September 14, 2019 at 11:10 am #312243
I have a long-running on/off addiction to escapism (e.g. non-useful internet browsing, extravagantly detailed fantasizing, etc.). The negative impact this has on me is it makes me compulsive, obsessive, and unproductive. It also causes me to get lost in my stories as opposed to being present. And it also tends to disconnect me from people since I have less time to socialize as my mindspace and free time (I work a full time job) is sucked up by escapsim. Despite these costs, I continue to do it in an on/off fashion because I get a dopamine hit (or some other pleasure chemical hit) out of it. I know it is not good for me in the medium to long-term and yet I do it. It feels very much like an addiction.
There have been many times when the cost became high enough that I used my willpower to just say no and stopped the addictive behavior. The increased presence eventually would lead to deep feelings of sadness, anger, or anxiety related to my own life. I would then keep my attention on the negative emotional bodily sensations while moving my attention away from any thoughts and stories associated with those negative emotions. The extra time and presence would also cause me to take more productive actions [e.g. more socializing in the form of meetups, more dating, more effectiveness at work, etc.]. Eventually, I start to become lucky and it feels like the universe is just making things go right for me somehow. But then I fall back into addictive escapism and the cycle repeats.
I’ve noticed that one of two general triggers usually cause the fall back into addictive escapism for me.
1) Some small positive circumstance occurs in my life (since now the universe seems to be working for me) and I get attached to the positive feelings associated with it (dopamine hit or some other happy chemical hit). The positive circumstance is a temporary one, but now that I’ve gotten the dopamine hit, I’m hungrier for another hit, and a bigger hit. The only way to fulfill that hunger is to restart the escapism addiction since nothing in the real world can provide escalating levels of a bigger and bigger hit.
2) Some “major” positive outcome that previously seemed out of reach appears possible (e.g. hot friendly girl goes on a couple dates with me, seems interested but not 100% yet). This leads to high levels of anxiety, self-pressure, etc. The force of it takes me out of the present and puts me back in my thoughts and stories. It leads to the romance not panning out and emotional whiplash causes strong urge for escapism to rebalance myself and I’m back at the beginning of the addiction cycle.
I see the pattern. These addiction cycles tend to last for 2-8 weeks, before I’m starting all over again and it feels like I’m back where I started.
I’ve tried will power and it works in spurts. But to sustain will power indefinitely has been a challenge. I would love to break this because I believe that if I break it, it will allow for sustained presence which would probably transform my life.September 15, 2019 at 8:10 am #312371
I will paraphrase what you shared (it helps me understand better when I do that): You’ve been browsing the internet a lot, obsessing over a lot of details that are not useful to your life, fantasizing and overall wasting a lot of your time in these ways. You feel that you are not present for your life, disconnected from people, and addicted to… wasting your time, escaping the present, escaping a life you could otherwise have. When you stopped escaping being present, what happened is that you felt “deep feelings of sadness, anger, or anxiety”.
When that happened, you took some positive mental and practical actions: you moved your attention away from these emotions and toward the bodily sensations that you experienced and you attended meetups, dated more, worked more effectively in your full time job, etc.
After that, you unfortunately “fall back into addictive escapism and the cycle repeats” when something good happens in your life and you feel better as a result. You then want to feel even better but real life doesn’t provide you the opportunity to feel better, so you start browsing the internet, fantasizing and so forth. Or when something great happens in your life, such as going on a couple of dates with a “hot friendly girl”- you then get anxious and you then browse the internet, fantasize and escape the present opportunity to get an exciting relationship happen in real life.
My input- I see your problem as the same problem so many, if not all of us humans suffer from: anxiety. The emotional experience of anxiety is very unpleasant and we don’t want to experience it. So we escape it any which way. When something good happens in your life, a small thing, it feels good, and you want more of that good feeling- the easiest and fastest way is to browse the internet, this is your habit, and we do keep doing what we are in the habit of doing. If something big happens, you get excited and then fear is added to that excitement. So you escape both.
Living a better life has to involve being able to endure excitement without being overwhelmed by it. It takes a whole lot of work and time to be able to do that, and the experience is of a very gradual increase of such endurance. You already read and practiced shifting your attention to bodily sensations so to ground yourself in the present time and place.
But there is more to do. Did you ever attend psychotherapy or otherwise examined your childhood experience, the origin of your anxeity?
anitaSeptember 15, 2019 at 9:52 am #312401
Thanks for the reply. I have done 2 years of pscyhotherapy with 3 different therapists. Had a tumultuous childhood… lots of verbal fighting between parents that was nonstop. And, lots of feelings of inadequacy starting in 9th grade which was driven by being shorter than, less funny than, and less charismatic than my peers. I have forgiven my parents and am good with them now.September 15, 2019 at 10:05 am #312407
You are welcome.
“I have forgiven my parents and am good with them now”-
– success in psychotherapy is about healing from the damage we experienced in childhood and being good with ourselves ( way less anxious, more content, more functional), vs being “good with them”.