Are we addicted to happy?
20th July 2018
Is it possible to be addicted to happiness?
While it was Oscar Wilde who once famously said “everything in moderation, including moderation”, we wanted to explore the topic of addiction and whether there really is such a thing as “too much of a good thing” – a quote from yet another literary hero William Shakespeare.
Great thinkers, inventors, poets and philosophers have been contemplating these very topics over centuries and while there are no final conclusions to be made, exploring how addiction, our neuro-chemistry and happiness are all inter-related, can help every one of us improve the choices we make on a day-to-day basis. After all, the process of how we make choices forms a large part of how we create our lives.
In this article, we’re going to explore how addictions can take over our psychological health and what we can do to get our lives back on track.
Surely all of our choices are geared towards happiness?
We naturally assume every choice we make is done with the goal of happiness in mind. However, when our choice mechanism is corrupted by addictive patterns and habits, our neurochemistry can sometimes draw us into thinking that the next drink (or the next …substance of your choice…) will take us into an even deeper zone of pleasure, when it actually has the effect of tipping us over an unhealthy edge. The reality is, addiction provides only an illusion of happiness, through the short-term hit of dopamine that accompanies every compulsive action.
Managing ego fatigue and finding the right balance
As any recovering addict will tell you, the self-control required to conquer addiction, can require a great deal of sustained effort. Not just for an hour, but over days, weeks, months and maybe even years. Especially during tricky times, like holidays and celebrations, where it’s seemingly okay for everyone else to indulge, except you.
Psychologists have identified the phenomenon of ‘ego fatigue’ over the past decade, and have come to discover that the strain placed on a person’s neuro-machinery, while they are trying to resist and supress their desires, can also have an unhealthy effect.
However, by working with professionals, it’s possible to walk the fine line that not only gets you out of addiction, but provides the long-lasting feel-good feelings of freedom, relief and triumph when you finally conquer the tug of war that happens within.
Ever find yourself asking… what’s next?
Beyond the next slice of chocolate cake, addictive tendencies can play out in bigger arenas of life as well. Have you ever found yourself thinking about the next job, the next place to live, or that life will be better with the next partner? Again, we find ourselves indulging in illusions of a distant future that may never come to life.
While Gene Heyman, a specialist on the topic of addiction, explains how we choose “locally” (eg the next glass of wine) rather than “globally” (eg our long-term health), Dr Robert Holden coined the phrase Destination Addiction, to describe how we chase futuristic illusions at the expense of the present moment, which becomes ‘merely a ticket to get to the future’.
Either way, whether you choose localised illusions in the form of a substance, or you chase future illusions in the form of your next big move, all that’s really happening is that you’re using these methods to escape the present moment.
So why would anyone want to escape from the present moment?
Without realising, many people use a variety of distractions in order to escape the present moment. And they do this, because they sub-consciously know there are feelings that may come up that they’d rather avoid. In our pursuit of happiness, and due to the conditioning of culture and society, we’ve managed to make certain emotions seem better than others. Love, joy and happiness are all very popular, however, sadness, grief and fear have their natural place in our lives too. All emotions are equally important, valid and necessary. Oddly enough, there is a unique joy to be felt when experiencing the authentic depth of, and healing release of, a true emotion – like sadness.
When we feel and allow all of our emotions, our life can move freely again. Our relationships can mature, our skills can progress to the next level and parts of our lives that previously felt stuck can relax and renew at a pace that matches our own personal growth.
However, the journey of releasing distractions and turning within is much harder if you go it alone. While there are many good books and online programmes to tune in to, nothing beats having a qualified professional with you at every step. Not only can we identify exactly where you are on your journey, we can highlight areas that need your attention and show you what to expect.
We’ve helped countless people get through addiction, and we know all the pitfalls along the way. Often, an addiction covers underlying issues that people don’t even realise they have. If you would like to discuss your addictive tendencies with a qualified professional, then please do contact us for a confidential chat.