Love addiction and polyamory

 

Love addiction comes from not feeling loved sufficiently. We typically have an identity as someone unloved or unlovable, and we are also unable to love ourselves fully and in a satisfying way. We are unable to sufficiently find love and kindness towards our own emotions, emotional and physical pain, painful thoughts, and general discomfort and unease.

We were not shown how to do this as babies and children. Our parents were perhaps unable to give us sufficient unconditional love, and they were unable to do it to themselves as well. So we didn’t learn it.

What we did learn was to seek it outside of ourselves, from others. Many of us spend a lifetime trying to find love from others, to fill that hole in us through the love of others. It works to some extent, but not completely. It may not be sufficient, it may be uncertain and withdrawn, and since the only real remedy is to give it to ourselves it will never be enough when we try to get it from others.

I was reminded of this when I talked with a friend who is in a polyamory relationship, somewhat against his preference. Polyamory may, for some, be a strategy to find that love. We get it from multiple sources, and we always have one or more backups if one should fail.

It can be just another way to avoid facing the pain of feeling unloved or unlovable, and to avoid the challenge and discomfort in learning to truly and more consistently meet our own experience with kindness and love. The other side of it is that it can provide a setting for us to learn to love ourselves, just as any other setting – whether we are single, in a conventional relationship, or in an open or polyamorous relationship.

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Relationship addiction, love addiction

 

As the new relationship shifted back to friendship, I experienced a new sense of spaciousness that came from not having a partner to focus on as I had done for the previous 17 years. In this newly opened space came both immense pleasure, and pain. Debilitating thoughts and intense sensations arose that I labeled fear, and sadness. Using inquiry and embodied rest I journeyed through rotating stories and beliefs, many of them tied to childhood experiences that I had not yet unwound. Feeling utterly alone as a child was one of my biggest sources of trauma, around which I had built a lot of conditioning to protect myself from feeling. There was layer after of layer of feeling unsafe, unloved and simply unable to live without being in relationship for fear of being alone. The various awakenings experienced were no match for the conditioning and trauma that lived in the space of my body.

I was raised believing that I needed a man to take care of me, and on subconscious levels I believed this, even though rationally speaking I would swear it’s absurd. All the studying of feminism, philosophy, and psychology in the world couldn’t have saved me from subconscious belief systems and biological programming which helped form various stories: needing relationship to prove sense of worth, to feel special, to be important, to be loved, to be safe. Being in a relationship distracted me from coming face to face with my various deficiency stories, and the life I created through intimate relationships kept me from fully diving into my ultimate fear of being alone. Nothing could have prepared me for the intense feelings of wanting to be held and touched, that almost seemed to command me to be in relationship or have sex. Over the last six months I’ve learned to hug myself, and love myself, and be with myself in deeper ways than I had ever imagined.

– from The Addictive Nature of Relationship by Lisa Meuser, one of the senior Living Inquiry facilitators

Lisa is describing it so well that I don’t feel I need to add much to it, other than that I recognize this from myself. I too have a relationship addiction, and a love addiction.

And it’s there to compensate for or cover up a sense of lack, loneliness, feeling unlikeable, unlovable, unpopular, an outsider, and more. All of this was there when I was a child, and it’s still with me to some extent.

Relationships makes me feel OK about myself. If she likes me, loves me, wants to have children with me, then I must be OK. Especially if she is attractive and popular.

This is no reason to not be in a relationship.

But it’s good to notice, and it’s something I want to look at.

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Scott Kiloby: The inquiries creates a different relationship to what’s arising

 

Addiction is based around the idea of a one time fix. Like, I’m going to take this drug or do this thing and wipe away all my pain. Of course, it never works. Pain is still there. But to treat the inquiries the same way doesn’t do them justice. Don’t think in terms of “what inquiry can I do to wipe away my pain for good.” Isn’t this just looking for another fix? A Magic wand?

The inquiries are used best, in my view, as a way to create a different relationship to what is arising, to let it be as it is, and to see that it is not what it first appeared to be. For example, it looks like there is an urge to drink, but upon looking it can’t be found. Or it looks like there is a threat, but upon looking, it can’t be found. And through this looking you are changing your relationship to what is. Instead of trying to escape discomfort, you are allowing it as it is. Instead of looking for a one time fix (in a drug, a drink or a certain inquiry), the experience of life itself changes, where all is allowed as it is. And yes that brings quite often less or no addiction, less or no fear, less or no identification. But NOT as some magic wand that you wave once, but rather by seeing your experience differently moment by moment. A one time fix, whether it is from a drug or a particular inquiry, is just an experience. It comes and goes like everything else. But to be awake within your life in every moment is quite a radical change. And by “awake” I don’t mean some mystical state in the future. I’m merely saying, for example, do you see that mental picture of wine, is there a command to drink actually on it?

