I click BUY NOW for another pair of vegan leather leggings, and in the moment wonder if I’ve become addicted to online shopping.
“Why not?” I ask myself, “You’ve been addicted to everything else…”
Addiction was my way of dealing with the epigenetic circumstances of our family’s specific brand of inherited trauma. I spent my late teens and twenties experimenting with drugs and getting a Masters degree in drinking. I put the “fun” in dysfunctional, and by the time I was thirty I found myself in a rehab centre. I am blessed by 33 years of sobriety, and yet I can still find myself drawn toward compulsive behaviours especially if I am tired, angry, sad, anxious, or just feeling a little too raw with the world. Humans are endlessly inventive at finding ways to avoid difficult emotions.
Here’s just a short list of some of the ways we seek to numb our feelings and find comfort: shopping, gambling, food, alcohol, weed, rage, sex, exercise (yes, even exercise can become a compulsion!), painkillers, gaming, social media, Netflix, overwork…feel free to insert your own favourites.
There’s no doubt we need comforting, especially during difficult times. The Covid years have been challenging. Climate change is upon us. There is a great deal to cope with in the big world, and in our small personal worlds daily life can be hard. It is said that to be human is to suffer. Life itself, even without sweeping global angst, serves up regular helpings of grief, sorrow, struggle and adversity. It is natural to crave solace as we wade through the muck of being human.
Over the years I’ve found healthier strategies for dealing with stress. I’ve learned to be with who I am — warts and all, to honour my emotions, to sit with pain and sorrow – my own and that of others. I’ve become resilient in adversity, able to take responsibility for my reactions to circumstances. Key practices like meditation and prayer, journaling, mindfulness, and creative expression are central to ongoing wellbeing. Rest, healthy eating, gentle exercise and spending time in nature nourish and soothe.
Still, I get stuck. I find myself flailing in the mud at times, scrolling the newsfeeds looking for validation or relief, or that new pair of leggings that will bring me closer to nirvana. Instead, each day brings me closer to my imperfect humanity. Embracing this humanity means hanging a welcome sign on the door of my vulnerable heart and treating each visitor — sadness, joy, frustration, fear, hope –with kindness. It takes patience, and practice.
We can all cultivate mindfulness and self-compassion as tools for daily living. Join me at a 5-Day Mindful Self-Compassion Intensive in March 2022. More info here.