I have been in Practice for nearly 20 years and in that period of time, I have seen thousands of Patients and hundreds more in classes and workshops. A repeating theme that keeps coming up is people asking; why we don’t do what we know is good for us, at least not consistently. As the same issue is true for my fellow Health Practitioners and myself, I’d like to share some insight I have gained in wrestling with this topic.
The following are key variables in this equation and depending on the individual concerned and their awareness, understanding and fortitude in dealing with each of these variables, the end-results will be different in each case. Addictive behaviors, addictive substances, habitual behavior, preponderance to habit (“creatures of habit”), self-loathing/self-respect, indifference and/or depression, anxiety and the “need” to self-medicate, our microbiome (the ecosystem that lives within each of us) and social or group behavior.
There are others to be sure, but these are key in the sense that when someone really draws them into their awareness and addresses each one, I have seen vast change in the choices people make. As can be imagined, the combination and severity of imbalance in each of these variables can make for a long path and a great deal of work. Having said that, determination and focus are important characteristics to have in play!
Addictive substances and behaviors work together, of course, as in fact, all these variables do. We are really discussing addiction in it’s many forms and how it can be boiled down to who we are as spiritual beings, our sense of purpose, feelings about ourselves and the connection or lack thereof, we have with the world around us. As much as someone says they love their solitude (and it is amazing for a number of reasons), we are also social creatures and we need connection, love…to be understood. We are part of a web or network; our frequency is like part of a gigantic symphony and when we don’t show up to play, we are missed. Sad, that some never know they are missed…or possibly worse, that they are even a part of the great symphony.
Let’s look at legal addictions, as I don’t want this article to turn into something else. Sugar is the most familiar and likely the most addicting legal substance known to us, today. Chemical receptors in the brain set-up rewards (pleasure enhancing neuro-transmitters) just like those of illicit drugs. There is an added pitfall, though, making sugar even worse! Sugar feeds negative cultures in us; yeast, bad bacteria, fungus, and more. Many of these “bad guys” or pathogens make us sick in a number of ways, including giving us inflammation and cancer! Think of how sugar has made it’s way into just about every processed food we have. It’s even in many pasta sauces and dressings! We are so addicted and sick, we add it to some of the naturally sweetest things on the planet, fruit juices! This is flat-out wrong and has to stop. But who’s complaining? Think about this for a while. One of the unhealthiest substances known to us and we pump it into our children like the so-called “evil drug-dealers” getting our kids hooked on meth, cocaine or heroin! Sound like I’m taking this too far to make a point? Think again. I’m dead serious. And we’re all a part of it.
How are habits different than addictions? Not by much, but an addiction is a compulsive behavior that has detrimental effects and this can even be with something we have labeled positive, like exercise. I bet you wouldn’t guess that some of my sickest Patients have been triathletes, would you? Habits are simply those behaviors, which we have repeated enough to make neural pathways (short-cuts) and so, do these things automatically or without a great deal of conscious thought. Here-in lies the rub with how addictions and habits lead us to derail ourselves from healthy thoughts and behaviors. We support negative behavior, both consciously and subconsciously. More specifically, companies do so in their ads. We are pounded with messages in TV, movies and in print. Parents succumb or act out of ignorance and then claim it is too hard to change, later.
Now, in taking a look at what has been discussed so far, what kinds of feelings do you think will be affecting those involved with addictions and bad habits? Do you think those feelings will lead to those people feeling good about themselves or otherwise? Are a lack of self-respect and the feeling of self-loathing “the chicken or the egg” or both? I have seen cases where one seems to precede the other. Irrespective of this truth, “treat what you see,” meaning: If something is present, it needs to be addressed! The World is flooded with human beings with insecurities, fear, hatred, anger/rage and these feelings often lead to dark and muddled relationships with themselves and as a result, others.
What do we do to correct these things and walk a path that is mostly good for us? First, we sift through the massive amounts of information and misinformation that we are flooded with, much of which is intended to overwhelm and defeat you before you even get started! Or, you have a trusted “staff.” Your Natural Health Professionals; your team of trusted (and hopefully licensed) Practitioners who watch out for you, educate you and call you out on your “stuff.” Bring them questions and keep learning from them. The next thing you do is you find at least 3 things for which you are grateful and acknowledge them aloud everyday for at least 3 weeks. This is how you create a good habit.
The biggest factors, in my opinion, to creating a life where most of our decisions benefit us instead of bring us harm/trouble are:
- Let go of blaming others for who, what and where you are. As soon as you accept responsibility for EVERYTHING that happens to you, you take control instead of being a victim. Victims complain, they don’t correct, learn and move on.
- Practice self-love. Practice being the person or people you respect and you will become this person, if you aren’t already. Do nice things for yourself and be a person YOU would look up to.
- Practice love for others. Random acts of kindness fits into this category. When we do things for others without seeking any gain or recognition for ourselves and our ego, we can truly feel what love and compassion are and then we can begin to accept it from others. When you reach this stage, you will feel the true power of love!
- Connect with and be grateful for friends, family and nature. When you are truly connected (not hanging out while texting someone else or watching TV, but have REAL conversations about things that matter to you), you will not seek things to fill the void. And as important as social connections are, so too are your connections with solitude and nature. These things quell the ego, which when it gets unchecked, will run rampant over anyone standing in your way. Basically, when the ego is out of control, we all become unlikeable asses.
- Understand that people are imperfect and will fail you as you will occasionally fail them. This brings us back to the blaming others in #1. The key is to learn to forgive, let go and give meaningful apologies. And you’ll learn another key in doing these things: Sometimes you can do your very best and decide that you wouldn’t have done anything differently and people will still act-out or leave you. The ego wants to make this about itself (you) but it is truly about them. Don’t burn bridges, just move on yourself and handle yourself with respect and dignity.
No matter who you are now or what is going on in your life, it is simply a starting point moving forward. Which direction do you want to travel? You can move forward and make the best you, you can possibly make or you can move backwards, being the person no one respects or wants to be around…or you can simply do nothing and cling to stagnancy, which basically leads to moving backwards.
Create goals for yourself and get help. We ALL need help and this is a fact. There is no way around it, even though our egos will try fiercely to convince you you are fine the way you are.
To reach these goals and achieve health and happiness, by far the majority of our decisions need to be those that will lead us to our goals. I hope I have unlocked some doors, which may have been hiding key elements for you to move forward.
Good luck on your journey and if I can help further, contact me.
Paul Gerst L.Ac. of New England Natural Health Services