When thinking about patterns of destruction in your life, figuring out the source of your pain is the key. An excellent way to do that is to examine the pay-off. What are you trying to get out of these relationships and interactions that ultimately cause you more pain and suffering? Love? Attention? Praise? Pity? Try to be unflinchingly honest with yourself; you don’t have to share the information with anyone else. (Although sometimes doing so is incredibly healing and liberating). Do you long to be the hero of the story, or the victim? Is it possible you’re addicted to painful feelings because they feel familiar? Awful, but like home, like what you know? If you can’t identify what’s driving you, it’s very difficult to do anything about it. It’s like hiking a slippery trail in the pitch-dark, you’re just going to keep falling and crashing into things or people, hurting yourself and others without wanting or meaning to, but being at a loss as to how to stop the cycle.
Sometimes the pull of these relationships is like an addiction. You need the fix. I think many people are addicted to something. We tend to think about drugs and alcohol, but people can be addicted to approval. A person who’s taught that love is conditional can perpetuate that idea in almost every relationship in their life, and feel they must earn love, they must be perfect to be appreciated. Evidence of that love is the pay-off in that case. A kind word, a hug, a thoughtful gesture, and the person feels good for a moment, and starts working again for the next fix, for the next high.
Pain drives addiction. That’s an absolute. A happy, healthy person is not going to shoot heroin or try crack, not even once. A happy, healthy person is not going to get drunk and stoned every night, or chase a partner who cannot love them well, or gamble away thousands of dollars every day, or shop online until they’re bankrupt, or eat ’til they throw up, or starve ’til they are bones, or watch porn relentlessly, or rage uncontrollably at their loved ones all the time. Pain is at the root of addiction, or more accurately, the refusal or inability to sit with it. It takes practice and tremendous effort to lean into your pain, especially if you have a life-long habit of numbing it out. We are taught to push this stuff down. “Don’t be sad”, “Don’t be angry”, “Don’t cry”. It’s like a cultural mantra for those of us in the west, to be strong and tough. That’s largely because of the whole “survival of the fittest” mentality which we’ve completely misunderstood and adopted as a way of being. It doesn’t seem to be working out too well for us.
So if you’ve been numbing out for years and you aren’t in touch with your perfectly natural feelings of sadness or anger or fear or confusion, shame or guilt or grief or jealousy, learning to open to all of those uncomfortable but necessary emotions is going to take some time and practice. You might need a considerable amount of help and support. It’s like learning a new language, only harder, because you’re adopting a new way of being. You’re changing your internal wiring. You’re intentionally crashing your own hard-drive. If you figure out the source of your pain and you open to it, you free yourself. You end the cycle. The pull of the addiction fades. It might creep up from time to time when you’re feeling vulnerable or tested, but you’ll recognize it right away and brush it off like a fly on your shoulder. That’s the formula. You can be in a state of craving, hungry for the fix, or you can be hungry for the truth, whatever it may be for you. The other option is trying to avoid your pain, and in that scenario, it owns you. It rules you. It will continue to drive you. You’ll have nothing but “sorry” when you could have so much love.
Sending you a ton of it right now,