As 2023 approaches many of us are choosing to reflect on how we showed up in 2022. I personally believe that regular self-assessment is a must for anyone who wishes to evolve and reach their goals. Some of the questions I periodically like to ask myself are:
Getting real about what isn't working is a way to point your compass in the right direction again and implement healthier habits. The same goes when approaching your addictions, which I am sure you are also looking to leave behind, right? Now, before you jump in and tell me that you don't have any addictions, allow me to challenge you to look at yourself deeper so you can gain some real insights and make lasting changes in your life. In this article we will look at what addictions are, what causes them and how you can ask yourself the right questions to start addressing them at their core.
We tend to mostly associate addictions with some sort of drug or substance abuse. However, addiction is much more common than we like to think. To a large extent, we are all pretty much addicted to something in some shape or form. If you think about it, you can be addicted to social media, work, feeling guilty, people pleasing, sweets, exercise, complaining, apologising, drama, certain people or relationships, instant pleasure, shopping, video games and the list goes on. However, if you look at addictions the right way they can turn into potential growth opportunities. In order to do that, it's important to understand that addiction doesn't stem from the thing you are doing, but from what is driving you to do that thing. In other words, your addiction is the symptom of a deeper conflict that you are not currently addressing.
Let me put this differently: the problem is not the ice-cream; the problem is what is driving you to grab the tub out of the fridge. One thing is treating yourself to some ice cream and savouring that moment, another is to reach for it because you need to comfort yourself and numb your feelings. The first behaviour is healthy, the second one is addictive. The ice cream in and of itself doesn't have the power to harm you, what determines whether it may harm you or not is your intention. In a nutshell, an addiction is a behaviour we resort to, in order to avoid facing something specific in a specific emotional environment. The real poison lies in what you are not facing, NOT in the behaviour you are reverting to, in an attempt to make yourself feel better.
Therefore, if you want to get on top of your addiction, you need to get clear on what that environment is and what you are trying to avoid through your addictive behaviour. Once you have detected an unhealthy behaviour or addiction, ask yourself the following questions:
For example, you might be at home with your parents and siblings, and find yourself in a situation where you feel that you can't truly express yourself. Therefore, you decide to make an exit to the backyard and grab a cigarette, or aimlessly scroll on your social media feed. That kind of behaviour gives you a momentary sensation of relief and freedom. However, although at first it may alleviate your discomfort, it is actually preventing you from addressing the real issue. So when, a similar situation presents itself again, instead of tackling what is really bothering you and, for example, finding the courage to say what you really feel, you will use that same behaviour as a way to numb your discomfort, only perpetuating the conflict further.
As I mentioned, in my earlier examples, you can also be addicted to people. A story that comes to mind is one of a student of mine, who when asking herself the above questions realised that she was addicted to worrying about her daughter and calling her often. As she delved further, she understood that she used that mechanism to avoid facing the void she felt in her marriage. She understood that she needed to address that void by reconnecting with herself, her needs and having some uncomfortable conversations with her husband to reconnect with him. That is what I mean by allowing your addictions to show you what you most need in order to grow. If you look at it that way, your addictions can evolve you.
That's why I highly encourage you to start observing where and when you tend to resort to the same kind of behaviours. It can be a good exercise to carry a small notebook with you, or even use your phone to take note of the moments in which you catch yourself choosing to "check out". When you see yourself going for that tub of ice cream, glass of wine, phone, credit card or whatever it may be for you, pause and ask yourself: What is bothering me? What am I feeling? What am I about to avoid facing? and, what do I need?Write your thoughts down, and you will likely see a pattern start to emerge. That is your ticket to start addressing the real issue.
Often times, the answer is changing your behaviour and the way you relate to your environment and sometimes the answer can be to change your environment. If you want to delve into this topic further, stay tuned for my upcoming podcast episode on addictions. The episode will be released on Wednesday 28th of December 2022. For now, I strongly encourage you to observe yourself and question your behaviours in the way we just learned, for all the answers are within you. You just need to ask yourself the right questions. And, of course, if you suffer from a severe form of addiction please also seek the professional support you might need in your recovery process.
Some say your soul chooses your family well before you are born. Others say that where you end up is the luck of the draw. Either way, one thing is for sure: conflict is an intrinsic part of family life. And, if you choose to look at conflict as an opportunity for growth, regardless of whether you think that you have won/lost the lottery, or are on a purpose driven soul mission, your family will always give you an opportunity to evolve and thrive.
Understanding your family dynamics, as well as your role and how it might fuel current issues you are experiencing, will help you to deal with adversity in a more mature and evolved way. It does not mean that you have to condone and tolerate dysfunctional behaviours if they exist, but understanding the family system as a whole will allow you to have more compassion for yourself and the other people involved. And then, you can ask yourself a very deliberate question: How do I want to show up? Who do I want to be in this situation?
