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This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Going Overboard

Sometimes an ordinary activity is engaged in with an addictive style

A perfectly innocent or ordinary activity can fit the criteria of addictive behavior if it is indulged in to excess.  We saw this a lot in recent years as the popularity of on line video gaming rose.  The term, workaholic, has become a part of the common vocabulary and is now a concept that is nothing new.  For awhile, when running or jogging was de rigeur, people talked about an exercise addiction.  The annual poker game with the guys that becomes more and more frequent and lasts longer and longer may be problematic.  Shopping to excess may be touchy in and of itself and can also lead to an additional problem of over spending on credit cards.  For some, constant access to social media seems imperative.  ("In most addictions, tolerance for the substance or behavior develops, so as time goes on increasingly greater and more frequent doses are needed for the desired effect.  Can this possibly be the case for multiple tattoos?" M.H. Gellman, PhD,Psy.D.) The list goes on.  I'm sure you can think of many examples yourself.
One of the universal assessment questions for alcoholism is, do people who are close to you ever complain about your drinking.  This is considered very telling because normal alcohol use doesn't cause problems for others.  If anyone has ever had a serious talk with you about some activity or yours, saying that it seemed a bit much, you might take a look at it.  Is it taking up too much of your time?  Do you think about it a lot, even when you're not doing it or aren't about to do it?  Whenever you get the chance to do it, do you automatically do it even if it doesn't really fit in with your plans, even if it is disruptive to your relationship?  These are some self-evaluative questions you might reflect upon.
Another test for yourself is, suppose someone close to you asks you to refrain from something---let's say, just being on the computer when the family is enjoying being with each other---and you hear that, take it in, and decide to try curbing that activity at that time.  When you catch yourself doing it and then attempt to quit, do you feel a wrenching feeling?  Is it difficult to tear yourself away?  It can be surprising to discover that in yourself.  And, yet, it may be important to curb that habit for your own sake.

I think that all people, or most, are subject to addictions.  Besides food addictions, gambling addictions, and drug addictions,---all of us can suddenly 'wake up' and find ourselves doing something compulsively.  It serves many purposes---an escape, a distraction, a time-out, a way to forget for awhile, a vacation from troubling thoughts, or a short-term form of denial of unresolved issues we may have in ourselves or in our outer lives.  
Our modern world is quite demanding.  We work more hours than is natural.  Did you know that anthropologists have determined that our ancestors, who of course worked as it came naturally, worked abut 5 hours a day?  We see ourselves as being in a technological age but really we are in the very beginning of the use of technology-right now. I think, we really don't know how to use it to help us yet; instead we are tethered to it (don't dare to not answer that cell phone call...!).

We expect ourselves  to be effective in more than one role---our job or profession, our parenting, our home maintenance tasks, our social relationships, our money management, time tracking, preparing our taxes and many other forms of business associated with just keeping things going in our personal lives.  It's a lot.  So, since unlike the Latins who build in a siesta time, or the French who know how to be in a cafe and enjoy the pairing of a bit
  of wonderful cheese and excellent wine, or the South Americans who know how to
 spend the evening enjoying a long, leisurely, relaxing dinner with family and friends, many Westerners just go from one task to another.  
I hear every day from one client or another how "stressed" they are.  One told me this week that, at her job, she takes an average of 150 phone calls per day.  Stunning to consider, isn't it.  We all know people who receive hundreds of e-mails per day.  The existence of blended families is on the rise and this means juggling a multiplicity of not-always pleasant relationships-relationships with people we didn't necessarily choose.  
It has occurred to me that the lack of opportunities to just let down, to relax, to have idle time, and the internal distress that this causes may be a factor leading to illicit affairs.  Interacting with someone not associated with duties may seem like much-needed playtime even though, in reality, it is fraught with threat.  In fact any of the recreational activities mentioned above can threaten our well-being, our health, and our important relationships.
The oft-repeated advice, moderation in all things is worth pondering. 
 Check out your own life.  How's the balance?  
Remember, by their very nature,  compulsive activities are unconscious.  So, to detect them, you have to be brutally honest with yourself.  
If you find you have to stop something or pull back a little, it may be tough at first, but better, so much better, in the long run! 

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