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There’s a saying in addiction that we act out what we don’t feel. The acting out behavior becomes a numbing device so that we can avoid feelings, thoughts, or experiences—often unconsciously. To feel or experience these things can be very uncomfortable.
Most of us, people in recovery or not, can’t even tolerate being uncomfortable for short amounts of time.It’s something we have to learn to do. Until we do learn to deal with feeling uncomfortable, we will continue to distract ourselves by using many different forms of coping mechanisms. If you struggle with compulsive sexual behavior, that often includes abusive behaviors like as pornography binges, anonymous sex, illicit affairs, or paying for sexual encounter—to name a few.
It makes sense though at a certain level…seeking comfort when feeling uncomfortable. However, the picture of what is comfortable can be quite deceptive. We are all looking for happiness and we often seek it through forms of comfort. Of course to each of us, comfort looks different. For some it’s found in alcohol, food or intimacy. For others it’s found in work, shopping or entertainment. And when we reach for these things we’re believing to be remedies, there’s often instant relief, but the pleasure is fleeting. This lure of comfort can deceive us.
Consider the moth to the flame analogy. The moth is routinely drawn to the warmth of the flame, perhaps as a form of comfort, but ultimately suffers. And this what we do—we are pulled to what appears as comforting, but is in fact harmful. We go on a binge and it feels enjoyable at first but the next day we pay the price. It creates a wider rift and a deeper hurt. So it’s up to us to pay attention to how we respond to discomfort or agitation. We must ask, “What do I reach for as comfort?” And then notice does the habit actually bring comfort? And if so, for how long? Does that comfort come at the price of long-term suffering?
Like dealing with any problem, the power of the problem is that it can reside in the shadows—unseen and unmet. Think of the saying, “What you resist, persists.” Recognize and allow yourself to feel uncomfortable.
The situation is bad—deal with it. And don't just deal with it—open your arms and welcome it as you would an old friend. You know him well.
Be curious about your discomfort. Try journaling or dialoguing (actually “talking” with discomfort as if it could speak). When you write, blog or journal, it’s a tool for you to move through your own uncomfortable feelings. Try it.
Move. Walk. Run. As long as your discomfort is not physical pain, moving or exercising is a natural mood lifter.
Similar to journaling, bringing a mindfulness practice to your repertoire will serve you well. Meditation, yoga, walking meditations….anything that helps you to pay attention and to be present with your feelings will give you a much better chance of feeling better—before, during, and after—as compared to acting out.
Because habits operate at the unconscious level and we are not really aware of them, it is necessary to be able to bring habits into your conscious awareness so that you can observe what the habit is doing, how it empowers and serves you…or doesn't. Ultimately we want to bring awareness to the impulses and urges that accompany unease and discomfort. So rather than reaching for that unconscious comfort or vice you can instead consciously choose actions that serve deeper happiness and well-being.
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