We are all addicts
“There is dissatisfaction and frustration. Often nothing seems to go right. There really is a wound. But it is not necessary to scratch it. Working with addictions is about not just impulsively grabbing for something to stop the itching, not just grabbing for something to fill up the space, not giving in to this impulse to feel okay and just to get comfortable as soon as possible.
When we scratch the wound and give into our addictions we do not allow the wound to heal. But when we instead experience the raw quality of the itch or pain of the wound and do not scratch it, we actually allow the wound to heal. So not giving in to our addictions is about healing at a very basic level.”
We are all addicts, if not to drugs, gambling, pornography, or video games, then to the way we interact with each other. We often respond in predictable ways to getting cut off on the freeway, being defensive when we are criticized, or escalating conflict. It is an addiction, a habit that we can let go of. We can only know the extent of our habits if we have tried to stop.
If you don’t think you have any addictions, I challenge you to observe the times when you habitually respond in a negative way to something or someone. You may have to ask a loved one for a few examples. I’m sure they’d be willing! Once you know what it is, go ahead and try to stop it next time you feel the urge. It is NOT an easy thing to do, because our brains have been wired over the course of our lives to respond in certain ways.
Also note that the term “addiction” is not in the DSM. “Addiction” is not necessarily the same thing as dependence, tolerance, or withdrawal as related to substances.
We can change, but it will require us to “allow ourselves to heal” and to not “scratch the itch” so to speak. It’s not easy to rewire our brains–it may take years of practice.
For the record, some of my addictions include air conditioning, taking things personally, and needing my clients to like me. I also get defensive when N complains that I haven’t cleaned the bathroom since we’ve been married. Granted those are not huge problems (well, you better ask her first) but thinking about this is a little disturbing to me. I don’t want to be ruled by my habits or impulses, especially in my relationships. It’s also something I like about being a counselor–helping others train themselves to let go of their habits and interact in positive ways.
Thankfully most of us are more in control than the couple in this video, but sometimes I feel like I have very little say in how I respond. This is something I am working on.
What are some of your habitual responses in relationships? What has your spouse been complaining about for years? Okay, so you might not respond to a complaint with “You’re a liar!” but we all have room for improvement.