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S2 EP201 – Healing Addictions to Processes and Activities

Episode Summary

Discover some of the processes and activities you may be using addictively, to avoid your feelings and avoid responsibility for them. You can heal from your addictions!


Hi everyone. Dr. Margaret Paul here with the Inner Bonding Podcast. Today, I’m speaking about addictions to processes and activities, rather than addictions to substances. We all know that many people in our society are addicted to substances, such as food, drugs, nicotine, and alcohol. But did you know that most people are also addicted to things they do rather than just to things they consume? And sometimes these addictions are just as self-abandoning and cause as much pain as substance addictions. I’ve spoken about issues such as addictions to blame, to self-judgment, to caretaking, to perfection, to spirituality, and to talking, and now I want to address some other common addictions.

We can use anything as a way of avoiding feelings and avoiding taking responsibility for our painful feelings. Whenever we engage in an activity with the intention of avoiding our feelings, we are using that activity as an addiction. We can watch TV to relax and enjoy our favorite programs, or we can watch TV to avoid our feelings. We can meditate to connect with spirit and center ourselves, or we can meditate to bliss out and avoid responsibility for our feelings.

Anything can be an addiction, depending upon our intent. What activities do you use to avoid feeling and taking responsibility for your feelings? I’m going to list some of the activities that might be addictions for you, and as I list them, be sure not to judge yourself. Your wounded self wants to continue to avoid your feelings as a way to feel safe, and it often uses self-judgment as a way to control and avoid. But we can’t learn and judge at the same time and using anything to avoid taking responsibility for your feelings is self-rejection and self-abandonment. Ironically, even though the wounded self does this to try to avoid pain, this causes much of your pain. Which part of you is in charge of your activities – your loving adult or your wounded self?

Be honest with yourself: when you engage in any of these activities, what is your intent – to take loving care of yourself, or to control not feeling your feelings? I’m sure you can add more to my list. 

  • TV
  • The internet
  • Computer games
  • Email
  • Busyness
  • Gossiping
  • Sports
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Housecleaning
  • Work
  • Making money
  • Spending money
  • Gambling
  • Sex, masturbation, pornography
  • Shopping
  • Accumulating things
  • Worry
  • Obsessive thinking
  • Self-criticism and self-judgment
  • Talking a lot
  • Talking on the telephone a lot
  • Texting
  • Reading books
  • Reading online
  • Gathering information, thinking “if only I know enough, I will feel safe.”
  • Meditation
  • Religion
  • Crime
  • Danger
  • Glamour and beautifying

Remember, many of these are not by definition addictions, such as exercise, reading, religion, housecleaning, meditation, and so on. Whether or not they are used addictively depends upon your intent – to be loving to yourself and others or protect against pain.

While it might seem as if these activities are effective because they do seem to work for the moment to cover up pain, which is how they became addictive, they work only in the short run. In the long run, if you are using them addictively, you are ignoring your feeling self – your inner child – and you will end up feeling empty and alone inside. No matter how much you do these activities, if you are using them to avoid experiencing and taking responsibility for your feelings, you will eventually end up feeling worse.

This is why it’s so important to practice Inner Bonding when you feel anything other than peace and fullness inside, to discover how you might be abandoning yourself or what’s happening with a person or situation that needs your attention.

I want to zero in on some of the more common addictions that many of my clients are engaged in.

One of them is being addicted to personal and spiritual growth.

Are you a person or do you know people who jump from one healing technique to another, never really staying with anything long enough to benefit from it? Do you know people who are always telling you about the new modality they are trying, but nothing ever changes? Have you tried to introduce these people to Inner Bonding, but they aren’t interested because they are looking for a quick fix?

I’ve known many people like this. They are people who want some technique to fix them but don’t really want to take personal responsibility for their own feelings and their own healing. Are you one of those people? 

While Inner Bonding is a very powerful roadmap for healing and transformation, it is certainly not the only way.

There are numerous processes that lead to the same result because truth is truth and love is love. If you are seeking the truth and wanting to be more loving to yourself and others, you can discover it through any number of modalities. But to realize or manifest it, you need to be deeply open to learning about the truth and about taking responsibility for yourself – physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, organizationally, and relationally. Which process you use to discover truth and develop personal responsibility is not nearly as important as your commitment to learning about loving yourself and others.

Jumping from technique to technique, from modality to modality, from process to process, indicates a lack of commitment to truth and to developing a loving adult. A person jumps around in the hopes of finding a technique, a modality, a process, or a person that will do it for them – that will take away their pain and heal them. 

