Habit vs Addiction

Published: 30th July 2007
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Here are a few clues to help you see the line between a soft addiction and a productive activity more clearly:

Zoning out. One way of identifying a soft addiction is to notice whether or not you zone out while you are doing it. When we are zoned out, we are not fully engaged. We might be daydreaming or have a "no one is home" look plastered on our face. Zoning out suggests that the real goal of our activity is numbness. Regardless of the fact that we're physically participating, our mind is off somewhere else. When we're finished with the activity we frequently do not remember the things we have done, watched, or read. Though this often happens when watching television, it can also occur while shopping, working, having superficial conversations, or doing other activities.

Avoiding feelings. Certain activities numb us to our emotions, especially very strong emotions. We evade feelings by being numb, increasing specific feelings that we enjoy to the exclusion of others, or even wallowing in one unpleasant feeling to escape another. Several of us are uncomfortable with our most intimate feelings, whether they are good or bad. We often don't know how to deal productively with our sadness or anger (or, in some instances, even our joy), so we find an activity or a mood that facilitates an emotion-muting state, which only represses our sadness, anger or other unsettled emotions.

Compulsiveness. Are you driven to indulge in a specific behavior or emotion? Do you often feel compelled to do, have, or buy something, no matter if you understand that you don't need it? This may be accompanied by a helpless, powerless feeling. You may not be able to stop or diminish the amount of hours wasted on a given activity. Although you may find some transient pleasure, you often feel bad afterward. You continue following the habit, all the while saying to yourself, I'll never do this again. Though you try to stop, you cannot find the power to do so.

Denial. If you get defensive or start justifying your actions, odds are it's a soft addiction. Denial is a refusal to acknowledge and rationalization is an excuse or explanation to justify a compulsive behavior. Both dull our self-awareness and lower our expectations of ourselves. To write our actions off as acceptable, we overlook, cover up, or gloss over the true reason or price. Either we maintain that the addiction is not a problem or we rationalize why it is an acceptable or necessary way to use our time. "What is so bad about a few cups of coffee?" is a average justification. We may deny that the hours spent surfing the Net are a waste of time. The inclination to rationalize a routine suggests a soft addiction.

Stinking thinking. "Stinking thinking" is distorted thinking built on incorrect beliefs. Oversimplifying, amplifying, minimizing, justifying, blaming, and emotional reasoning are a few examples. Stinking thinking produces the rediculous rules and logic of soft addictions. For instance, "there aren't calories if I eat standing up," or "I can't exercise if I have already showered." This type of faulty thinking is addictive. The tainted thoughts prompt indulging in a soft addiction in the beginning and later on allow us to justify the indulgence.

Hiding the behavior. Beware of habits that turn into guilty pleasures you seek to hide. Hiding the amount of hours you spend participating in an activity or being deceitful to others about how you frequently use your time or your money suggests that you have soft addictions. In other words, you feel ashamed of the things you are doing and that is why you desire to hide it from others.

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Judith Wright is an author, speaker, educator, life coach, and seminar leader. She has taught workshops to help people overcome soft addictions and creating "More" for 12 years. You may contact her through her Web site at www.theremustbemore.com. See also Massive Personal Growth

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