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“Addictive behavior can be summed up by one word:
It’s when you’re powerless to resist MORE sugar,
MORE sex, MORE shopping, MORE Facebook,
MORE booze or MORE drugs” (Smallwood).
Addiction affects our emotions similarly on all the different types of addictive behaviors. For example, gamblers’ chase the thrill of the next bet in the hope of the potential big win, shopaholics desire that feeling of happiness that is triggered when they buy new shoes. Anyone can become addicted, it depends on the individual. But whatever the addiction is, it’s the same process as clearly articulated by Dr Gabo Mate in his short description on the psychology of addiction.
Whatever your vice, if it’s force is so strong that it’s sidetracking your focus and preventing you from following through on your plans, you need to get a grip of it. But, if you can’t do that immediately, at least start by having some understanding of what’s at play in your mind and body.
Watch out for becoming a slave to your emotions
You know how a specific sound or smell can transport you back in time and you can literally feel the past come alive. Well, usually when this happens, tangible emotions get stirred and they manifest in your mind and body right now just as they had in the past, i.e. sad, happy, angry, frustrated, or any other emotion that was real all that time ago. And, all because of a simple smell or tune. During this experience your brain’s limbic system is at work because it’s stirring up those emotions and forcing them on you. This is the same part of your brain that keeps you alive during an emergency, the same part of your brain that has the power to override everything you do. You need to be aware of this amazing brain function when it’s power is not good.
Understand how addictive behavior equals loss of control
When your bodily reflexes go into action, it is your limbic system that kicks in and reacts very quickly to protect you from any impending danger. You know that these reflexes are beyond your control. But, as much as this is good work at play, it is also, unfortunately, the same autopilot that causes the lack of control that takes over when you’re addicted to something. You need to take note of this reflexive behavior e.g. you just reach for that cigarette or chocolate without thinking. Take note because when you don’t give your body what it’s looking for in that moment, craving takes over and that becomes your next hurdle.
Trying to control your cravings may sound like drivel, because if you could control your cravings, you wouldn’t have the problem. But, despite cravings being relentless, they don’t last forever and their power definitely diminishes over time. Try and work through cravings by doing something else because they will go away. Try to understand and monitor them and in turn take control of them.
These are basic fundamentals of addictive behavior – watch out for more tidbits on this highly complex topic