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Feelings and Addictions

The importance of feelings has been hitting me more and more lately. I often talk about how feelings are our GPS system, showing us where we are in thought

Positive feelings nourish us. We’re having a beautiful Fall here in Maine, and when I look at the Fall foliage I’m filled with feelings like joy – from the richness of the reds and brightness of the oranges, and from the aesthetics of seeing the bare brown branches next to trees alive with flaming color. And awe – at how remarkably well nature does at giving us this degree of beauty, ongoing and ever-changing.

These feelings of joy and awe fill me up. It’s the opposite of what happens with addictive behaviors. In that case, there’s a feeling that makes you uncomfortable. As so often happens with an uncomfortable feeling, you go outside in – it starts to look to you like the feeling is coming from something outside of you, rather than your own thoughts.  You often don’t register on the feeling at all – whether it be loneliness, boredom, insecurity or anxiety. A person with an addiction will think: I’ll feel better if I ___ (drink, smoke pot, shop, overeat, etc.) The addictive behavior distracts them from what they’re really feeling, with another feeling induced by the substance or behavior – a temporary high. Sadly, when that wears off the feeling that made them uncomfortable in the first place is still there.

When we go to sleep to feelings, we perpetuate them. When we avoid the thoughts that create the uncomfortable feelings, we unwittingly add more thoughts to the ones we’re avoiding – thoughts like ‘this is too uncomfortable/dangerous/scary to feel,’ etc. Addictive behaviors don’t nourish you – they give you temporary relief, but leave your heart and souls more bereft than they were to start with, because now you’re stuck with the insecure feeling AND the hangover, empty bank account or inability to fit into your clothes.

So while positive feelings fill us up, nourishing our hearts and souls, feelings that we experience as negative bring us to a crossroads. We either A) recognize that they’re coming from thought, and then the thoughts and feelings pass, opening our minds to fresh thoughts and our hearts to fresh experiences, or B) we go unconscious, avoid the feeling, and start to perceive it as coming from outside us – from getting a bad review from a boss, not having enough friends, etc. Any feeling you avoid on a regular basis leads to thought patterns that become invisible to you, and it starts to look like life is bringing you the same bad experiences over and over. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair, and to addictive behaviors.

As people learn about the inside-out nature of life, they often become more awake and aware, particularly to the feelings that they live in. Feelings are an amazing gift that nature gives us, there to fill us up and nourish us, or warn us when we’re falling asleep to thoughts that are taking us south. The more awake we become to these thought-feelings, the more we learn about our thought world, and about what comes before thought.  Awakening leads to more awakening, to the source of thought, the source of all creation. It’s the opposite of the deadening that comes with an addiction.

With Love, Annika

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