Whenever our behaviour serves to hide some anxiety or thought that afflicts us, we are facing an addiction. In this way, when we take a cigarette to our mouth because we are nervous, or when we eat beyond our hunger, we are exhibiting an addictive behaviour. We are not acting out of our desire to smoke or eat, but rather acting out of an impulse to alleviate the inner pain we feel, whether conscious or unconscious.
So what is an addiction?
To better understand this issue, Dr. Gabor Maté, an expert in this area, says: “Addiction is any behaviour in which a person finds relief in the short term but suffers long-term consequences. Despite these same negative consequences, the person does not give up on this behaviour.”
That is, the addiction is not centered on the object itself. It is the reaction to a particular stimulus that makes a behaviour addictive or not. The fact that someone drinks alcohol, gambles, smokes cigarettes, or works hard does not necessarily mean that this person is exhibiting addictive traits. Addiction arises when this same behaviour serves to alleviate some kind of existing emotional pain. This pain is, in the words of Dr. Gabor Maté, created by some kind of trauma that we don’t know how to deal with. It doesn’t really matter whether this trauma was created when a person was young or already an adult. Because the person carries an unconscious trauma with him, he adopts an attitude that will help him to deal with the pain that this situation represents. Since this person is not able to, or simply does not want to relive the pain caused by this past situation, they will instead use some kind of external stimulus to distract and cover up the pain.
A child who has been abused or whose parents have abandoned him can feel great pain as an adult, because despite the time that separates the moment of trauma from the present moment, this idea remains engraved in his mind. Regardless of the time elapsed, the person continues to access this pain and it tends to arise in the conscious mind. In some cases, the brain creates defense mechanisms that hide the cause of this pain, and that’s why some people can’t determine why they feel bad.
So how can meditation help in these cases?
Meditation brings greater awareness to the actions we take daily. As we go deeper into meditation, we acquire a greater capacity to take thoughtful actions instead of reacting impulsively.
But how can meditation help cure addictive behaviour?
All those who have ever needed to overcome some kind of addiction know the feeling of being invaded by a practically uncontrollable urge to give in to your temptation. It is usually when we feel most vulnerable that this pain is strongest and that we act almost without any control over our actions. This is when meditation can help the most, because if a person is serious in their practice, they will be better able to resist the urge to pursue their own problem. They will stay calmer because the ideas in their head will be more organized and structured. Thus, when deciding on the path of addiction or freedom, there will be more clarity in which course of action to take.
And how long can it take to get over the addiction?
This decision always depends more on each person than on meditation itself. When we meditate we are actually using our consciousness for healing, but in the end it is up to the individual to decide which path to choose. The choices we make are ours and so when we are sure of the way forward, we can reach any goal. Meditation is an invaluable help to continue this path we have outlined, but ultimately leaves it up to the person whether or not he wants to continue his addictive behaviour.
Meditation, despite its importance, does not override our will. Above all is the freedom to make decisions.
What to do then, when I feel the desire to give in to the addiction that consumes me?
The moment we feel an almost uncontrollable desire to give in to an addiction, it is necessary to make the most difficult of decisions which is to look inside ourselves and listen to the thoughts that are in our head, as well as notice the feelings that consume us. It is necessary that we remain alert to what is happening inside us through a neutral observation in which there is no judgment of what is going on internally.
If, instead of letting ourselves be dragged along by the addiction, we let this moment of pain consume us entirely, then we are finally healing. Really healing. This is the power to look within and listen to whatever is creating the pain in us. The only thing to do at this point is to let these thoughts and feelings run through our entire body without taking sides with them. Which thoughts occur? What feelings come up? When we look consciously, then we are in the process of healing through meditation.
This process can be painful because all our lives we’ve been running away from this problem. However, the solution is there, where we least want to look, in our unconscious that re-lives over and over again the trauma we were subjected to, at some point in our lives. Then, if we are brave enough to surrender to what is happening, without trying to run away or suppress our thoughts, then we can expect miracles.
Every second that we don’t give in and remain aware, the addiction gains more strength and tries to convince us that this is not the solution. However, after some time, this dark cloud that hovers over us disappears and we gain confidence to remain free from this negative influence.
As we meditate, we grow in maturity, free ourselves from limiting thoughts, and promote healthier living habits. It is through this connection that healing happens little by little, assisting us in liberating all kinds of addictions and ideas that limit and consume us. When we are free, we make more thoughtful decisions and gain a clearer perspective that helps us overcome any obstacles that come into our lives.