How often have you found yourself in a repeated thought loop or behaviour pattern and wondered why? Why do I keep acting this way? Why do I keep finding myself in the same place of regret or shame?
You may watch others who appear to be caught in the same cycle.
The reality of how our hearts and brains are wired is that we can find ourselves on a predictable and repetitious path – when left unchecked.
How the Cycle of Addiction works.
- UNMET NEED/TRAUMA
We experience a disappointment, loss, trauma of any kind, failure or relational dysfunction. This will look different for every individual – our personal life experiences, personality, degree of emotional intelligence or intellect, family support and all manner of other factors shape how we will respond and how significantly we will be impacted.
We feel sad, we feel wounded, we feel lonely, we feel embarrassed. Again, the depth, breadth and severity of those feelings will vary between people. There is not a collectively determined response to pain that would make that predictable or able to be assumed – for ourselves or others. What one person may find devastating might barely impact another.
We are psychologically predisposed to try and stop or avoid pain. If you touch something hot you pull your hand away immediately. Pain is our mental and physical sign that something is wrong and it triggers an immediate desire to escape the source or remedy the wound.
- IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION
Our natural tendency is to go for the quick fix. We scoff a block of chocolate or turn to other substances for relief and escape. We look for anything that might momentarily relieve us of our pain or discomfort.
At the height of pain and in our rush to escape it we can often make poor choices. An ill-advised relational connection, exessive alcohol consumption, violence, pornography, drugs or other decisions that lead to feelings of regret once we are more emotionally sober.
This causes more pain and the cycle repeats.
Each time we head back around the cycle we can find that we need increasing levels of stimuli to meet the need for escape and gratification. We might need to drink more or engage in riskier activities in order to achieve the same sense of relief or release. This, in turn, leads to greater guilt and more intense pain – and you can see how that can lead us to feel trapped in the cycle.
BREAKING THE CYCLE
At every stage of the cycle we can find an ‘off ramp’.
- PROCESSING INSTEAD OF ESCAPING
Telling a close friend about the pain, journaling, releasing the pent-up emotion with a good cry, prayer & worship – exploring ways to let the emotion out and processing it through rather than trying to escape it.
- EMPLOYING STRATEGIES RATHER THAN LOOKING TO A SHORT TERM FIX
Perhaps some physical exercise or fresh air might be a better option. Smashing out a gym session rather than smashing down a slab! Knowing the people to call. Meditating on the truths of God and His Word. Making decisions before the pain is felt about the kind of behaviours that are most helpful rather than reaching for the quickest, easiest options when pain strikes.
- CONFESSION INSTEAD OF GUILT
The power of guilt is that its secrecy keeps us captive. ‘What if people find out?’ The act of confession – to both God and other people – disarms the enemy’s ability to manipulate and condemn us with guilt. Perhaps a counsellor, doctor or leader is the most appropriate outlet for this or maybe it’s a parent or trusted friend.
- GRACE OVER PAIN
Confession positions us to receive grace – from God and from others – and perhaps most significantly, from ourselves. The reality is that there is always an option to make a better choice next time or to continue to offload emotional baggage rather than hoarding it. We are given a second (and third, and fourth…) chance. There is opportunity to redeem our hurt or our failure for our good or the benefit of others. Grace.
Question : How might the illustration of the cycle help you to understand your own responses or the behaviours of others around you?