First, I invite you to look at your family as an ecosystem of its own. Like all ecosystems it relies on its members to maintain balance or homeostasis. There are many ways in which this occurs, but for now, let's look at family loyalties, how they might be regulating your ecosystem and how it can affect you.
Family loyalties can be defined as the feeling of mutually shared obligations, responsibilities, commitment and closeness that exist among family members. Being loyal to your families involves honouring family traditions, obligations and ascribing to a shared identity. It allows us to be emotionally present during both family highs and lows, like for example supporting a relative during illness, a financial crisis, the break up of a marriage or death. Biologically, family loyalties protect the family system by keeping it tight knit and healthy loyalty is a good thing as it builds trust and solidarity.
However, blind loyalty can lead to family dysfunction. In a nutshell blind loyalties are a more complex form of people pleasing and typically prevent certain family members from completing their individuation process. The term individuation was coined by Carl Jung and refers to the stages that we go through to gradually separate from the family unconscious, and become our individual selves. Adolescence is a crucial stage in that process. That's when a child gets to cultivate their own interests, often rebelling against their parents, seeing them as the fallible human beings that they are. It's their ticket to start their journey into the world. However, in dysfunctional families, an individual may be so blindly loyal that the family’s needs become greater than his/hers. Therefore, blind loyalty is an unconscious mechanism that keeps individuals from fully moving away from their family and building their own life and sense of self.
Similarly to people pleasing, loyalty usually begins in early childhood to win parental love, approval, and acceptance. In those cases, a child can remain trapped into fulfilling an unconscious role at the expense of their own life purpose. For example, a child growing up in a household with parents who, for whatever circumstances, are struggling emotionally, might adopt a caregiver role by tending to their emotions in whatever ways they can. This, in psychology, is referred to as parentification. The parent role that the child unconsciously takes on can bind them to the family, helping maintain homeostasis and peace within the family ecosystem. Therefore, as an adult you might continue to put your caregivers' needs first. In your personal life, this can show up in a number of ways. For example: you might lack a clear sense of direction and be prone to self sabotaging, you might find it difficult to maintain a committed relationship, you might struggle to become financially independent and rely on family help, you might be living with your parents well into adulthood etc. These are all unconscious ways of remaining emotionally available for your caregivers and their needs. You might have heard stories of people who after having been forever single, suddenly found love later in life, shortly after both parents had passed away. This is likely a case of blind family loyalty, where there was an unwritten rule that building their own family unit was a threat to the system's homeostasis.
It’s important to understand that we are referring to emotional dependence, therefore physical distance is irrelevant. You might live in a different country, but still be emotionally dependent, relying on your parents to help you make most of your decisions for example, or listening to them repeatedly offload their issues onto you. Some people will refer to their mother as their “best friend”, and that is usually a sign of role reversal. I hate to break it to you, but the “Gilmore girls” mother daughter relationship is the typical example of what I am referring to here. A mother is not meant to be your best friend. She is meant to be the grown up in the relationship and seek emotional support in her partner, her own friends or a therapist.
Now, this is not about judging you parents or yourself, but about understanding what might be going on so you can start acting in a different way. Emotional dependence is a two-way thing. Both parties are relying on each other and trying to meet their own emotional needs the best they can, with the tools they have. For example, a mother might project her own childhood needs onto her child, by giving her daughter the time and attention she didn't get from her own mum, becoming overbearing as a result. And, the child might learn that being emotionally available for mum and listening to her problems, is a way of getting her love and approval. If you don't know any better, you might resort to those coping mechanisms. However, there is a much healthier way to go about this. It is a call to start looking within, instead of projecting your needs outwards.
Sure, there is an unconscious, and in some cases a blatantly conscious, refusal on the parent’s side to let the child grow up, but this is only made possible because there is a part of the adult child who prefers to stay in their comfort zone rather than to rock the boat. Unconsciously these patterns can be understood as dysfunctional coping mechanisms. But once made conscious, it is your responsibility as an adult to change the status quo by choosing to tend to your own needs, setting some boundaries and/or learning to trust yourself and your decisions, for example. Ironically, in those cases, being disloyal to the system is the best way to honour it, because by choosing you first, you give others permission to do the same, putting an end to a, very often, multigenerational dysfunctional pattern. The Disney movies Coco and Encanto, are beautiful accounts of that.
Since awareness is key, let's recap. Signs of unhealthy family loyalties may include:
If you resonate with one or various of the above examples, a good question to start asking yourself is: What do I gain when I behave that way? What am I hoping to achieve for myself by putting other people’s needs, ideas and wants first? It may be that you are trying to gain approval, love, validation etc. And, it is an invitation to start thinking about how you can honour yourself and give yourself that very thing that you are looking for in others.
