Editor’s blog

Welcome to MH360!!!

I am so thrilled to have finally launched this website, which has been a labour of love, and which I have been working on for the past 6 years…It never felt quite ready to launch, and frankly still doesn’t, but I figured that if I didn’t go ahead and launch it, it would never happen… So, welcome!

Please browse and send me feedback — positive or negative — if you find it helpful, or if you want to make suggestions as to how to improve it, as it’s a living, breathing thing and lives through its interaction with you, the user.

My first blog post is about addiction

In the new year, we often think about new habits that we want to cultivate, and old habits that we want to let go…

I have always loved New Year, because it is an opportunity for a clean slate, at least in my mind…Generally I make lots of resolutions, and tend to never keep them. But this year, something feels different. I feel that I have identified the a key factor which prevented me from implementing all my other new year’s resolutions. And it has to do with addiction.

I spent some time with a couple of ex addicts over the holidays, and learned a lot from them about addiction. It’s a topic which has always interested me, as my grandmother was an alcoholic, and her life, my mother’s life, my life, and my children’s’ lives were deeply affected by her addiction.

I have never touched a substance, whether drugs or alcohol, as I have always feared addiction. But I realise I am an addict in other ways… Maybe less harmful ones, and certainly more subtle ones, but addictions nonetheless…

Addiction can be defined as “not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful to you”.NHS Choices. (2017). ‘Addiction: what is it?’ [online] Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/addiction/Pages/addictionwhatisit.aspx [accessed 28 Sept. 2017].

What I learned from my friends is that what causes addiction is a desire to escape one’s reality, and usually the feelings that are in that reality. So if you feel trapped, or uncomfortable, or in pain, or fearful, or depressed, or inadequate, or exhausted in your current circumstances, you will want to escape these feelings by indulging in the substance or behaviour of choice, in order to feel better.

So it could be that you drink, or take drugs, which are the obvious ones, but the more subtle addictions are engaging in compulsive communication on your phone or social media; thinking and/or communicating obsessively with a loved one; having an affair; over-eating or under-eating; and — one that I’m guilty of — outsourcing my wellbeing to a whole number of therapists, energy healers, life coaches, etc… exhausting myself in the process, and losing sight of my own inner compass. Another less obvious one can be helping others at our own expense.  While helping those in need is a healthier form of addiction as much good can come of it, it can easily tip into co-dependence, which is a form of addiction to helping others in order to escape one’s own life, and/or in a way that can be detrimental to our own wellbeing. Helping others when it’s not detrimental to our own wellbeing is of course healthy and healing, and to be encouraged!

These last few months have been particularly painful for me, as my husband of twenty years and I separated. So it’s been a time when I have been particularly vulnerable to wanting to escape my reality through various addictive behaviours.

But as Marie Forleo https://www.marieforleo.com/about/ said, “you gotta feel it to heal it”. It’s what I tell my children as often as I can. In order to heal, we need to let ourselves surrender to what we are feeling, without trying to escape it. It’s a simple idea, and one that is expressed eloquently in many beautiful books such as Tich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace is every step” or Michael Singer’s “The Untethered Soul”, Jon Kabat Zinn’s “Wherever you go, there you are”, or Pema Chodron’s “Start where you are”, and many others from great thinkers and spiritual leaders.

My new year’s resolution this year is to no longer run away from the life I have, but rather to create the life that I want. And in the moments when life won’t go as I want it, and I am confronted with the inevitable suffering of living, I will be aware of all the things I do to escape the unpleasant feelings in my reality, and force myself to stay with them. I feel that this one actually has a chance to stick, as it’s tied to my daily meditation practice…

As I sat on my meditation cushion this morning, I realised that one of the reasons meditation is so helpful is because it teaches us to surrender to whatever is present at that moment. We feel our bodies. We are aware of our thoughts, and we are aware of our feelings. Whether they are pleasant or unpleasant, we observe them without judging, which leads us to see clearly, accept, and let go.

Through meditation, we learn to accept our present reality, which enables us to see it clearly, which can bring us insight. We learn that it will soon change. That unpleasant feelings will be followed eventually by more pleasant ones. We learn not to escape our reality into daydreams, escape plans, substances or behaviours that make us feel better, but to sit with whatever we are feeling in the moment. Because only when we become aware of what we are feeling in this moment, can it give us clarity and insight into our lives, ourselves, our relationships.

And awareness is the first step to healing. In becoming aware of what we are trying to avoid without retreating from it, we learn to avoid addiction. And it’s only when we avoid addiction, and sit with the life we do have, that we can focus either on changing that life so that we are happier in it, or if we cannot change it, being at peace with whatever unpleasant aspects we cannot change. Either way, the end goal is greater peace and happiness.

So here’s to 2018, and to sitting with whatever it brings, pleasant and unpleasant, without trying to escape and distract from either. Happy New Year 2018!!! kirkland@mindhealth360.com