Last week I was deep diving with a private client into her patterns. She was telling me how she’s afraid of life being too good. That as soon as everything seems to be going well she starts looking for what’s going to go wrong next.
I’ll tell you what I told her – she’s not the only one.
Millions of us are addicted to struggle.
Merriam-Webster defines addiction as a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects.
When someone has an addiction the reward center in their brain is hijacked and rewired outside of healthy norms. This is why an addict will engage in behavior those with normal functioning brains can’t understand.
Why would they put themselves at risk, destroy relationships, etc? Because their brain has been rewired to seek the behavior or substance out in order to be rewarded by a flood of chemicals in the brain – a feeling they crave. The high.
So what does this have to do with the fear of things being too good?
We’re getting high off of struggle.
I had my client look at the last time that everything was going really well in her life.
She described to me how at first, it felt great. She was excited, content. But then she started to get uncomfortable. It started with a feeling of restlessness and then her mind started to find things to worry about. At first, it was little things, like if she’d remembered to shut off the stove when she left the house. But then it started to be bigger ones, like if she and her spouse were meant to be together or if she was going to lose her business.
Until something did go wrong in her life – she had a financial crisis.
And while she was consciously dealing with the money problem, her brain was getting its fix.
She was feeling something.
The truth is that physiologically anxiety and excitement are almost identical. Racing heart, butterflies in the stomach, heightened senses, a flood of adrenaline.
She felt alive.
And when the problem was solved she would experience a rush of relief, euphoria, ecstasy.
She was addicted to struggle because it gave her a rush. A rush she wasn’t getting when everything was going well because there were no peaks and valleys.
Just like a drug addict, she was unconsciously creating struggle in her life so that she could get her fix.
But the real question is why.
Why is her subconscious wired this way?
How did it happen?
It’s a learned behavior.
Just like a drug addict using for the first time, when we’re young and experience struggle we learn that it can create these heightened experiences for us.
The struggle gets introduced to us and we learn subconsciously to like it, even if it’s not good for us. The more struggle we experience the more we come to rely on it to create those heightened feelings.
But here’s the kicker – we don’t need it. We can create the same feelings in healthier ways. We can choose to experience excitement, passion, euphoria through bliss, play, and fun.
That’s good news – since it’s a learned behavior we can always unlearn it.
Here’s the process I gave my client to begin to undo her addiction to struggle:
1: Recognize the pattern
2: Recognize when you’re engaging in the behavior
3: Ask yourself how could I bring myself into euphoria/bliss/excitement right now without needing to struggle first?
4: Do that
By giving our brains their fix in healthier ways we can break our addiction to struggle.
My client is already finding herself more comfortable with things being good because she isn’t bored. She’s creating her peaks and valleys consciously by engaging in healthier activities that give her that fix.
Millions of us might be addicted to the struggle, but we don’t have to be. We can happily get high on life in new, fun, and expansive ways.