Addiction as a means of self-regulation: circumventing the vicious cycle

If there is one thing I’ve learned in all of my life, it is that the body and mind are always right. And, the problem we think we have is almost never the actual problem, and if we ask a better question we will arrive at a better answer.

The body and mind are always right about the ends to which they aim to achieve; but, they are not always right about the best means to get there.

Addiction is a perfect example of this.

Addiction, at its core, is an attempt to self-regulate levels of autonomic arousal. We all have a certain level of psychological (and physical) discomfort that we’re able to withstand (we’re focussing on psychological discomfort here). Important to note: psychological discomfort does not stop in the mind, it permeates the entire body and results in alterations in autonomic arousal (changes in how “triggered” your body is, basically).

At a certain point, when psychological discomfort extends beyond our capacity to handle it consciously, we turn to mechanisms to turn down the dials of our mind.

Conversely, when our energy is grounded, calm, peaceful, “together”, we are NOT grasping for distraction, stimulation, sedation, or any substance. We are enjoying our state and therefore do not need to change it, and we don’t seek to change it.

But the instant our internal energy shifts, our biology begins to battle itself, and we feel unstable.

We feel an impulse. And the impulse will hit us where it hurts: it will propel us to engage in the emotion/arousal-numbing substance or activity of its choice. This manifests as “soft” addictions (i.e., social media scrolling, TV, food, compulsive socialisation), but also “hard” addictions (nicotine, alcohol, drugs of all sorts).

Because ultimately, the body/mind is seeking to get back to a state of peace and groundedness: it seeks equilibrium.

And engaging in an addiction provides this for a flicker of time, but adds a secondary problem which can quickly escalate to an intractable one.

So the Q is not, how do I get rid of my addiction to X?

But instead, how do I circumvent this impulse-addition-equilibrium equation and shoot directly at psychological groundedness?

Well, then we have asked the million dollar Q: how do I regulate my internal state to achieve equilibrium without engaging in an addictive, destructive habit?

What can I do when I have an internal disturbance or “impulse” to induce a state of stability within myself?

Glad you asked.

There are several ways to circumvent the maladaptive equation of addiction and reach directly for what your mind is truly after: balance. My favourite is meditation. Start there.

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