The womb where we started life was a beautiful place. It met all our needs without effort. Mother’s tummy was warm, safe, and consistent. We were never alone.
What a great place to be. We must have thought so, because we only left by force, and most of us went kicking and screaming.
Just as Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden of Eden, we were exiled from an environment of peace and effortlessness into a world of uncertainty and struggle. Faced with living in such a world, it’s no wonder we might wish to go back.
Could it be that when we feel helpless in the face of challenges and wish things were different, we are making ourselves little to return to that blissful, effortless womb?
Most anxiety is based in the desire to be somewhere else, anywhere so as not to feel what we are feeling or face what we are facing. The desire to escape is a “child’s wish” to be free of the effort of living outside the womb.
Behaviors such as using drugs and alcohol, watching TV, playing video games, shopping, or watching pornography, and engaging in fused or codependent relationships can relieve us of the anxieties of daily life.
We use them because they work – at least in the short term.
The chemicals these activities produce in our system can numb feelings of boredom, loss, insecurity, or fear and set up a reward system of dopamine and endorphins that keep us coming back for more. We can feel at peace and safe – at least for a little while.
Most of these behaviors – when used occasionally to escape reality – are part of being human. We all need a break from time to time. Yet when they become crutches that create dependency, they stunt our development and create dysfunctional living.
The reality of life is that it comes with risks and anxieties that can be difficult to deal with.
By shortcutting our way around difficult emotions and situations instead of working through them, we fail to develop the skill to live in an uncertain world.
Instead of developing self-soothing skills that provide a sense of control and the ability to tolerate discomfort in the pursuit of growth, we become dependent on methods that keep us small and helpless.
Wishing that things were different leads to helplessness and dependency, and dependency in turn creates a deep, underlying layer of anxiety. We are stuck, and we know it.
We can’t stop the behavior, because we haven’t developed skills for dealing with the discomfort and anxiety of withdrawal from the things we have used as emotional crutches.
Believing that we can’t make it without these anxiety management shortcuts creates even more anxiety. This drives more use of behaviors. We watch as our helplessness robs us of our hope.
This is the addictive cycle.
Whether or not we think of ourselves as “addicts,” this feeling of helplessness inspires wishes for things to be different. And after enough repetition of this cycle, we come to believe we are helpless and our only hope is a miracle.
Ironically, we are correct, and here is the miracle – action.
When we recognize our powerless state and develop the willingness to do whatever it takes to move through it, we are on the threshold of action.
Action can often simply be seeking help.
We start by asking for help. Not the kind that will magically make our problems disappear, but the kind that instills in us that we have the strength inside, somewhere, somehow, to effect the changes we have avoided for so long.
With help we can open our eyes to what has always been there: support, tools, answers, and people who have just been waiting for us to see in ourselves what they have always seen.
Action and help can restore our awareness that we can come to our own aid.
Leap into real life: messy, uncertain, painful, beautiful life.
What have you got to lose – besides the wishes that keep you helpless and small?
Are you ready to go big?
Are you ready to grow up?
You don’t have to do it alone. If you could, you already would have!
Roger Nix is a life coach and certified No More Mr. Nice Guy group leader practicing in the Seattle/Bellevue, Washington area.