5 Strategies to Release Compulsive Behavior



“Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism.” – Carl Jung

Addictions need breeding grounds to survive; certain factors need to be present in order to create the perfect environment for compulsion to thrive in.  These factors, in more clinical terms, include: affect regulation difficulties, maladaptive (emotion-focused) coping, and low self-esteem. In other words, having difficulty coping with bad feelings, particularly powerlessness and helplessness and identifying with feelings of worthlessness, foster the ideal conditions for compulsive behavior to come out and play. Addictive behaviors are all characterized by affect regulation difficulties. That means, difficulties managing one’s feelings and emotions.

Certain situations that invoke negative feelings, characterized by frustration and powerlessness, are the triggers to look out for when recovering from an addiction. Common triggers include certain people, being in particular places, and demanding sitations such as school or work. What is the antidote to spiraling out of control? Here are several strategies you can use to overcome any addiction, while moreso discovering who you really are:

1) Identify your triggers.

What situations, people or places trigger your desire to escape through compulsive behavior. What is it about the situation, place or person that invokes distress and feelings of helplessness and powerlessness? Why do you feel out of control. The trick is to cope with feelings of powerlessness differently. That is the key. For every cause there is an effect, and it can be difficult to understand where compulsions come from. Sometimes it is impossible to tease our the exact cause of them. Examining the nature of what is triggering you be provide insight into what is leading to you negative feelings. It could be something someone said, it could be when you deal with ambiguity or situations that are confusing or don’t have clear answers. Perhaps you notice the urge to use when someone has violated your boundaries or when you think about an event in the future that you dread and have anxiety about.

Triggers cause us to feel like our negative feelings are unmanageable and that is when we identify with that small sense of self. We identify with our fears, the little me, the ego, because it makes sense and is in alignment with the story we have told ourselves for years about who we are. It’s comfortable. The underlying theme of all triggers is that they invoke negative affect, most notably, powerlessness. With awareness and the ability to identify what is the trigger, we take a step back and in doing so, create space to see what is happening.

2) Free yourself.

Disidentify with your addiction. You are not your addiction, you are not your compulsion and you are not the consequences that the addiction has wreaked in your life. The insidious part about addiction is that it corrodes and eats away at one’s self esteem. It becomes a cycle of feeling bad about oneself and using to cope with those feelings and then using because one feels bad about not being able to stop using. However, one quick way to feel good about oneself and increase positive feelings is to stop playing the tape in your head of “I am bad and I can’t stop,” because you are not bad and you CAN stop. Whatever negative feelings you feel, recognize that they are not a part of you and they are not reality.

3) Get in touch with who you really are. 

Who you are never ever changes, your true essence always remains the same. Funny how we allow certain people and situations steal our sense of love and compassion towards ourselves and the world. We allow others to destroy our peace when the words and actions of others disturb us and thus struggle with maintaining a stable sense of self. What will add to your sense of empowerment and love for yourself? What will make you feel good in this moment besides using? If we were not raised with unconditional love, we may place conditional love on ourselves. In what ways do you place conditions on whether you love yourself? When you are struggling with negative feelings, do you give up on yourself, your ability be present, do you chastise and punish when you face extenuating circumstances?

When you get in touch with who you really are, and do not buy into the voice in your head which tells you anything less (which is just a thought) you do not get sucked into the ego’s mindless musings and you stay grounded with the present. This is the true meaning of unconditional positive regard, the ability to have unfailing love towards another regardless of any change in circumstance or condition. It is eternal, unfailing and has no contingencies. When you recognize THIS as your true essence, and can stay with it. Furthermore, bypassing the current moment or feeling through any substance appears much less gratifying and it seems actually purposeless. This is also the true, real meaning of self-esteem. A sense of self that is deeply rooted in PRESENCE and unconditional love, an identity that is not defined by what anyone else says, but one that is simply rooted in BEING.

How have you allowed others to influence your feelings about yourself and to lower your feelings of self-worth? Emotional neglect and abuse are insidious. Certain toxic, abusive relationships are common triggers and when one is rained in an environment or by a parent who is abusive, oftentimes negative core beliefs become deeply rooted in the subconscious and are thus more difficult to identify in the present moment.

4) Commit to staying present with yourself.

We try to leave ourselves when we engage in compulsive behavior. It’s our way of managing the difficult feelings because for those few moments, we don’t have to face the discomfort of the thoughts in our heads about “not being good enough.” However, the cure to eliminating compulsive behavior is not a quick fix. It is a habit of replacing the need to bolt when times get taxing but instead staying present with ourselves when we want to leave in any way possible. There is something that happens when we stay in touch with ourselves even through the trying times. There’s a part of us that grows and we learn to deal with difficulties feelings, that is the important part. Every time you choose not to use when you feel the urge, you are strengthening and training your ability to cope, as well as reinforcing your ability to love yourself instead of punishing yourself.

5) Release fear and embrace love (i.e. presence).

Whenever you feel exasperated, frustrated, helpless and powerless over a situation you have identified in some way with fear. Perhaps it is boredom and loneliness, which every person in the world faces. Have you identified with the feelings that boredom and loneliness have caused within you? What do you tell yourself about you when you feel bored and lonely? Fear does not exist, it is just a feeling associated with a certain perspective about something. Fear is just an illusion, only love exists. In what way are you feeling fear about what is going on and cutting off a greater view and perspective? Perhaps boredom and loneliness are your triggers because you tell yourself that you are unlovable and undeserving of having anyone around you when are you lonely. Perhaps boredom is a trigger because it triggers feelings of worthlessness and lack of purpose.

If you can see how fear has infiltrated your perspective, then you have greater insight into how you can disidentify with your fear and negative feelings and see them for what they are. Just feelings attached to and associated with a false self of self, the ego. What would happen if you could see your fear and have compassion on yourself for identifying with that little self, the ego? We run because we are afraid, afraid of ourselves, afraid that we are insignificant, unlovable and unworthy, afraid that we really are who other people and the world tells us we are, a person defined by appearances and accumulations.

It is when we stay with ourselves during those very times that we want to run that we face who we really are, we face having to identify with our fear of not being good enough vs the reality, depth and breadth of our true presence which is eternal awareness, love and beingness. But we must forgive ourselves when we forget because it is natural inclination to cling to the ego–we are only human. But now that we know how elusive, unstable and maladaptive it is to live according to the ego’s whims, let us stay attuned to the present moment, the only place where we can ever actually be. No matter how much we run from ourselves and the stories we make up in our heads about who we are, we cannot run from the present moment–that is all we ever have.

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” – J.K. Rowling

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