When you hear the word addict, what do you think of? An addict is someone who can’t live without something that’s bad for them right? Like cigarettes, heroin, alcohol or eating too much?
What if I told you that every single human being on this planet is an addict – without question or exception – would you believe me? It’s absolutely true. We are all addicted to the chemical reactions of the emotions we feel the most.
Sadly, most of us feel negative emotions like anger, grief, sadness and despair more than we feel positive emotions like security, happiness, joy and pleasure.
What are Emotions, Really?
You may think emotions are a response to an outside stimulus, and you would be partially right. Someone cuts you off in traffic and your response is to feel anger. Someone surprises you with a gift card out of the blue, just to say thanks, and you feel happy. You get a bill in the mail, you feel worried. Your kid tells you they love you and you feel joy.
But if we dive deeper into what is physically happening in our bodies when we feel these emotions, we suddenly realize feelings are not just feelings in our mind, they are, quite actually, chemical responses to whatever is going on in your environment. In other words, happiness, anger, sadness and joy, are all chemical compounds at their root.
You cannot feel an emotion if your body does not produce the chemicals. But your body does not produce the chemicals without a stimulus from the outside environment (well, it can and we’ll get to that.) But for most of us the equation looks like this:
An Environmental stimulus leads to a chemical reaction leads to an emotion we feel.
Do you see how the mind and body are intricately connected?
Is Anger as Addictive as Heroin?
You bet it is. In a way it’s even worse and more damaging because negative emotions are not illegal. There is no war on anger as there is a war on drugs. You are completely free to create any chemical reaction within your body you desire. Anger, sadness, grief, frustration, none of these chemical structures have been deemed Class 2 drugs by government authorities and you will not be sent to prison.
Except that you send yourself to prison when you become addicted to these emotions.
This is not a woo-woo concept. I am not speaking theoretically here. This is a physiological scientific fact.
An Addiction is Born
Each one of your cells has billions of receptors that are there to receive the neuropeptides (chemicals) produced by your brain. Each cell has receptors built in for every possible human emotion. Like a catcher that’s squatting behind home plate, they sit there, waiting for your brain to throw a certain chemical their way.
So now let’s say something in your environment (like that impatient driver who cuts you off) causes your brain to create and secrete the neuropeptides for anger. These chemicals are released into the bloodstream and travel all throughout your body and the anger receptors on your cells are happy to receive them. The happy, joy, sadness, fear receptors cannot receive anger. Only the anger receptors can receive anger chemicals, kind of like a puzzle piece fitting only into the right-shaped slot.
Once the chemicals are locked into the receptors you “feel” anger. When your anger subsides, the neuropeptides are released from the receptors and eliminated from your body.
The receptors are the exact same ones that happily accept outside chemicals like alcohol and heroin. The EXACT SAME ONES.
Just like when someone becomes addicted to drugs, the more certain receptors are used over and over, the less effective they become. So the body has to produce MORE of a particular kind of receptor to make up for the damaged ones, and then the body has to produce more neuropeptides for all of these new receptors because they are DEMANDING to be fed.
BAM! An addiction is born.
So how do you keep feeding your receptors anger chemicals? You (usually subconsciously) put yourself into situations (bad relationships, bad jobs, bar fights, etc.) that cause anger. You SEEK events and dynamics in your environment, that will ENSURE those chemicals are produced and secreted into the blood stream. Remember:
An environmental stimulus leads to a chemical reaction leads to an emotion we feel.
The good news is, we can also become addicted to GOOD emotions.
Imagine being the kind of person who subconsciously puts themself into situations that make them produce the chemicals for feelings of joy, gratitude and contentment?!! Imagine having the kind of addiction that was actually GOOD for you. The more positive emotions you feel, the physically healthier you are.
When we become addicted to negative emotions and live those emotions day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, we eventually become sick, and sometimes, very sick.
Changing Your Addiction to Change Your Health and Life
The good news is, you really can become one of those people who are addicted to positive emotions, and this will do wonders for your health. Here are some steps you need to take to make a change:
1. Own Your Emotions
No victims here. You are in far more control over what happens in your life than you may be aware of or even want to admit. You cannot hope to change and blame others at the same time. If your childhood was crappy, it’s time to release it and move on. Your mom and dad are not to blame for any negative emotions in your life NOW. You have got to realize you are an addict and you must break the cycle.
2. Watch Yourself Like a Hawk
You’ve got to catch yourself in the act of feeling/thinking negatively, just as an addict has to be caught in the act of tipping back the bottle or shooting up. Commit to putting yourself on watch. The moment you catch yourself feeling a negative emotion, STOP. Feel something positive in that moment. Don’t spend time thinking or analyzing, just quickly replace the bad feeling with a good feeling. You are creating new habits and wiring in your brain by doing this.
You may be thinking, “Prue, how on Earth do I suddenly switch to a happy or joyful feeling when I am in the middle of feeling incredibly sad or angry. Have a joyful memory always cued up and ready to go.
Simply think of a moment when you felt really good. Maybe it was a recent dinner out with your partner. The lighting and music were perfect, the food delicious and you felt in love. Maybe it was that camping trip when your two sons actually got along and everything was so easy and fun. Maybe it’s the joy you get watching your dog roll around on his back or your cat purring on your lap.
Just pick a go-to memory that helps you to feel great. When crap happens and you catch yourself feeling a bad emotion, STOP yourself as quickly as possible and think of your memory instead. You will be AMAZED at how quickly this will become a habit for you.
3. Accept the Discomfort
You know why it’s so hard for a heroin addict to quit heroin? Because their body DEMANDS the chemical. Withdrawal symptoms are never pleasant, no matter what the addiction is.
Be prepared to feel a different kind of bad as your cells SCREAM at you to put yourself into a situation or remember a negative memory where you felt hurt, underappreciated, angry, scared or sad. Change is never easy, and it never happens as quickly as we’d like, but please commit to the process. Your health and well-being will thank you.
4. Put Yourself into Positive Environments
To become addicted to good emotions, put yourself into good situations. Spend time with people who make you feel good. If you’re in an unhealthy relationship, get out of it ASAP. Your health is on the line! Help yourself form new positive addictions by creating the best environments possible.
Life is full of ups and downs, and negative emotions are simply apart of life. We can’t escape them. But it’s important to recognize a possible chemical addiction to these emotions and change the cycle to change our health and our lives.
So much of my journey 30 years ago, back to health from the literal brink of death, was about facing myself with brutal honesty. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer or another disease, there is no longer any time for you to ignore your darkness. You’ve got to face it and deal with it.
Please take these steps to change the cycle of addiction. Your health is so worth it!
And please watch this video of Joe Dispenza talking about how we form emotional habits and how we can change them. It’s only 12 minutes and it is so completely spot on how he breaks it down!!