The roadmap of Inner Bonding is inclusive of many other modalities. If you are on a learning path, you can certainly benefit from many different experiences, but the bottom line needs to be your openness to learning about loving yourself. If you are committed to taking responsibility for your pain and joy, then trying many different modalities can be of benefit to you. But if you are looking for something to fix you, forget it – nothing will work, and you will be wasting your time and money. 

There is no technique, modality, process, or person who can do it for you.

No matter how talented, healed or spiritually connected another person is, they cannot do it for you. They can certainly facilitate you in doing it for yourself if that is what you want, but no one can choose your intent for you. If you are devoted to getting fixed or getting someone else to take responsibility for your wellbeing, you will make no progress, no matter what the technique or process.

If you commit to learning to love yourself and to practicing Inner Bonding throughout the day, you will make progress in claiming your peace and joy. You may also discover that bringing in other kinds of learning experiences enhances your learning process.

I love Inner Bonding. It has completely changed my life from one of fear and anxiety to one of peace and joy. After trying many different modalities that were not spiritually based, I realized that healing cannot occur without a spiritual connection. Now I often try things that enhance and support my Inner Bonding process. For example, years ago I had a series of ‘soul retrievals’ with a very experienced shaman. The experience was wonderful. It completely supported what I had been learning through my spiritual guidance and brought me new information as well. I’ve had past-life sessions and between-life sessions, and I learned from all of them. I frequently use The Emotional Freedom Technique, EFT, to shift beliefs and release stuck places in me. I don’t do these to get fixed – I do them to learn. I think if someone does these experiences to “find the answer” – or for a quick fix – they will be very disappointed.

The answer is the moment-by-moment awareness of your intent: practicing and choosing the intent to learn each moment. The answer is in consciously practicing giving your higher self – instead of your wounded self – dominion over your choices. The answer is in being devoted to practicing choosing love rather than control, moment by moment.

These days another common addiction is to being online – social media, news, YouTube, and so on. Are you addicted to the Internet?

I received this online question from Cheryl, a women in one of my courses:

“Hello Dr. Paul and thank you so much for Inner Bonding! Any insights on what I can do to recover faster when I collapse into internet addiction (no porn!) and self-abandonment? I used to work all the time and considered myself a very disciplined person and it seems that failing a bit makes it very hard for me to really like myself and wanting to spend any time caring about me sometimes. There have been times when I would initially spend let’s say one hour watching something on YouTube instead of working [something that it was actually quite meaningful and I enjoyed but my initial intention was to work instead] and I ended spending 12 hours watching anything, even real garbage, non-stop, feeling dead inside and as if I had no choice. I feel guilty because I feel I should be working all the time, and this makes it harder for me to work at all these days.”

Here is how I answered Cheryl: The very first thing you need to practice doing is to move into compassion for yourself – for the wounded part of you who uses the Internet to avoid some deeper painful feelings. Without kindness toward yourself, you cannot learn and understand what is behind your Internet addiction.

Let’s start with compassion for the bit of failure. It sounds like your wounded self is judging you for some failure, rather than being open to learning about what failure can teach you. Are you telling yourself that it is not okay to fail and that if you fail you are not worth loving? Are you defining yourself by your achievements rather than by your loving intrinsic soul self? These are some of the questions to ponder.

When you judge yourself for any failure, you create an emptiness inside that then wants to get filled. Watching YouTube is a way your wounded self has learned to go dead and avoid the emptiness created by the self-judgment. Then, instead of being open to learning about what you are avoiding feeling, you judge yourself again for spend 12 hours watching YouTube, which is what creates the feeling of guilt.

What you need to be doing is embracing all your feelings with an intent to learn, rather than being devoted to avoiding them. Embrace the emptiness, the aloneness, and the guilt, with an intent to learn about what you are believing that creates these feelings. Notice your self-judgments and how they make you feel empty, alone, and guilty. Explore your false beliefs about judging yourself. Do you believe that judging yourself will get you to work harder and to never fail? If this is what you believe, explore wHere you got this false belief and notice what actually happens when you judge yourself.

Self-judgment, as well the avoidance of painful feelings, is often what is causing addictions. So become aware of your self-judgments, and of the feelings you are trying to avoid.

All feelings hold vital information for us. There are no wrong or bad feelings. Our feelings are one way our inner guidance lets us know if we are being loving or unloving to ourselves, or if others are being loving or unloving to us. Learning to compassionately embrace all feelings, with an intent to learn about what they are telling you, is the way out of your Internet addiction, and the way out of all addictions.

Along with an Internet addiction, addiction to video games is rampant.

Ed consulted with me because he was concerned about his 16 year-old son.

