Why I Choose to Do What I Shouldn’t

It’s curious how our conscious mind can choose actions that we later regret, even when we know it ahead of time.  I find myself giving in or getting talked into the “wrong” choices.  “Just a little bit and then I’ll quit, it’ll be fun,”  I would think, and I’d be wrong every time.  The fun will last for the first few minutes, if at all, and then the experience turns more sinister the moment I become unable to pry myself away.

I’ve overcome many addictions over the years, but my sleep deprivation and staying up too late is perhaps my final frontier.  It’s an odd thing to be addicted to, but I just can’t resist the indulgence of staying up after my family’s gone to bed, playing video games, surfing the net or eating junk food.  Even though I know I’d feel better the next day when I get a good night’s sleep.

As I struggled with this condition over the years, I thought of a number of reasons why I behave this way:

  1. I am not having enough fun during the day, I’m not honoring my desire to rest and play.
  2. I have too many activities that expend my willpower and am depleted by night time.
  3. Feeling tired from sleep deprivation feels normal, while being rested and energized feels abnormal.
  4. When I’m tired I have an excuse to slack off of my daily grind, like exercising and practicing my guitar.
  5. I have unresolved stuck emotions around this addiction.

The reasons 1-4 are all true, but efforts to change my behavior by accommodating one of those drivers never had lasting success.  Having learned about how stuck emotions affect us in the recent months, however, I have a new angle (#5) to view this undesirable behavior.

When I reflect upon how I feel about being addicted, here are the feelings that come up:

  • The remorse of having chosen to do something wrong
  • The shame of being stupid enough to do something I know is stupid
  • The overwhelm/powerlessness/disappointment of giving in to temptation after trying to resist it

These are closely related but specific and distinct emotions.  While I may be feeling all of them at once, there’s usually one dominant theme at any given moment.

What I’m learning is that when these stuck emotions inhabit my body, my subconscious mind looks for, and sometimes even create, opportunities to feel them.  Which makes fighting addiction an impossible deadlock.  Your conscious mind wants to resist the temptation but your subconscious wants it.  And the subconscious wins more often than not, because the subconscious and the body are the foundation on which the conscious mind sits.

So the right approach is to actually feel “bad” for giving in to temptations.  Which is not the same as judging, rebuking, or punishing yourself.  Whatever the core feeling that comes up, you sit and pay full attention to it, without resisting or judging that you shouldn’t have to feel this way.  You do have to feel it, because the latest episode of giving in to addiction is just a trigger and all the “bad” feelings that come up, you’ve been carrying it inside all along.  And by feeling that feeling, you lessen your baggage and reduce (and eventually eliminate) the need for that addiction.  When the body is free of the stuck emotions the subconscious will have no trouble aligning with your conscious mind, and it becomes easier to conduct yourself as you intended.

Of course this is easier said than done.  We all carry these buried emotions for years and years and they will not all come out overnight.  Addictions don’t go away instantly, either, and even if you manage to quit one particular form of it you may get hooked to something else.  But still, through working on the underlying feeling, by paying attention to it and fully experiencing it, the baggage gradually becomes lighter and it becomes easier to control the impulses.

I’ve made it happen many times, I’m sure I can do with my last bit of addiction.  I’ll keep working on it, and let you know how it goes.