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Observing Your Addictions in Every Moment

November 2, 2009

fans_footballGuard your emotional investments in anything outside of your life’s best interests. Addiction is an emotional over-investment in things that do not serve your personal growth.  A good example is sports fanship.  Why do we do it?  My hypothesis is that our level of fanship (how much we emotionally invest in “our” team’s outcomes) is connected to our own level of self-esteem.  I don’t know if it’s a perfect correlation, and I believe that there are other reasons why we become fans (such as pure enjoyment and entertainment).  But there is no question in my mind that there is a major element of escapism at work here.  We are putting our faith on the shoulders of men and women – heroes – hoping for them to provide for us an emotional spark or lift; consequently, this reduces our self-reliance on providing and sustaining such a spark.  What if our team loses?  How much energy did we lose on those bets?

Personally, I have observed how drained I am on Mondays following emotionally intense Football Sundays.  Even now, as I sit here and watch the World Series, a sport which I generally don’t even watch and teams which I don’t really care for (Phillies and Yankees), I find myself emotionally swaying, from frustration to excitement, in certain tense situations of the game.  Why do I even care?  It’s the emotional gamble that pulls me in – the chance to pleasure my senses and ego.  The emotional projection is a chance to vicariously live through the lives of others, and seek the thrill of – “My team won!” or “I bet on the right team.  We did it!”  “Home Run!”  There it is, that rush.  We all know what that’s about, whether our pleasure is sports, shopping, pornography, eating, sleeping or something else.  But are we aware of the price we pay for that rush?  Instead of tuning out the game after two hours and getting back important matters of our own lives, we get hooked into watch the conclusion of games – that’s the best part right?  You see, these addictions can alter our perception of priorities and willingness (or will power) to redirect our best energy towards areas that “really” matter.  Ask yourself whether you can summon high quality energy after an emotionally intense game – a real nail biter – that you watched?  Did you lose yourself in the game?  Did it drive you to have that extra beer or cigarette, or perhaps curse loudly in front of your kids?  If your team “goes all the way”, will you boast and take pride in championships earned by the sweat of others?  Yes, of course we fans are part of the game – so our energy does count towards something.  But is it worthwhile for your own life purpose compared to other ways that you could be investing that energy?  This is a question that I have been asking myself in various forms over the past seventeen years, ever since my enthusiasm for sports crossed the line into a dangerous sports gambling habit that has cost me thousands of dollars and significant grief.  The silver lining is the lesson that it has taught me about this very topic of addictions and what it signifies about our human emotions and self-worth.  I’ve been clean from gambling for almost ten years now; but not completely from what I now consider to be a fairly “healthy” level of enthusiasm for sports as a spectator.

Being a sports spectator can be a dangerous escape if taken too far, to a level where we become addicted to the feeling that it gives us, just like any other emotional investment that does not have to do with our own self-development or that of our friends and families.

In sum, we all have addictions; and I do believe that they reflect a level of internal laziness and a giving up of sorts, as we invest our energy in someone else to cover up for that which we (think we) lack within ourselves.  Have you identified your own addictions lately?  If you haven’t, the people close to you in your life (family, spouse, kids, co-workers, etc) can probably help you out with that one.  You know, the topics that you argue about with your partner the most?  They probably have to do with one or the other person’s addictions – emotional habits that we refuse to, or do not know how to, let go of.  I recommend that you make a list of your addictions, share it with a “Board of Advisors” (of 3-5 people) who know you well, and collectively rate on a scale of 1-10 where you stand with each one.  Revisit this list at least once per quarter to see how you are doing in each area.  Sit on the Board for 2 or 3 others who you can provide an objective mirror for when it comes to addictions with which they struggle.  We all need support to work through these emotional vulnerabilities; not someone to brush off the uncomfortable moments and tell you “don’t worry about it”, or someone to authoritatively tell you what to do either.  It’s up to you to gather the feedback from others with openness and try to observe yourself in every moment to see how these addictions take you of course as you go about your day-to-day life.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2010 6:47 pm

    Interesting read Arman. What separates passion from addiction? Does it all come down to the personal growth angle?

    • January 31, 2010 11:34 pm

      Great question my friend. We’re all seeking something higher, and addiction typically connects us to some type of shortcut to that “high”. I see the silver lining in addiction, in that it can be one of the keys to our spiritual growth.

      Between passion and addiction, there is a fine line there, where one’s passions can certainly lead to addictions if we are not emotionally mature or grounded enough. In my view, anything that controls us to a point where we cannot choose Consciously at each moment is addiction; and to the degree that that addiction controls us or feeds on our weaknesses, there is a personal growth opportunity. If our passions lead us to make choices that result in harm to us or others (consciously or not) or cause us to be less considerate to people in general, I believe that there is something unhealthy in that.

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