– Scott Kiloby on addiction and the Living Inquiries

Seeking and addictions

 

I have explored a simple variation of (what I imagine is) Scott Kiloby’s approach to exploring seeking and addictions.

(1) Identify a seeking (seeking Enlightenment, relationships, money, status, security, pleasure, approval, love, acceptance etc.), an addictive tendency, or an addiction (food, sugar, alcohol, sex, or even one of the above). This seeking, addictive tendency, or addiction may be to anything, and perhaps the only addiction is really to taking certain images and thoughts as true.

(2) What do you hope to get out of it? What’s the perceived need you are hoping to fulfill?

(3a) Imagine having it. How does it feel in your body? Stay with that feeling for a while.

(3b) Imagine the seeking dropping away, for no reason or any reason. (Perhaps because there it no longer the thought you don’t have it.) How does it feel in your body? Stay with that feeling for a while.

(4) Are you open to finding that feeling in your body the next time you notice this seeking, addictive tendency, or addiction?

This shows me that what I seek is available here now, and I can find it directly rather than go the way of sugar, approval from others, money or whatever else it may be. In addition to this simple process, I can inquire into any images or thoughts that seem to be behind the seeking or addiction.

Some additional addictions: Seeking. Being a victim. Drama. Being a helper. Being of service. And, again, it’s all really just an addiction to taking images and thoughts as true.

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A simple way to explore addictions

 

Although I have only watched a couple of videos with Scott Kiloby, I notice his approach seems quite familiar to me and I would like to explore it further.

At the end of this interview on Conscious TV, he outlines briefly a simple way to explore seeking and addictions. Here is how I used this for myself later:

Identify a seeking, or an addiction or addictive tendency. It can be anything – food, alcohol, sugar, internet, the idea of awakening, sex, relationships, a particular relationship, a regret, a fear, a hope etc. Anywhere where I think I am missing something, need something, and seek after it in a somewhat compulsive manner.

What do you hope to get out of having it? What do you hope to find if you had this? What’s the (perceived) need you hope to fulfill?

Imagine having what you seek. Find it in your body. Feel it in your body. Take time to feel it.

Imagine how it is when the seeking falls away. Feel it in your body. (The seeking falls away since you have what you seek.)

Are you open to find this again in your body next time the addictive impulse comes up? Can you find where you are open to finding / feeling it?

I explored this on a couple of different addictive tendencies:

Taking thought as true. – I hope to find safety. When I imagine finding this safety, I notice a deep relaxation in my body, deep sense of well being, comfort.

The acceptance, approval and love of others. – I hope to find a deep sense of being OK as I am. There is a deep relaxation in my body, an aliveness.

Through this, I get to see what I hope to get out of approval, money, sugar, awakening or whatever it may be. I get to see that  what I seek is available here and now. (The only thing that stops me from noticing and feeling it is the thought it’s not here, and I need something in the world to experience it.) And that when the addictive impulse surface, I can find what I seek here and now, before or without engaging in the behavior. There is huge relief in this.

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Addiction and inquiry

 

When I look for myself, I find that my main addiction is to taking thoughts as true. Any other (apparent) addiction seems to stem from this basic one.

And when I look at my own more conventional addictive tendencies, I find what seems to be a common dynamic, a set of thoughts taken as true.

(a) This memory / emotion is unbearable. It’s too much for me. It’s real / it points to something real.

(b) It’s easier / more comfortable to escape it / distract myself.

(c) I feel better by…. (eating, going on the internet, watching a movie, talking with friends etc.)

I remember a relationship disappointment from my early twenties. I have the thought it’s unbearable, too much, or even just uncomfortable to think about it or feel the emotions it brings up. I think it’s easier or more comfortable to distract myself. I have a thought about what would help me distract myself, and/or feel better. And I take each of these thoughts as true. So I eat something, go on the internet, watch a movie, talk with a friend, go for a walk, or listen to a podcast. If I tend to chose the same activity for comfort and/or distraction, it may take the appearance of an addictive tendency.

Even if I vary my strategies, there are several addictions or addictive tendencies here. There is an addiction to seek comfort, and to seek distraction from uncomfortable images/emotions. And behind that is an addiction to taking my thoughts as true.

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Beliefs and addiction

 

Some quick thoughts on beliefs and addiction.

We can be addicted to just about anything – our thoughts, food, sex, internet, tv, work, money, appreciation, status etc.

And I have noticed what so many others have. When I appear addicted to something, I am really addicted to a story.

I can work on this in several ways.

I can inquiry into….

(a) Shame and guilt around the addiction. (I am a terrible person. I let people down. I should be stronger. I should be over this.)

(b) What I appear addicted to. (Sugar gives me comfort. I need the comfort sugar gives me. I feel better when I have sugar.)