Another good question to ponder is: Who would disapprove if I started behaving differently? Breaking away from dysfunctional family loyalties and reclaiming your true self, is going to rock the boat and it is very likely that some people will disapprove of your behaviour. However, rocking the foundation of a dysfunctional ecosystem, allows for a new, healthier one to start to emerge. And you are the master of your own life. No one else but you is responsible for staying true to yourself, and creating the one you want. Our time on earth is limited, do you really want to spend it living someone else's life? And, are you ready to start leading by example?
PS: If you are feeling stuck and need some extra help to see what is driving you to repeat the same conflicts or behavioural patterns, like the ones mentioned in this article, and gain tools to start acting differently and get different results for yourself, a BNE session might be just what you need. You can find out more about how I can help you achieve that here.
PPS: If you want to delve into this topic further, stay tuned for my upcoming podcast episode on blind family loyalties. The episode will be released on Wednesday 21st of December 2022.
Do you feel like there is not enough time in your day to get everything done? Do you feel overwhelmed, taken for granted and undervalued? Chances are that you have people pleasing tendencies, and that the real problem comes from how you respond to the people in your life, constantly prioritising their needs over yours.
However, allow me to put a different spin on the story you might be telling yourself. The plot twist is that by over compensating for others, you are most likely trying to meet your own needs. In other words, by over giving you are unconsciously trying to get something from the other person. That's what is really making you exhausted and frustrated. Let me be clear, my intention here is not for you to start judging yourself, but to give you access to different coping strategies; ones that will actually work for you.
People pleasing is a very common problem and, by the same token, a perfectly solvable one. I know what I am talking about as I am a recovering one. So, I understand how uncomfortable it can be to look at your behaviour from the particular angle I just gave you. However, as you will hear me repeat time and again, awareness is key. And, I can assure you that it is the kind of awareness that will allow you to lead a more balanced and fulfilling life. It will help you to start looking at ways to meet the needs you are currently projecting onto others.
Before we do that, let's look at how people pleasing might show up for you. Below are some common people pleasing characteristics:
Commonly, you'll see people pleasing with one or more of these traits: Low self-esteem, overachievement, a strong need to control, type A personality style & perfectionism.
Now, what I want you to understand is that people pleasing is NOT the cause, but the effect of a much deeper issue. As I explained earlier, the answers lie in those unmet needs that are driving you to act that way. So the surest way to tackle the real issue, is to take a good look at what those needs are.
Often, when you resort to people pleasing, it is the wounded child in you who is running the show. You might have grown up in a household where, for whatever circumstances, your parents were too caught up in their own struggles to tend to your needs in the way you wanted them to. For example, you might have had parents who argued often and one of them would criticise the other, offloading their emotions on to you. You learned that listening to them and tending to their emotions was a way to get their approval and love. Or you might have learned that being the good girl/boy, and silencing your own wants & needs, helped apease your caregivers, and earn their approval. There are many different case scenarios. I just wanted to give you a few examples, so you can see how as an adult you might be resorting to the same mechanisms to get what the child in you is still yearning for.
Having said that, although going back to childhood can be useful to understand where your behaviour comes from, the real answers are in how you are choosing to show up as an adult. Blaming your parents is just another way of not taking responsibility for your behaviour and staying stuck in the same old rut. Yes, you can absolutely tend to that child and do your inner child work. However, you are in charge of your life now and you owe it to that child to get yourself back in the driver's seat.
One of the best ways to do that is next time you find yourself carrying out any of the behaviours listed above, ask yourself: What am I doing this for? What need am I trying to validate by being out of integrity with what I want for myself. Let's say, for example, that you are at a party and you promised yourself not to have any alcohol. But then, the host pulls out an expensive bottle of wine that he wants to showcase for the occasion. You see the look of joy on his face when he brings out the bottle and your intention for yourself goes out the window.You may ask yourself: what am I trying to achieve for myself by having that glass of wine?The answer could be along these lines:
- I avoid upsetting him.
- And, when I don't upset him what do I get that is even more important for me?
- I make him happy and avoid any type of conflict.
- And when I avoid conflict and make him happy, what does that give me?
- I feel accepted and, therefore, valued.
Now ask yourself, what is a better way for me to value myself in that situation? Saying that you appreciate his gesture, but that you don't want to drink alcohol and declining his offer, is a way to value yourself. Ironically, it is a far better way to appreciate and value the other person too. Because, at the end of the day, when you are out of integrity with yourself you are also acting out of integrity with others. Nobody is saying that you can't do people favours and compromise from time to time. Emotional maturity comes with being flexible at all times and knowing when it is appropriate to behave one way, and when it is not. Therefore, you must be very clear on the intention behind your behaviour. If you are truly acting from a place of love and generosity, you will not end up feeling resentful or burned out.
