By Leo Babauta
Our lives are pervaded with addictions and distractions.
Social media, shopping, favorite websites and video services, alcohol, cigarettes, biting nails, porn, drugs, sweets, fried foods, soda, coffee, gambling, gaming, workaholism, complaining, avoiding, procrastinating, perfectionism, fantasizing, rationalizing, self-hating, sex addiction, drama addiction.
These addictions are some of the most common ways we have of soothing ourselves when we’re stressed or feeling bad about ourselves or others. When we’re feeling anxiety, insecurity, depression, anger, sadness, pain. When we’re feeling overwhelmed, bad about ourselves, self-doubt, uncertainty, discomfort.
We sooth ourselves with our addictions, until it feels like we can’t stop.
The first step to dealing with the addiction, of course, is to recognize that it’s a problem. I remember rationalizing for years why it was OK for me to smoke cigarettes. And to overeat. And to procrastinate. So many rationalizations! It wasn’t until I was willing to admit it was a problem that change was even possible.
I had to be willing to face the problem.
So the next step is resolving to take action. To make a change. There can be months between the time you admit there’s a problem, and the time you actually flip the switch in your brain to take action.
Once you resolve to take action and face the problem, the next step is to recognize that you’re doing the action to sooth yourself from discomfort and uncertainty.
You’re trying to avoid the discomfort and uncertainty by going to your addiction. The problem is that this works … until it doesn’t. At some point, the addiction itself becomes the cause of your stress, uncertainty and discomfort.
So recognize that you’re trying to sooth yourself so you don’t have to feel uncertainty, stress, discomfort.
Then here’s the trick: cut through the addiction by letting yourself feel the discomfort and uncertainty.
Give Yourself Permission to Feel the Discomfort
We don’t want to feel discomfort. We try to set up our entire lives so we don’t have to feel uncomfortable — our lives are set up in deep comfort and addiction, with as much control as we can create.
We have created a cocoon around ourselves. But the cocoon is a prison. It traps us into comfort so that we can’t do anything uncomfortable. It traps us in our addiction. It keeps us locked into our fears.
What if we could break out of the prison? What if we could gain true freedom to do anything we want, no matter how uncomfortable and uncertain? It would be incredibly liberating!
So here’s the training: let yourself feel the uncertainty and discomfort.
Try it right now: drop your attention into your body, and notice the sensation of discomfort and uncertainty. Bring curiosity: what does it feel like?
When you feel the urge of your addiction pulling you … don’t run to it! Pause, let yourself stay in the discomfort of not indulging in your addiction … and feel the discomfort, in your body. Feel the uncertainty that you’re trying to avoid with the cocoon.
Feel it fully, opening to it. It’s not a big deal. You can handle this.
Stay with it, as long as you can. Give yourself some compassion in the middle of it.
Fall in love with the moment, uncertainty and all. Discomfort and all. It’s a part of the uncontrollable mix of love, meaning, uncertainty, discomfort, and beauty.
Try this, and see if you can free yourself of one addiction this month, by not needing to run.