(c) Any stressful belief in my life, perhaps especially around mother, father and siblings. (My mother couldn’t give me the love I needed.)

(d) Any belief creating a sense of lack, or of a hole that needs to be filled. (I am/life is not enough. Life is never enough. I need perfection.)

I can also do a quick “shortcut”: I can (i) make a list of what I hope to get out of the addiction, (ii) see if I can give myself the same in other ways, and (iii) inquiry into any beliefs I may have around this including thoughts that may prevent me from giving it to myself  (I don’t know how to give it to myself, I cannot ask for what I want, it’s better when it’s from someone else, I don’t deserve it, I will lose it again).  (more…)

Addictions and reversals

 

This is a very simple tool for working with addictive tendencies of any sort, and it is found in Buddhism, modern psychology, and probably many other traditions.

When we are addicted to something, it is easy to only think about the desirable aspects of the experience. So why not turn it around?

Which aspects of what I am addicted to, and the experience it gives me, are neutral to me, or something I don’t like so much?

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Morphine and finding right here

 

I received a couple of doses of morphine that interesting night at the ER, and I was curious about its effects. Mainly, it took the edge off the pain in a very effective way. And there was also a physical sense of warm and fuzzy wholeness.

The experience reminded me of the experience of body-mind wholeness (centaur) in general, and also of the shifts that happens when I do bodywork and work with projections. 

In all of those cases, there is a sense of wholeness, nurturing fullness, being home. 

There may be a shift from a sense of lack, neediness and being a victim, and into that sense of nurturing wholeness and fullness. (0ver time, the baseline tends to move so that shift may be more subtle.) 

When I explore it through the three centers, I find…

In view, there is a recognition right here of what I see out there – in the wider world, the past or the future. I see and feel it right there, in this human self. 

There is a more open heart, which in itself is nurturing and quietly joyful and satisfying. 

At the belly, there is a felt-sense of a nurturing fullness, nurturing all of me – body and mind – as a human self. 

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Working with addictive tendencies

 

Some ways of working with addictive tendencies…

  • Repeating, until it gets old. This involves some awareness of the process, as it is happening, so the whole dynamic gets old after a while, and there is a disidentification with it.
  • Actively indulge in, until I get sick of it. This is one of my favorites, at least with moderately unhealthy to not so unhealthy addictions! I indulge in them actively, until I get thoroughly sick of it and the attraction falls away.
  • Actively combine the memories of doing it + its effects. I often use this with addictive tendencies to foods which gets the body out of whack, such as (for me) sugar and dairy. When I experience the effects of the behavior, I actively combine this felt-sense experience (or, if I do it later, the memory of it) with a felt-sense memory of indulging in the behavior. That way, the action and its effects are made into one unit in my felt-sense memory, and the attraction tends to fall away.
  • Using Process Work to find the hole I am trying to fill, and then explore other ways of filling it. Imagine indulging in the addictive tendency, and then experience the pleasurable effects and follow the process behind it using any or all channels such as visual, sound, voice, movement and so on. Then see where it leads, which “hole” I am trying to fill through the addictive behavior, and what else may also fill it. I used this a few years ago on an addictive tendency to sugar, went into the pleasurable effects of eating sugar, and then followed the process behind it until it ended up in jumping up and down as a Masai warrior. To my surprise, that movement gave me exactly what I was trying to get through eating sugar, although without the unpleasant effects. I did this movement several times in the following weeks, especially when I noticed the impulse to eat sugar, and the sugar addiction eventually fell away (or at least subsided to a very minor level).
  • Finding, here now, what I am seeking. Is it true that what I am seeking is not already here? (Adyashanti’s question.)
  • Identifying the belief(s) behind it, and inquire into it. What are the beliefs behind the addiction? The obvious ones are “sugar gives me what I want”, “I need to eat sugar”, “I cannot stop eating sugar” and so on. And then, there are the others ones which brings up this impulse in the first place, which could be just about anything such as “I need approval from others” and “life is unfair”. To find those, it may be easiest to just notice whatever beliefs are triggered in daily life and explore those.
  • Using voice dialog or the Big Mind process to explore the voices behind it. What does the voice of addiction has to say? What other voices are involved? How do they interact? How does the voice of addiction support the human self, and how can it do so in a different (more clear, conscious) way?
  • Being with the impulse, as it is, without wanting it to be any different, and without acting on it. This involves a wholehearted and heartfelt being with whatever comes up… the impulse to engage in the behavior, the emotions and sensations associated with it, whatever comes up when I do not indulge in it, and so on. This allows the impulse to be fully seen, felt and even loved, and when done without engaging in the behavior, tends to weaken the link between impulse and behavior. If I engage in the behavior, I tend to first be with the impulse without engaging, and then also as I engage in the behavior.