You might wonder why I would relate two such seemingly disparate afflictions. From an ego perspective they don’t seem to have much to do with each other. But from a consciousness perspective, they function very similarly. The trouble begins with a trigger.
The anxiety of addiction (to a drug or person), and the rising panic of facing a phobia, are both just flurries of thought and, in being so, they are truly both addictions. They are the user dosing themselves with anxious chemistry by replaying common repetitive narratives that justify the release of the chemicals.
The reason the person wants the chemical is because they are used to it. If the circumstances of existence genuinely generated it for a long period of time early in life, then a person can get addicted to that neurochemistry and when it is missing they will seek it out. They will seek out circumstances in life which will create opportunities to get the chemicals that they sense as missing.
Ideas and concepts in your mind are held by association. So say you got beaten very badly by a parent when you were young. Unfortunately, a lot of you had to live out that terrible story in real life. And so the combination of all of your fight-or-flight chemistry, plus your efforts to comprehend the reasoning behind the attacks, all lead to strong, consistent doses of powerful chemicals.
But then life got more peaceful, which should seem like it’s good, except you’re left with this strange wanting feeling. Something’s missing. And then you subconsciously go out into the world with this tilt toward finding a situation that will incite your narrative so you can get your chemical. So if you had the crazy dad you had to be afraid of, then you’ll choose a wife or close friend with an intense temper that includes threats of some sort. Get it?
Now remember up at the start there I mentioned triggers? Well those are what start the process so it’s good to figure out what they are. So say we have two people—and I’ll use the most common phobias and addictions I deal with in my practice. One is afraid to cross bridges, the other is addicted to cocaine. Each one will have a subconscious schedule for when they want their drug.
So maybe the bridge person wants to feel their panic chemistry at least twice a week, whereas the crack addict wants to binge every weekend. The bridge person has their accountant, lawyer and favourite restaurant all on the other side of bridges. They have done this subconsciously, but that was a part of why they chose those particular businesses. For the addict, they tell themselves they have a very passionate sexual marriage, when really it is two people in a relationship leaning on a shared narrative to justify their actions. So they’re having sex, but they just happen to subconsciously and automatically add drugs to their experience every time.
The preparation to go the lawyers or restaurant will begin hours or even days in advance. Thoughts will kick in about how the person needs to get this or that piece of business done, or that they’re craving the restaurant’s curried chicken—but along with that will be a but. But if they do that, then they will have to cross the bridge!
This type of anxiousness addict will create a want on the other side of the bridge so they can think about crossing the bridge, because it’s those thoughts that are giving them what they want. Meanwhile the addict will be getting horny. They’ll be starting to think about sex with the subconscious knowledge that they can successfully justify the purchase and use of drugs for such an event.
These narratives will build and begin dosing the thinker. As they expand and dominate more and more of the person’s day, the doses get stronger and longer and they take the person away from more pressing matters in the present moment. This means decisions about tomorrow are going unattended, which means the people are less likely to go in the most rewarding directions. This is how these addictions restrict our lives and the expansion of ourselves.
So the bridge-crosser starts to talk to themselves about the existence of the bridge,. They tell themselves stories about how they can’t possibly cross it (although they’ll drop logic from their reasoning as to why, and they’ll generally build themselves into a hyper-ventilating, over-wrought wreck. And every time they’ll tell themselves they have to get help for it, but very few will ever really go. Because if they do that, they might get better and then they would be left without their chemical.
The addict tells themselves that this is something they just need to do one more time, and then they’ll be done. That this is their celebration. Their exit party. They’ll have this fun and then move on to the next part of their life. The more serious part where they move ahead more and pay less attention to their party life. But for both the bridge crosser and the sex and drugs couple, life just won’t move forward because too much time is invested in thinking about obtaining the chemistry of their addiction, whether it’s an external one that mimics an internal one, or whether it’s an actual natural internal chemical.
The good news is, whatever your panic attacks or addictions are based on, you will feel the pull of your narrative as a feeling. You will feel the gentle tug of your story starting. And you will feel it build. This is your opportunity. You must step in at that point and ask yourself, what am I thinking about right now? And you will already have been brilliant, because your egoic you was telling itself a story designed to go get the chemistry, and now your true self is taking control of your consciousness and it’s enquiring as to what the ego is doing. This is already the beginning of changing your thoughts. You simply think about something else. Even the same subject but in a different way.
At the start you can reason your way back out of the build-up. You can tell yourself competing narrative stories that undoes the previous logic. And you will most certainly bunny hop in your success. But every time you don’t panic, delay, or don’t do the drug, you have helped reinforce the pathways in your mind that you are not an addict or someone prone to panic attacks. You will have consciously re-wired your brain with a new identity that does not include panic attacks or drugs.
It was a process to become who you are, and it’s a processes to change who that is. But every small success builds that larger more capable identity that is the real you. You are using your understanding to shed your limiting thoughts and you are uncovering your true magnificence. You are motivated by the feeling of immenseness and beauty that emanates from living with a peaceful heart.
When you feel at one with everything, then you have nothing to fear, or worry about, or need. You are ultimately content to leave panicked thoughts and drugs behind in favour of the richness of a life filled with open, loving awareness. That’s actually an addiction of sorts too. But that one’s as healthy as it gets. And fortunately, it’s contagious.
Catch your thoughts. Remember they are yours. Focus your consciousness on something else. Feel the power when you steal the narrative. Feel the loss of apparent momentum the idea has. You are freer and more capable than you give yourself credit for. You are Neo in The Matrix. So skip the drugs and bridges, and go practice some Kung Fu. 😉
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.