“He doesn’t have any friends. I’d like to spend more time with him but there doesn’t seem to be anything he likes to do.”

“How does he spend his time?” I asked.

“Playing video games,” he answered

Betsy consulted with me because she was concerned about her husband’s lack of motivation.

“Every night he plays video games for hours and then is too tired the next day to do a good job at work. I’m afraid he is going to lose his job, but he gets angry at me if I say anything to him about it.”

Carolyn consulted with me because of her concern over her two sons.

“After graduating high school, Brandon did a semester of college and then dropped out. Matthew graduated last year and has been doing some odd jobs, but neither of them seem motivated to do much of anything.”

“How do they spend their time?” I asked.

“They sleep in and then play video games,” she answered.

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 45 percent of the population of people between the ages of 19 and 90 are video game players, with an average age of 35.

According to the study, (quote) “Video games might be regarded as an obsession for youngsters but in fact the average player is aged 35, often overweight, introverted and may be depressed.” (unquote) 56% of the video game players were men. The research suggested that (quote)”video gaming for adults may be a form of ‘digital self-medication.'”(unquote) In other words, it’s an addiction.

While the average age of video game players is 35, it is unlikely that they started playing at age 35. Probably, like Ed and Carolyn’s children, they started earlier and never stopped.

Playing video games is an easy way of avoiding fears, especially fears of rejection, engulfment, and failure. One researcher stated that (quote)”…adult video game players may ‘sacrifice real-world social activities to play video games.'”(unquote)
As I explored with both Ed and Carolyn, it became apparent that both of them were role modeling addictive behavior for their children. Ed would spend his downtime watching TV and drinking beer, while Carolyn used food to avoid her feelings. Although neither Ed nor Carolyn played video games, this is likely because video games were not around when they were younger, so they got addicted to other things. But neither Ed nor Carolyn was showing their children by their own behavior how to take responsibility for their own feelings.

I worked with both Ed and Carolyn on learning to take loving care of themselves and on how to interact with their children in ways that encouraged them to begin to take loving action for themselves. Gradually, the parents and the children began to take steps toward letting go of their various addictions.

Fortunately, Betsy’s husband was willing to join her in sessions with me. In dealing with his fears of rejection and failure that were behind his addiction to video games, he became willing to limit his video game playing to 1 hour each evening.

All addictions are ways of avoiding the feelings that you believe you can’t manage. It is unrealistic to think that you will just stop your addictions if you haven’t learned to take responsibility for creating many of your painful feelings with your own self-abandonment, and you haven’t learned to lovingly nurture the challenging feelings of loneliness, heartbreak, grief, and helplessness over others and over events, that are a part of life.

Another common addiction that can cause financial issues is an addiction to spending.

My client, Mary Beth, told me: (quote)”I keep getting into more and more debt, but I can’t seem to stop. I do great for a while, and then I just have to go shopping and buy stuff. This is going to ruin my life if I don’t stop, but how do I stop?”(unquote)

Mary Beth’s compulsive spending does not come out of nowhere. It is rooted in her fear of feeling feelings that she believes she cannot handle. In her mind, it is easier to handle the anxiety of debt than to feel her deeper feelings loneliness, heartbreak, and helplessness over others.

Here is what happened that triggered Mary Beth’s last spending spree.

(quote)”I went home for Christmas, and it was awful. I guess it’s always been awful, but this time seemed even worse. There was nothing I could do right in my mother’s eyes, and my father was, as usual, completely emotionally absent. At one point my mother screamed at me that I am hopeless. I thought I managed it all at the time, trying to not take it personally as she treats others this way too, but when I got home, I went on the spending spree. I thought I did a really great job of not reacting to her and taking care of myself, so I don’t understand the spending.”(unquote)

Mary Beth was missing a major aspect of taking loving care of herself in the face of her mother’s unloving behavior. She was bypassing the painful feelings of loneliness, heartbreak, and helplessness over her mother that she feels when her mother yells at her and criticizes her.

Since Mary Beth’s mother has always been like this, Mary Beth had to learn as a child to not feel the deep pain of her mother’s unloving behavior. As a small child, she could not feel that much loneliness, heartbreak, and helplessness and survive. So she learned various ways of not feeling these feelings. She learned to disconnect from her body and stay in her head. She learned to turn to sugar to self-sooth. The problem is that these protections created an inner emptiness, so as she got older and started to earn her own money, she learned that buying things temporarily filled the emptiness that she was creating by her self-abandonment.

