term coping mechanisms to distract ourselves from unpleasant emotional states. We have been conditioned to respond to emotional pain, sadness, overwhelm, stress and other uncomfortable emotions by eating, drinking, smoking, or distracting ourselves with any of the other above mentioned activities. Even nervous habits like nail biting, lip biting or twirling hair are subconscious attempts to deal with unpleasant emotions. They have become our pacifiers.

Short-term, these activities might feel like they give us some relief, calm or comfort us, but we have not addressed the real problems by engaging in these behaviours. We have taken our emotions and pushed them down with food, alcohol, drugs and we have distracted ourselves from acknowledging and feeling them.

Every emotion gives us feedback about unmet needs or another situation which needs to be addressed. When we are, for example, experiencing sadness or grief, it’s because we are feeling a loss. We need to process that loss. If we are feeling anxiety or fear, we need to take action steps to explore this and achieve greater safety. If we are feeling that something is unfair, it is a call to “make fair” or forgive and let go. If we are feeling anger, we need to investigate what more vulnerable feelings are underneath anger and need to be addressed.

Instead, we ignore the messenger. We are doing what we have learned as children when we were comforted with a pacifier or with food. Our caregivers didn’t know that the soother to make us stop crying, or the cookie to sweeten the disappointment, or the tub of ice cream for the heartache, or the bag of chips to stuff the anger down would become our automatic go-to and our basis for any addictive behaviour.

When I was teaching elementary school, we had an interesting unit one year, an extension to the regular curriculum, which was proposed by an older colleague of mine. The unit, which we taught in the grade 3 classrooms, was around recognizing unpleasant emotions and developing different action strategies. The idea was for the students to learn that soothing with food, TV or electronic activities only led to the emotions temporarily going away, while seeking human contact and talking to a person of trust was soothing, but also helpful in regards to changing the emotional state or addressing the underlying need that wasn’t met.

Addictive behaviour is often established in early childhood. Human beings need other human beings for regulation. It is the job of the primary caregiver to be present as a secure anchor for the child and as an interactive regulator who soothes, comforts and supports in a gentle and loving manner so that a state of high sympathetic arousal (fight or flight) or parasympathetic responses (freeze response or dissociation) can be turned into feeling safe and secure. What happens instead, due to the fact that parents themselves have not learned to rely on human interaction but to rely on outside stimulants, is that they model addictive behaviour when they are emotionally aroused.

Only 54% of people in our society today have experienced and learned a secure attachment style. Parents can only do the best based on what they know and understand. Children who do not have conscious and emotionally present caregivers inevitably find strategies in order to survive and often carry these energy-relieving patterns into adulthood. The result of these childhood experiences is a dependency on external soothing often combined with distrust that others are willing and capable to meet their needs.

Does or did your toddler have a pacifier? Once they are two and a half or three years old, you will probably be advised that it is time to take this soother away. Be aware that with this common habit they have already made the first experience of an object to go to for comfort. Make sure you let your child make the decision of how and when to give the soother away. I heard a lovely story the other day of a mother explaining to her daughter that she is so big now and doesn’t need the soother anymore but that her younger cousin now needs it. She is allowing the daughter to decide without pressure when it is time to wrap the soother up as a gift and pass it on.

At the same time, the mother of course also needs to offer her presence, and the presence of the grandmother who looks after her daughter a lot, as human alternatives to the soother. When we expect our toddlers to get rid of their pacifiers when they are not securely attached, they will inevitably develop other habits of soothing. They need to learn that they can count on their caregivers. We might not personally be able to be there for them all the time but we can direct them to trustworthy and conscious adults who will support us. That way we can provide that secure anchor for them and teach them how to soothe through human contact rather than addictive substances or activities.

The particular addictive substance somebody is abusing is only the secondary problem. The primary underlying problem is that we learn addictive behaviour. Rather than judging others for their addictive behaviour, let’s take an honest look in the mirror and examine in which ways we also tend to reach for outside stimulants. In which ways are we comforting or distracting ourselves instead of facing challenging emotions and addressing our unmet needs? The best thing we can do to change the problem of addiction is to start with how we handle our own emotions. Let’s throw out our adult pacifiers, so that we can teach the next generation a healthier approach to handling our emotional states. After all, our emotions are like a friend who never lies to us.

 

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Angelika
905-286-9466
greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

Steam Kettle

Have you ever engaged in any of the following behaviours, short-term or long-term? Most people are familiar with at least one of these responses.

– addictive eating, drinking or smoking

– taking drugs or medications

– engaging in workaholic behaviour

– addictive exercising

– gambling

– shopping to feel better

– addictive consummation of media

What is going on with these behaviours? These are all short term coping mechanisms to distract ourselves from unpleasant emotions. We have been conditioned to respond to pain, sadness, grief, and stress by eating, drinking, smoking, or distracting ourselves with any of the other above mentioned activities.

