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Emotional Addiction

  1. How is emotional addiction different from other addictions?

>Emotional addiction has a lot of similarities to other addictions in that we have a go-to to deal with life’s difficulties. The main difference is that we become attached to certain feelings to cope or to confirm different fears or insecurities that we carry. I’ll note, many of the other addictions that are essentially coping strategies and self-sabotaging behaviors are most often a result of our emotional addictions. In essence, emotional addiction is usually triggered by a pain response that, although we cognitively do not want to experience, we become so accustomed to feeling that we crave it as an unhealthy strategy in our effort to deal with the world. These experiences also confirm certain negative beliefs we have about our sense of self.

2. What are some examples of emotional addiction?

>Oftentimes we become addicted to pain. I realize that being dependent on pain sounds counterintuitive, as most of us want to be happy and healthy. But when we’ve established negative beliefs about ourselves (or the world) at younger ages in an effort to defend or protect the parts that were wounded, we continue a pattern of beliefs and behaviors that perpetuates our negative beliefs about self, or our lives. These can be something like ‘I’m not good enough’ or simply feeling like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop or thinking ‘I’m not loveable,’ and those stem from past experiences when we were neglected, bullied, shamed, or made to feel inferior.

The baseline that was formed is very powerful and becomes part of our emotional and energetic imprint that establishes itself as a perceived truth in our whole-body systems. Even when we want something different for ourselves, the negative beliefs or painful memories create a repetitive cycle. It is the pain that we want to avoid but also the pain we are protecting, and in that protective coping strategy, we inflict more pain on ourselves by continuing to create scenarios or experiences that leave us feeling unlovable, alone, different, or not good enough.

3. How can you tell if you are an emotional addict? How does it show up in your life?

> The easiest way to tell if you are an emotional addict is to recognize the repetitive or familiar feelings that follow us in various relationships or circumstances. Sometimes this happens more in our personal relationships; other times we notice the feelings at our jobs. We often hear people say they are attracting the same kind of person or dynamic. That would be a signal that there is a habitual pattern within us that needs attention. Similarly, in our friendships or at our jobs, if we continually have difficulty with authority, jealousy, inferiority, or conflict of a repetitive nature, the pattern is often at play.

I have had an emotional addiction to loneliness. There was a deep feeling of loneliness that, although I do not like it, felt like home. That pattern would show up in relationships of all sorts, and the way I perpetuated the cycle was by finding fault in others or keeping certain people at a safe distance. Then when I felt ‘safe,’ I didn’t experience the pain, but I felt the loneliness. So you can see how we self-perpetuate the cycles and unknowingly create a reality that is feeding the pain, not feeding the healthy connections that we truly desire.

It's uncomfortable to take responsibility for these situations, but we have to look at why we’re either inviting in people with traits similar to others who have caused us pain or how we sabotage situations with assumptions, actions, or reactions that come from our own lack of confidence. We do this because we are looking for the confirmation that our limited and false beliefs about ourselves are true. Unfortunately, these negative beliefs feel so real that we often do not know how to be if we do not have these difficult feelings.

4.What if a person is in a relationship with someone who has past traumas or unresolved issues?

>It isn’t about understanding the other person; it’s about understanding ourselves. The truth is that if we find ourselves in those relationships, we have to look at the parts of us that are unresolved. Those parts of us are seeking a fix or a hit. Often that looks like seeking validation outside of ourselves, trying to fix others, codependency, guilt, or shame that is resonating with the difficult pattern of the other. It's very easy to just look at the other person and the problems they have or the behavior they bring; it’s harder to recognize that relationships serve as a mirror to a point.

We CAN choose to understand what emotional addiction is, where it is showing up in our lives, and then set the intention to seek practical ways that we can care for ourselves to break that habitual cycle.

Reflecting in this way can sometimes be challenging in the way we are asked to go deeper, beyond the excuses, beyond the rational mind and ego, and into the subconscious and our inner child, so we can actually learn how to make a difference in our own lives.

We must begin by acknowledging that we are likely contributing to our own unhappiness due to fear of some sort. It’s not easy to change, but that is part of life’s evolution and our growth and is the most natural part of living.

We are a society that wants ease and freedom, and discipline has become a word more associated with rigidity. However, self-discipline is a critical step of reparenting and can be one of the highest forms of self-love. Not only that but practicing self-discipline helps us remember our strength and builds our self-esteem and trust in ourselves. It’s really hard to make lifelong and positive changes when we don’t trust ourselves.

It’s a brave thing to commit to self-care and healing, and we need to honor where we are and not judge the process or our progress.

If we can access our true selves and attach to hope with the possibility of change, that is brilliant and a major part of the healing process.

Sending you so much love!


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