In the previous two articles, we looked at the nature of addictions and the steps to overcoming addictions. The last step in overcoming an addiction is to identify and deal with the underlying issues. This can be difficult, as there are usually many issues that overlap.
And yet, this is an extremely important step. If you don't look at and resolve the underlying issues, you will simply move from one addiction to another. The addiction is the mind's attempt to find a distraction and feel good, because it is unable to feel safe. Resolving the issues will allow your mind to feel safe and stop seeking relief through addictive behaviors.
The following are some of the most common issues that lie beneath an addiction:
1. Our minds need more information.
We often become anxious when we do not know enough. The mind will try to fill in the blanks with information from past perceived threats, when it does not clearly understand what is going on in the present. And often this creates anxiety to the point where we become afraid to ask, because we're afraid of hearing the answer.
The solution is to ask the questions. Our minds are already dealing with the worst case scenario, and the information that we gain will likely not be as bad as what we are imagining.
2. We are misunderstanding other people's intentions.
Constant conflict is a very common reason that people have for wanting to escape into addictions. Conflict is a very stressful thing, and it can happen frequently when we lack the tools to communicate effectively with those around us.
We lack the tools, because we don't understand that other people's words have nothing to do with us. We take their words to be truth, when, in fact, their words are showing nothing but the other person's misunderstanding. If somebody says something about us, it means nothing about us. All the other person is showing is what is going on in their head.
So how can we begin to communicate without making assumptions? First, we need to realize that the other person's words can not possibly be about us. Then we can begin asking open-ended questions and being curious about the other person's thought process. As we do this, we will experience less conflict and more understanding.
3. We are not asking for what we need.
When our needs are unmet, our minds feel very unsafe. And a lot of the time, we assume that our partner and friends already know what we need, but are unwilling to give it.
Completing household chores in a marriage is a classic example. Often, the wife does most, if not all, of the housework. And yet, she may be working full-time outside of the home, taking the children to school and activities, and otherwise be very busy. She becomes angry, because the husband does not offer to do any of the housework, and this resentment leads to conflict--and addiction.
The solution is to communicate more clearly. If we need help with something, we need to ask for it. We should not assume that other people will "just know."
4. We are not establishing boundaries.
Another source of stress that leads to addiction is an inability to set boundaries. We are afraid to say "no" whenever someone asks something of us. This can lead to us becoming overbooked and not having the time we need to care for ourselves.
It is all right to let a friend know that we will not be available to talk after 5:00. It is all right to do this, even if that friend is going through a difficult time. It is all right not to volunteer for everything, and it is all right to say "no" to something without having to give a reason.
5. We are making incorrect assumptions about ourselves.
Nothing limits us as much as limiting beliefs. More often than not, our fear and anxiety is being caused by our subconscious thoughts. We are assuming that we can't handle a situation, that we lack the skills, or that we are not lovable.
The rule of thumb is that we should question every thought that doesn't feel good. We need to question, and then redefine. Limiting beliefs are probably the most common issue that underlies addiction.
Working through the issues can take time, but as we are able to do it, we will see our addictive behaviors fade on their own. It is definitely an investment in ourselves that is worth making.
If you are ready to make this investment in yourself, consider an individual e-mail, chat or video session.
Are you a frustrated parent? Increase your parenting toolkit and learn new disciplinary strategies in a supportive community for as low as $10!