Now it was habitual. She automatically disconnected from herself when anyone was in any way unloving to her with their anger, blame, criticism, or withdrawal. It was no longer just about her mother – it happened all the time at work and with her boyfriend. Each time someone was in any way uncaring with her, she would shut down, go for the sugar, and then go out and buy stuff. While she felt better for the moment, she found that she was feeling more and more empty and needing more and more sugar, junk food, and things to fill her up.

Now, as an adult, Mary Beth needed to learn to feel and manage the loneliness, heartbreak, and helplessness she feels when others are uncaring.

“Mary Beth,” I said to her in our session, “please imagine being back with your mother at Christmas. Remember her anger and criticism. Imagine that you go into another room so that you are not near her. Now put your hands on your heart, acknowledging the loneliness, heartbreak, and helplessness that we all naturally feel when others are unloving and uncaring. Breathe into your heart, being very kind, tender, gentle and compassionate with these painful feelings. Give yourself the love that you wished someone would have given you as a child when your mother was mean to you. Stay with these feelings with deep caring and understanding toward yourself until they start to move through you.”

I gave her a few minutes to move through these feelings.

“How are you feeling now?” I asked her.

“I feel so much lighter!” she said.

“Are you willing to practice this every time someone is uncaring to you and see how this affects your spending?” I asked her.

Mary Beth reported that each time she remembered to do this for herself, she had no desire to shop and spend. Her addiction surfaced only when she forgot to lovingly attend to her feelings.

Another common activity addiction is focusing on getting things done.

It’s not that there is anything wrong with getting things done. Most of us have a lot that we need to do, and we may feel stressed when we don’t get done what we need to do. It is certainly not addictive to make lists and be self-disciplined enough to follow through on our lists.

Again, whether or not it is addictive depends on your intent. If your intent is to be a responsible self-disciplined adult, then getting things done is a healthy, loving action toward yourself. But when your intent is to use your list and obsessively get things done as a way to avoid responsibility for your feelings, then it becomes addictive.

Ryan was addicted to getting things done. Each morning he would make his list and then obsessively focus on crossing everything off. If his children needed something from him – too bad. He was busy. If his wife needed help – well she would have to find it elsewhere. He was too busy. If he felt alone, sad, empty inside or lonely, focusing on his list was the way he avoided these difficult feelings.

At the end of the day, Ryan wondered why he didn’t feel fulfilled – why he felt so empty inside. As we explored his addiction to getting things done, Ryan said, “My lists make me feel safe from feelings.”

Safe from feelings. Why did Ryan need to feel safe from feelings? What was so unsafe about feeling his feelings?

Actually, I understood why his feelings felt unsafe. When I was growing up in my family, painful feelings were avoided at all costs. Because my parents had no healthy ways of managing their painful feelings, they also could not handle mine. I was rejected if I felt anything but happy. My mother managed her painful feelings with anger at me and my father, while my father managed his painful feelings by shutting down.

Ryan had a similar experience as he was growing up. His mother managed her painful feelings with incessant self-judgment, while his father numbed out, shutting down his feelings. Of course, Ryan learned to do the same things – judging his feelings and shutting down to them. However, because he didn’t want to end up poor like his parents, he also learned to use lists and getting things done as a way of avoiding his feelings. While this worked for him to create a successful business, it did not work to create inner peace, joy or successful relationships with his wife and children.

When your intent is to avoid responsibility for your feelings – rather than learn Inner Bonding and practice learning from your feelings rather than avoiding them – you will find many addictive ways of avoiding.

Learning to compassionately embrace all painful feelings, with acceptance toward them and the intent to learn from them, is what you need to do to heal your addictions.

I hope you start today by practicing being compassionately present in your body with your feelings, embracing all feelings as information. Imagine your feelings as a child within who needs compassionate acceptance rather than judgment. Instead of rejecting that child, welcome him or her as valuable to you, a source of inner guidance regarding whether you are being loving or unloving toward yourself, whether others are being loving or unloving with you, or whether a situation is safe or unsafe for you. If you practice this consistently, you will find your addiction to substances, processes, and activities, falling away.

If you enjoyed this podcast, I would really appreciate it if you tell your friends about it, and if you give it a review wherever you heard it.

And I hope you join me for my bi-monthly masterclass, which you can learn about at

I invite you to join me for my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”

And you can learn so much about loving yourself and creating loving relationships from my recent books and from our website at

If you want to do individual work with me or with one of our many trained Inner Bonding facilitators, please go and look under Facilitators -> Find a Facilitator, or call my office, the number is on the website.

I’m sending you my love and my blessings.

©Dr. Margaret Paul and Inner Bonding® Educational Technologies, Inc, 2024

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