I am realizing that I have an addiction to distracting myself – mainly via Facebook in recent times. In the excellent talk by Dr. Gabor Maté that I have provided a link to, below, he asks, and answers, the question What Is Addiction? He says that all addictions are simply ways/attempts to relieve ourselves of pain/distress.
I have watched Part 1 of this video a couple of times before. It is only a little over 3 minutes long, and it is an excellent overview of his message. I would, however, strongly encourage you to watch Part 2, also, as I just did. It is over 18 minutes long and is a TedX talk he gave in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It truly is one of the best TedTalks I have ever seen. And given how many excellent TedTalks I have seen, that is really saying something.
So, back to me and my own addiction. The truth is, I don’t know the exact origin of my own personal pain. There were challenges and traumas in my growing up years, to be sure. But in comparison with many people I have met over the course of my life – not all of of them patients, but also friends, family members, colleagues, and acquaintances – what I remember of my past seems trying, but not extreme. What I can not argue with, however, is the clear evidence that trauma has occurred, and that there is a marked impulse to distract from the pain of it.
Now in both parts of the talk by Maté, he speaks directly of, and quotes others also advocating for, the need to simply Be With the Pain. All addiction is essentially trying to run from the suffering, and the “surest way to Hell is to try to run from it” is the gist of one those quotes.
How does one Be with the Pain? How can I do that? Well a couple of things are crucial. The first, is what I am doing here, now: admitting it is a problem. Secondly, anyone who has identified their addiction will need compassion and support (from themselves, and others) to choose, over and over again, to Be with that Pain. Unfortunately it helps not at all for others to point out that (I’m) “You’re doing it again”. That just ends up being perceived as shaming and blaming – whether that is what was intended, or not. Recognizing instead that there is some sort of pain that I am trying to evade, and having compassion for that process, feels very supportive.
So, this writing is a reminder to myself to let my own pain be registered; to let it land. For me, that means taking breaks from online time, so that there is the space to let my mind rest. Only then can I be with my own pain. Today I spent all afternoon in the garden, raking leaves and cleaning up. That worked well for me.
I am also reminding myself here, that as a practitioner, and simply as a fellow human Be-ing, I can be compassionate with the addictive attempts by others to deaden or distract from their pain. Now of course it is easy to become an enabler of the addictions of others. But unwavering Love and Compassion can be firm and holding, while not collapsing.
There is, of course, so much more that can be said on this subject. This much is what I needed to share here and now.