5 Root Problems of Toxic Coping Mechanisms

Many problems, ranging from substance abuse, TV or shopping addiction, self-harming, overeating, escapism, procrastination, compulsive behavior, they all have to do with one thing – avoiding emotional pain. However, it can be broken down to a couple of root problems.

Addictions do not happen in a vacuum. So before judging others or ourselves for these weaknesses, try to figure out what they’re trying to cover up in the first place. You will soon start to see deep unhealed wounds and needs underneath.

1. We feel powerless.

Addictive acts always start with an emotionally challenging event – an emotional trap. It is a position that is painful, detrimental to our ego, violating our boundaries, and which we don’t know how to handle.

Being caught up in such a position, we feel powerless and helpless to change it, so we substitute the direct confrontation with other things that make us feel in control. We get caught up in the cycle of repeating that same action every time a similar feeling of powerlessness arises.

Because we feel the initial response to this helping mechanism is good, we are not ready to give it up, because we fear the pain we will have to face without it.

2. We feel rejected.

Basically, the need for acceptance and connection and the fear of being rejected are what drives us to repeat these actions.

This is why forcing your advice, judgment, and criticizing don’t have any effect, but only deepen the feeling of rejection and reinforce the need for this emotional substitute.

Laws, such as Portugal’s drug policy, that enforced social integration of addicted individuals proved to have a higher rate of success regarding their recovery.

3. We are avoidant.

Avoidance is a way of ignoring and postponing painful experiences. We overeat, watch too much TV, numb ourselves in many ways so as not to face the problem. But only looking at what we don’t want to see can we surpass this pain.

Avoidance means not taking responsibility, in other words, giving up the control. So even though we might feel it gives us control over the state of powerlessness, it actually weakens us further. We shouldn’t expect others to take responsibility for our own happiness and well-being; it will not make us stronger, nor confident or worthy.

4. We can’t find a purpose.

Living a worthy life is something that saves us many of the unhealthy behaviors and anxieties. Firstly, it gives us a perspective of our life that we cannot envision when passive and avoidant. Consequently, it gives us a hierarchy of values where we begin to distinguish what is harmful from what we truly need.

Only then can we truly see how our addictions make us hurt and disempowered, rather than giving us a false sense of control and pain relief. You will find yourself surrounded by support when trying to do something purposeful, and feel abandoned when engaged in recurring self-destructive behavior.

5. We’re not self-aware.

You don’t say you want to quit because you know it’s wrong, but because society thinks it’s wrong, and none of us can afford being rejected when in this state. This way we fail to realize how truly detrimental our habit is.

We become dishonest towards ourselves, which prevents us from identifying and breaking the patterns. Honest self-reflection will induce growth and change, but that can only happen when we stop rationalizing and resisting painful signals.

Stop avoiding pain, it is nothing to be afraid of, it is not the sign of weakness but the source of your future strength. It signals to you what obstacles you have to overcome, what challenges you have to face in order to truly find happiness.

Even though this sounds easy, some cases are harder to deal with. Luckily, there are now recovery centers such as New Day Recovery that provide holistic treatments, considering every aspect of a particular addiction problem, healing both the physical and emotional harm caused by substance abuse. So don’t be afraid to reach out for help.

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