Many people who struggle with addiction tend to be reactionary to feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. They tend to react to their own feelings as well as those of others. One of the reasons behind this is the tendency to believe that everything is a problem.
People May React for Many Reasons
According to Melody Beattie, author of Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, there are many reasons why we might react the way we do. People may react when:
- They are feeling anxious or afraid of what is going to happen (or what is happening).
- They tend to react as though everything is a crisis. For many recovering addicts, crisis is something that they had to get used to. Reacting to crisis became a habit; it became second nature to have to respond to troubling events.
- They have an inability to relax. Frequently, with someone who has dealt with trauma consistently, they will have difficulty relaxing and having fun. In fact, there might even be a fear associated with relaxation because it tests their need to control feelings, behavior, and inner experiences.
- They tend to overreact. Many men and women can be hyper vigilant of their surroundings and of the behavior and responses of others. Furthermore, they have a tendency to see most events and people in extremes, particularly when under stress or pressure.
- They are afraid of losing control. Those who struggle with addiction tend to want to control their feelings, their behavior, as well as the feelings and behavior of others. There is usually an underlying fear that if this sort of control is relinquished, life will become more problematic.
- They are afraid of their emotions or feelings. The reason behind the need to control feelings is rooted in the fear of feelings and emotions, and with this is the inability to express emotions. Furthermore, it is not just challenging feelings, but also positive ones that are avoided and difficult to express.
Becoming Emotionally Aware
Creating emotional stability involves getting to know your own feelings. It means becoming emotionally aware. Becoming emotional aware is often a necessary part of healing from addiction. There’s no question that it can be incredibly challenging to manage feelings when they are frightening or overwhelming, especially if they are from the past or the early years of childhood. Plus, uncomfortable feelings such as anger or shame might also be accompanied by fear, helplessness, and powerlessness. Intense emotions can lead to a need to shut down or feeling like you want to go unconscious rather than facing them. And for this reason, many people may choose to drink or use drugs versus facing their feelings.
Emotional awareness is the ability to:
- Recognize your moment-to-moment emotional experience
- Handle all of your emotions without becoming overwhelmed
During your substance abuse treatment, develop your emotional intelligence, which in turn, will prevent relapse and support your recovery. It will also support your ability to stand strong when you feel emotions. You won’t be as emotionally vulnerable and fall prey to the emotional winds in the room.
One way you can develop your emotional awareness is to manage stress. In fact, you won’t be able to manage your emotions unless you know how to manage stress. The two are inherently related. Because emotions are unpredictable, they can come on strongly at times and create a stressful experience. Learning how to manage emotions, similar to the ability to manage stress, depends first on your level of emotional awareness.
In order to no longer be thrown over by the emotional winds of others (and yourself), it’s important to develop the skill of staying calm, particularly right in the moment that difficult emotions arise. This can be challenging. However, if you find ways to relax, become emotionally aware, and learn how to be okay with emotions when they arise, you’re likely not to be blown over when the winds of emotions come rushing through.