Compulsive behaviors and recurring thought patterns rule our lives.
Our choices massively favor short-term comfort over long-term results.
This is the case for just about everyone.
I’ve been exploring the work of Gabor Maté
, an expert on addiction, trauma, and psychological development. He is one of the most consistently revealing thinkers on how we become who we are. If interested, a good place to start is this Tim Ferris interview
At the core, he emphasizes that addictive behaviors are efforts to alleviate another state, typically one of emotional pain.
Dr. Maté says the question is not “why the addiction”, the question is “why the pain”.
This leads to a different approach, one that examines the whole life.
Most of us have some form of compulsive addictive behaviors — some worse than others, but all sabotaging long-term well-being for short-term comfort (Dr. Maté’s definition of addiction).
Even procrastination, while nowhere near the severity of addiction, follows this pattern.
In my interview with Nir Eyal
, he discussed how we procrastinate to avoid discomfort — not to do something appealing, but to not do
something we perceive as uncomfortable.
The question is not “why the procrastination,” the question is “why the discomfort.”
Examine what you’re avoiding. Recognize the root. Ask “is it really that painful?” Often what we expect to be unpleasant does not turn out to be so in practice. Getting started reveals this and gets us past it — but only IF we get started.
If it is in fact painful on some level, can you identify other ways to reduce that discomfort? More constructive, less destructive approaches?
One of the cornerstones of habit change is that it’s more effective to replace a bad habit with another healthier action than it is to just stop doing it. We can also apply this to alleviating pain and discomfort. Ask what can be done routinely in response to the discomfort that does not have the detrimental effects of our previous reactive patterns. Program a better reactive action to the pain trigger.