breaking the cycle

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. 


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. 

  • PAIN

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. 


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. 

  • GUILT 

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. 


At every stage of the cycle we can find an ‘off ramp’. 


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. 


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. 


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. 


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? 

extroverts & “quiet time” // a double discipline

I’ve been wrestling with this topic for years. 

My thoughts are based on the following foundational truths. 

1. I am an extrovert. A raging extrovert! I know a few 3 year olds who are as extroverted as me, but other than that I am almost in a league of my own. 

Extroversion is NOT about personality type – it’s about energy management. Extroverts are energised by being with people. Social and relational engagement not only fills their love-tank but actually fuels them

Time alone is therefore de-energising. For me, if I had an instrument that showed my energy levels you would see it start to plummet the minute I said goodbye and hopped in my car. Extended time alone sees me resembling those ballerinas in jewellery boxes who just get slower and slower and the music gets painfully strained until it all … just … stops. 

I have learned to not make any important decisions during those times – regret would be inevitable. To reflect on any sense of my general health, life satisfaction or optimism for my future in the middle of extended alone time would not actually be indicative of how I really feel, think or am. 

[** see here for more info on Introverts & Extroverts]

2. Devotional time with God is important. Infinitely so. Jesus modelled for us a rhythm of life that includes withdrawing for intentional time for reconnection with Father God. Disciplines that draw us to meditation on God’s word, listening for His voice and realigning our heart and will with His, are necessary for our spiritual and emotional flourishing. 

You may already be ahead of me on this – but those two truths can actually be in conflict. The idea of “quiet time” or alone time with God being energising or life-giving is contrary to the natural experience of an extroverted person. 

An introverted person doesn’t need to be encouraged to spend time alone or in quiet. They crave it naturally because they need it for their own re-energising and even coping. The discipline of devotions or quiet times is more about being intentional – consecrating that alone time for the purposes of deepening and energising their walk with God. 

But for the extrovert it actually becomes a double discipline. The discipline to seek time alone and the discipline to seek intimacy with God in that place. 

My greatest sense of God’s presence, my most intense moments of growth and nurture, my deepest experiences of God’s transforming power, and my most clear sense of His leading and revealing, have all happened in non-alone times. I am also an external processor (not all extroverts are) which means my ability to see and interpret the things God is saying or doing is exponentially enhanced by sharing the moment or experience with another person; out loud. 

I do my daily Bible reading with the use of an audio app. Hearing the words spoken aloud is far more useful for my receiving and understanding than silent reading. When something is powerful or convicting or confusing – I repeat it out loud in order to confirm its meaning. Even my quiet times aren’t quiet!

When I do a prayer walk, extended retreat time by the beach or an intentional time of seeking God on something – any revelations or illuminations have to be shared with a third party before they really take root in my heart. It’s as though they are not really real until they’ve been confirmed by communicating them with another person and having some sense of affirmation or shared understanding of their significance. Any time we are “sent off” to spend alone time with God I use a fair portion of it preparing to share what God had laid on my heart with other people. I need to hear it outside my head and have the collaboration and engagement of others to confirm its life and meaning to my circumstances. That’s not a function of insecurity or lack of trust in God’s word to me or even any doubt that it’s God’s voice I’m hearing or His direction I’m sensing. It’s a function of personality and temperament – knowing who I am and how I operate. 

Someone once said that books on quiet times are written by introverts who don’t need them and read by extroverts who feel guilty they can’t follow them! I don’t have the research on that but I can definitely appreciate the point. 

“12 thoughts of Christmas” #6: Things are Different Now

Like millions of others, my heart has broken watching the news reports and hearing the stories out of the horrific school shooting in Connecticut, USA. Amongst many other things I’ve processed in the wake of this tragic event, I have found myself thinking about what Christmas will look like for those families. My heart and mind can’t really wrap themselves around all that would be impacted by such trauma and such intense grief and loss.

The reality for many families is that Christmas could look a lot different for you this year than it did last year. You may have moved house or town. You might have experienced loss through the death of a family member or friend. You might have aged parents who are now in care, a sick loved one who is hospital bound, relatives that are overseas or interstate, a relationship that has ended. So much could be different about this Christmas – and if that’s the case for you, it’s a good idea to identify that and process it in intentional and inclusive ways.

People will react to change in a whole raft of different ways. It depends on personality, resilience, emotional maturity, levels of support (perceived or real) and all manner of other factors. Children will also react to change in unique ways but are often impeded in their processing by their capacity to identify and articulate emotions, feelings, fears or thoughts. Some suggestions for self-reflection and/or discussion.

  • Consider what has changed in your family since last Christmas and acknowledge that together. Even if something changed 11 ½ months ago, it may still alter the landscape of your Christmas gathering.
  • Discuss the part that person or situation played in the way you celebrated Christmas last year. Perhaps you had cousins spend the day with you that are now living interstate and won’t be here. Or maybe you lived in a different house that lent itself to certain decorations or activities. Maybe someone who has passed away had a special job at Christmas – they manned the BBQ or handed out the presents, they brought the fruit salad or they led the family Carol singing session.
  • Make a plan for how you will handle that particular difference. Decide in advance who will take on the role or how you will change your celebrations to cope without it being done. Communicate the plan clearly with all who are impacted.
  • Identify the emotions that are attached to the change. Obvious ones would include sadness and grief – but there could be anger, guilt, loneliness, fear, insecurity, hopelessness etc – possibly even relief or happiness. Giving permission for people to feel what they are feeling is a gift that can often bring great release and healing.
  • Be intentional about honouring what HAS been whilst celebrating all that is. New situations, new friends and family to celebrate with, new physical environments all lend themselves to exciting opportunities to add new traditions and memories to your Christmas gathering.
  • Remember that while much may have changed in your life, God has not! He is the same God yesterday, today and forever. He sees everything, knows everything, is not surprised by anything and offers us infinite love, grace and compassion as we process our way through a broken world. Immanuel – God is with us!