Are You Addicted To Your Emotions

brain life coach mindset Sep 27, 2022

When I ask the question “Do you think you are addicted to your emotions?” I usually get a very stressed and uncertain response. “I’m not sure, is that possible?

The answer is YES, and it is surprising how many of us are addicted to our default emotions and don’t even realize it.

Just to clarify, it’s not actually the emotion itself but the chemical release that comes with the emotion. Each emotion has a chemical reaction, and our brains respond by giving us the feeling of relief or a reward.  So, the more we experience that “chemical hit” the more we need or crave it just to get ourselves back to what feels “normal.”

It’s not that different from an addiction to sugar, alcohol, or drugs only this shows up in the form of anger, anxiety, sadness, victim thinking, blaming, guilt, shame, etc. Don’t’ get me wrong, all these emotions may be valid, and I am a huge believer in feeling your emotions and working through them. However, when they constantly show up and become your go to emotional state, they may have crossed the line from helpful cue to disempowering addiction.

I started to see this years ago with my client, Adam, a young aspiring writer and actor who was struggling with depression. He had experienced some childhood trauma including the death of his dad at a young age and there were communication issues with his mother.  

Even though he had some success there was a prevailing belief that it was never good enough and that in the end it wouldn’t work out. And that clouded every area of his life…. work, relationships, friendships and now his mental health.

So, we created a little experiment, for 3 days every time he was about to feel “sad or depressed” he had to:

Examine: What was really happening in the moment.

Answer: What was one good thing going on in that moment …. even if it was the tiniest thing (like he was breathing).

Explore: What was happening as a result of that one thing.

Feel: that positive response in his body

Celebrate: a fist pump or happy dance are two of my favorites

He was shocked at how many times he reflexively went to his “sad state”. “I was working on a tv script” he said, “and I wrote a really inspired act, and then I suddenly felt sad. I kept thinking who cares no one will ever read it anyway. Ahhhh, I feel like a machine,” he laughed, “like I have been programmed for sadness. Even when things are good, I find ways to make it bad.” 

That is a key for all emotional addiction, we seek out ways to find or we create those feelings For example, perhaps you choose to watch a lot of scary movies, relive arguments, repeat negative mantras in your head, obsessively read news or social media that makes you feel anxious, angry or depressed. Have you ever done that?

Adam continued, “But then I tried what you said and really focused on the moment, and realized, I was just sitting in a chair writing. Clearly there was nothing to be sad about. On the contrary, I was kind of proud, I just wrote a kick ass few pages and if I allowed myself to feel that I was excited and hopeful. I was even having fun and wanted to write more.”

Initially this took effort, that urge to go into sadness was very strong but when he really honored what was true in that moment, he felt better and better. That 3 day experiment turned into 3 weeks and by 3 months, he was noticeably happier and more at peace. He started dating an amazing woman and taking more risks with his work. He also weaned off his anti-depressants and in his words, felt “alive” again. 

I challenge you to look at your emotional responses. Are there patterns? Are there triggers to those patterns? Do you notice you may feel anxious or angry even when the situation doesn’t really justify that reaction. Be careful not to judge or suppress, just observe, and track what comes up. 

If you notice, there is a consistent emotion or pattern of emotions then you might just be addicted. As with any addiction, the first step to success is awareness. So, kudos, if you just had an aha!!

Here are a few some ways to help.

  1. Do the exercise that I asked Adam to do. Notice every time you feel a pull towards your default emotion. And examine honestly, “ What is happening in the moment?” Does it really justify that emotion? What is one thing that is going well? (even if it’s tiny…that counts) and what good is possible as a result of that one thing? Feel the new, more positive emotion and celebrate that.
  2. Meditation- Meditation is a powerful way to reset our nervous system and literally shift our mindset, emotions and even our genetic expression. As little as 10 minutes a day can make a difference in your brain and body
  3. Exercise…better yet Moticise;-) – Exercise is a powerful change agent and has been scientifically proven to reduce depression and anxiety. The changes that occur in the brain with exercise help you to be more creative, focused, and motivated. And adding mindset to movement is an effective way of rewiring new thoughts and emotions into your body.
  4. Change your patterns. Do things differently. If you feel sad, find activities or people that make you happy. If you feel angry, try yoga, prayer something more soulful or even a funny movie to help bring in a different emotion. Change your schedule…get up earlier, exercise in the morning instead of the afternoon, eat different meals, play some different music. Many of us do similar things every day and with that comes similar thoughts and emotions. In fact, studies show going on vacation is one of the best times to change a habit. Why? Because everything is different, so we aren’t on autopilot.
  5. Get support- Having positive support is the number one way to succeed at creating lasting change. Support impacts your nervous system, it lowers blood pressure and reduces stress, It helps create courage and camaraderie and studies show that people with support systems are 65% more likely to achieve their goals.

**Bonus: connect to Spirit…. whatever that means for you. Our connection to God, spirit, guides, universal energy, source, nature….is a key. It helps us surrender to the unknow and to trust that we are not alone. YOU ARE! And you are capable of so much more than you believe. These addictions are fears getting in the way of you sharing your gifts.

Let them go, be your best you and SHINE!

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