Short-term, these activities might feel like they give us some relief, but we have not addressed the real problem by engaging in these behaviours. We have taken our emotions and stuffed them down with food, alcohol, drugs or we have distracted ourselves from acknowledging and feeling them. We are doing what we have learned as children when we were comforted with food. Our caregivers didn’t know that the cookie to sweeten the disappointment, or the tub of ice cream for the heart ache, or the cake to stuff the anger down would become our automatic go-to and our basis for any addictive behaviour.

steam kettle cropped

Do you still remember those old fashioned steam kettles which sat on the stove with a flame burning below? John W. James and Russell Friedman use the example of such a steam kettle to explain what is going on. These kettles were fitted with a whistle to notify us when the water has reached the boiling point. Instead of responding appropriately to the whistle and dealing with the hot water, we have been trained to jam a cork in the spout. The cork represents our beliefs that sad and other uncomfortable emotions are too painful to feel and should be kept under wraps. A steam kettle without a cork can release built up energy right away. A steam kettle with the cork builds up to an unbearable amount of pressure. As a result, we engage in one of the addictive or unhealthy activities above to relieve the pressure short-term. They help us to temporarily forget or bury our emotions.

Unfortunately, emotions are energy in motion. Energy has to go somewhere. It ends up stored in our bodies and manifests as energy blockages, pain and illnesses. Suppressed emotions consume tremendous amounts of energy. We need all our strength to keep the cork in the spout and all our concentration to ensure the steam kettle will not explode. The more emotions we push down, the more energy is required. Unresolved emotional issues have a negatively cumulative effect. We lose our health, wellbeing and joy.

Stem Kettle - When you welcome your emotions

To change the addictive behaviours and to regain our full energy potential, health and happiness, we need to learn to deal with emotions differently. Instead of pushing them down, we need to look them straight into their face; instead of judging them, we need to let them be what they are; instead of blaming others for our emotions, we need to take responsibility for them and forgive others for triggering them.

Nobody makes us feel angry, sad, “not good enough” or any of the other many emotions. Other people and circumstances are not responsible for how we feel inside. If somebody brings low energy, addiction, victimhood or other states of mind into your life which you do not want to partake in, set clear boundaries. Then take responsibility for your own emotions and do the “happiness work”. Decide to work thought and release what you do not want and bring joy and happiness into every day. Gratitude, joy and laughter are a choice; they are your choice!

We also need to teach our children that they are strong enough to feel any emotions. All emotions are good because they give us feedback. Anger is the brightest warning light. It gives us the feedback that something is not right. Underneath the anger, there are usually other more vulnerable feelings. We can teach our children to listen to what is really going on, that their needs matter and that they can share their feelings and needs.

Steam Kettle - Your emotions are your best friend

Emotions inform us. Sadness, for example, gives us the feedback that we are missing a person or object. Grief is long-term sadness due to a loss or change we’ve experienced: something is still incomplete in regards to this change and needs to be completed. Depression could be hidden grief. Frustration lets us know that something is not working, that our needs are not met. Fear and stress are a sign that we need to change our stories and beliefs, which cause anxiety and overwhelm.

However, before we can address the needs these emotions inform us about, we need to remember that all emotions are good. To shift out of our unhealthy responses to emotions, we need to accept them, love ourselves with them and take responsibility for them.

In my one-on-one sessions as well as in the Shadow Energetics workshop, I teach an emotional release process. By applying this process, we change how we handle emotions and we have a tool to effectively release stuck emotions from our body and field. Once we have released the emotional charge, we can understand the message and address our needs appropriately.

Angelika, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca, 905-286-9466

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Emotional Triggers for Overeating and How PSYCH-K® and Hypnosis Can Help

It is 9 o’clock at night; you are finally relaxing, maybe sitting in front of the TV. All day long you have made reasonable eating choices, you had dinner and you are not really hungry. However, something drives you to go to the fridge or cupboard and look for a snack. You know the snack will make you feel better, it will help you to relax, be a nice reward or distraction.

This is the moment to stop right there and ask yourself what negative emotion you are trying to distract yourself from. What were you just feeling before you got up to go to the fridge?

Your response might be to say, I felt bored, or I felt tired, or I felt like I needed a treat. But we might have to go deeper to really understand and eliminate the emotional trigger.

Emotional eating is one of the biggest sabotaging factors when losing weight or maintaining your ideal weight. As long as your subconscious does not support you fully in your health goals and operates on limiting beliefs losing weight and maintaining that weight might always be a struggle.

Such limiting beliefs are:

I need my comfort foods.

I am always hungry.

Eating is a good distraction from negative feelings.

Eating makes me feel good (safe / comforted / happy / loved / calm like me / relaxed… etc.)

These beliefs can be re-programmed using Psych-K® and/or Hypnosis with supportive beliefs like:

I easily let go of all emotional reasons for overeating.

I am free of emotional eating.

I stop and think before I eat.

I distinguish clearly between physical hunger and emotional hunger.

I satisfy my emotional hunger in appropriate ways.

When I am tired, I rest.

When I feel sad, I…

When I feel scared, I…

When I am bored I always find something better to do than to eat.

If you want to find out more about techniques to eliminate limiting beliefs and emotions that lead to emotional eating come to a

FREE Seminar on PSYCH-K® and Limiting Beliefs around WEIGHT LOSS and EXERCISING

I will be speaking to limiting beliefs, fears, challenges we face and how we can change that “self talk” at the subconscious level to better serve our health and weight loss goals!

Stephanie Lowe of Destiny Fitness will also cover some key exercise and meditation strategies you can use toward your success.

Wednesday, April 24th from 7:00pm to shortly after 8:00pm.

LOCATION: Mississauga (Streetsville)

Please RSVP for this free seminar! Spaces are limited.

Stephanie Lowe

416-818-7837

stephanie@destinyfitness.ca