We have probably all heard the phrase "self-medicating behavior." What that describes is our tendency to avoid one feeling by replacing it with another. For example, if there is an uncomfortable feeling we have, we seek out a comfortable feeling to replace it. These behaviors take many forms; it is very common to use food, alcohol, drugs, sex, the internet, and money to "self-medicate" our feelings. Basically, these behaviors have three characteristics: (1) they are impulse driven, (2) they yield some form of immediate gratification, and (3) they are easy to repeat. Often this behavior is reinforced, such as when we hear "do this and you will feel better", and therefore it becomes a "normal" response to an other than normal feeling.
While this behavior yields an immediate, but short-lived, response, it does nothing to address the original issue. It is a form of denial, a "kick the can down the road" solution that really is no solution at all. Since it solves nothing, the original issue remains and often we find we may have to engage in more and more self-medicating to manage the feelings. This creates an imbalance in our energy and it puts us into a cycle that takes more and more energy to maintain. Over time, self-medicating behavior can become addictive behavior.
The best way to avoid the trap is knowing that it is there. Since we all are prone to self-medicating, it is important to understand what triggers that behavior. If there is something we are avoiding, we need to identify just what it is, and then move towards it rather than away from it. We have to feel it to heal it. The amount of time and energy we spend moving towards and through the feeling/issue will be a fraction of the time and energy we spend trying to avoid it. It is entirely possible to spend our entire life in avoidance, which prevents us from growing.
So as we move towards the challenge, we honor ourselves. Courage is the ability to move forward while afraid. Step out in faith and confidence will grow. You deserve it.
Jim Harger, M.Ed., LPC