In my upcoming podcast episode, I shall delve deeper into the root cause of people pleasing and give you additional tools and tips to trade in that habit for healthier ones. I also explain why people pleasing not only disempowers you, but also disempowers the person you are trying to please. The episode will be released on the 14th of December, so please feel free to listen in then. To access the full details, click here.
And remember, once you decide to look at your share of responsibility in your conflicts, you regain the power to choose who you want to be in any given situation. You get to parent the scared child in you, in the right way this time.
PS: If you are feeling stuck and need some extra help to see what is driving you to repeat the same conflicts or behavioural patterns, a BNE session might be just what you need. You can find out more about my work and how I can help here.
If there is something that we have all been reminded of over the past years, more than ever, is that life is short, unpredictable and that it will end for every single one of us at some point. If you think about it, similarly to the prospect of our own demise or unavoidable death, there is something awe inspiring about any kind of crisis, whether it be personal or global. Yes, you read me right. I said awe inspiring! Because, with the right mindset, it can push us to want to live life fully, to make the most out of it, instead of wasting it away as if it was never going to end.
Sometimes, the best thing that can happen to us is to go through a massive crisis, because it jolts us right out of our sleep walking stupor and pushes us out of our comfort zone. Take COVID for example, there are countless accounts of people who used lockdown as their own wake up call. They used their time wisely, learning new skills, growing new businesses often after losing their jobs, sorting out their mental health, mustering the courage to walk out of dead end relationships or strengthen them, you name it. The COVID crisis highlighted the areas in their lives where they had become too comfortable and had been tolerating the intolerable. So, they did something about it. They decided to venture into the unknown and take action to get different results. Often that meant taking risks and failing before they got it right, but they kept going. This is what we call a growth mindset and I believe that anyone can cultivate that kind of outlook in life. A growth mindset teaches you that you can do and even enjoy hard things. The good news is that you don't necessarily have to wait for a crisis to hit you, before you choose to shift your mindset.
Believe me it is possible, because I went through that journey myself. And if I was able to do it, anyone can do it. Let me tell you, before I picked up Dr. Carol Dweck's book, Mindset, I didn't even know what the terms fixed and growth mindset meant. So, when I read the description of a fixed mindset I was shocked, as it pretty much described me to a T. Awareness is key right? So just like Lockdown did for many of us, it forced me to take a lovingly long hard look at myself and make the decision to change, to get different results.
What is the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth one? Well in a nutshell, a fixed mindset sees failure, setbacks, crisis. etc as problems to be avoided, whilst a growth mindset sees them as opportunities for growth. Below are a list of some of the characteristics that set both perspectives apart:
I like to see both columns as opposite polarities, and integrating them both is a way to find your personal balance. Some situations, for example, will call for more caution and others will invite you to take more risks, but chances are that if you are reading this, you have swayed far down the end of the fixed mindset spectrum and are looking to get unstuck.
As I said, awareness is key, and just noticing your tendency to prioritise safety and comfort over growth is a huge step in and of itself. The second step is making the decision to change. Notice that I said DECIDING to change, not trying to change. Making that decision is crucial, because in order to get unstuck you have to accept to go through some level of discomfort. In fact, the more comfortable you decide to get with discomfort the better. So if you are just dipping your toes in at this point, you are not going to get very far. Change requires a level of commitment that only you can take on. Nobody else can do that for you. That's why a crisis, an illness, a loss can be so life changing because there is no other alternative than to make that decision. But, do you really want to wait for that to happen?
In his thought provoking book, Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman asks: Where in your life or work are you currently pursuing comfort when what is called for is a little discomfort? Committing to something means taking the risk that it might fail so we naturally tend to make decisions that prioritise anxiety avoidance: procrastination, distraction, commitment avoidance, taking on too many projects at once, are all ways to maintain the illusion that you are in charge of things. So is compulsive worrying! Ask yourself, does this choice diminish me (stunt my growth) or enlarge me (allow me to grow)? Choose uncomfortable enlargement over comfortable diminishment whenever you can!
Once you make that decision, I guarantee you that, since your focus will be set on it, you will come across the tools to start the process, whether it be through books, podcasts, chats with friends, and even strangers, or YouTube videos that randomly pop up in your feed etc. And, most likely, you will also generate experiences that will help you implement what you have learned. In my upcoming podcast episode: Why Failure Is The Way Forward, I will share some of the tools and hacks that helped me shift my mindset. The episode will be released on the 14th of December. So, please feel free to listen in then. To access the full details, click here.
The one thing that I will say, is that cultivating a growth mindset is a life long habit, and being prepared to fail even at that, is a prerequisite to continue to grow and yield different results for yourself. Are you ready and committed to do that?
Hi, I´m Dannie
A fellow soul seeker, blogger & certified BioNeuroEmotion® (BNE) practitioner who is passionate about growing, self actualising & learning in order to lead a more coherent/conscious life and help others do the same.