As unbelievable as it might seem, some of us live on a rollercoaster of toxic emotions. These toxic emotions are so powerful that it becomes almost impossible to climb off the ride and, we become so addicted, we can't help it.
Toxic emotions are stored in the drug store buried deep in our inner world. Open the door and you'll find bottles of fear, shame, excitement, stress, self-hate, lust and worry. The more we thrive on these emotions, the harder it is to live without them.
Photo by Amenic
They give us the feeling of being alive. We like this feeling for two reasons. The first, and main, reason is that it keeps us away from our inner turmoil or depression which comes back if we dare to sit still. The second reason is it kick-starts the fight or flight response which encourages the body to flood us with the stress hormone cortisol.
Our inner moral compass is skewed towards 'excitement' and if there's no current drama or chaos we create some to get a 'fix'. Often we don't even realise we're doing it yet we say 'I don't know why drama always follows me around!'
Yet, it can have a huge detrimental affect on our emotional stability as, over time, we accede to our normal state of being upset. On a physical level, too much cortisol leads to burn out and science has proved this by linking excess stress hormone production to a lower immune system.
We veer towards living on toxic emotions if we've been raised in a chaotic or dysfunctional family. It's probably all we know and we think it's normal. And, because there are so many of us, it's not difficult to hook up with like minded people.
Here are ten signs you are addicted to toxic emotions:
1. You find quiet, calm and content people boring
2. You procrastinate at work, leave everything to the last minute then become super stressed when you're nearing your deadline
3. You enjoy gossiping about others and you get involved in other people's arguments
4. You get angry when you read this article
5. You are overly responsible for other people (their problems are more interesting than yours)
6. You indulge in wine o'clock every night to feel 'normal' then feel shameful the following morning
7. You love and fear (at the same time) being with a group where there is tension; it's like being with your original family
8. Even though you want to be close to people, you pick relationships that either upset you or where you feel you are persecuted
9. You don't enjoy your own company very much
10. You don't know what it means to feel truly safe
Imagine, if you will, a high maintenance Mom dragging behind her a five year old child. She's in a rush to get to her next meeting/lunch appointment/shopping trip. The child is running to try and keep up but is howling in pain. She takes no notice and moves faster. The child is terrified and exhausted but has to ignore his emotions to survive his Mom's journey. That's what happens inside us when we thrive on toxic emotions.
So, if this is you, where do you begin the recovery? There is no quick fix but here are a few pointers to get started:
1. Become self responsible. You can't blame anyone else for your feelings; they belong to you. Others will say and behave how they want but the way you respond is your choice. Start sentences with 'I' not 'you'.
2. Find the second emotion under the first. There's always a secondary reason why you have a reaction. For example, when we're angry there is loss beneath it. If you're angry because someone took your parking space - it might be because you feel deeply undermined. So instead of getting out the car to kill them, find what's going on underneath and make sense of that feeling to yourself. You might say "I'm upset because it feels like they stole from me. They didn't but it reminds me of constantly feeling undermined as a child"
3. Bring your attention into the feeling. Once you've identified the secondary feeling, just know it will pass. The fastest way to help it pass quicker is to focus on it. Bring your attention onto the sadness or disappointment and stay with it. It often dissolves within ten minutes.
4. Share it with others because being open and honest with others helps us come out of isolation and this starts the healing journey. Choose someone you trust and share the feeling, your reaction, the secondary emotion and how you experienced it in your body.
5. Nourish yourself. So, so important. A massage, a hug, some gentle exercise or being with someone who makes you laugh.
The longer journey out of an addiction to toxic emotions is to get some help. It requires a full commitment to finding your soul's purpose to rid yourself of the angst that comes from living the high wire life. But it is possible and will lead to contentment and a new found peace of mind.