Part of what kicks our butt about depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction is, they kill our desire to go out into the world and explore.
Dealing with emotional and behavioral struggles is exhausting.
When we’ve spent all day, every day, trying to manage them— or stay alive in spite of them— we don’t have much time and focus for anything else.
This is one of the reasons why a core symptom of depression is “loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy”…because who has the energy or focus to do fun or enjoyable stuff when you’ve spent all day fighting back against demons in your head?
In the case of addiction, very often the behavior or substance of choice actually makes the place of things you used to enjoy— your “fix” often becomes your main, or only, source of “feel good.”
Anxiety is constantly asking you to make a choice: do this thing that might be healthy or even enjoyable for you, but have to deal with an exhausting whirlwind of physical and emotional sensations…or avoid putting yourself out there, in exchange for RELATIVE peace and calm inside of you.
For a lot of people, it’s not much of a choice, because doing the thing is so exhausting.
Trauma is kind of like the “greatest hits” album of depression, anxiety, and addiction, with bonus tracks devoted to dissociation.
(Worst greatest hits album ever.)
So when depression, anxiety, addiction, and/or trauma is on our plate…our plate doesn’t really have room for much else.
Much of the research and theory on human attachment discusses how babies— and, subsequently, adults— use their people and objects of attachment as kind of a “safe base” from which to explore the world.
When we’re securely attached, we have confidence that our person will be there for us when we’re scared or in danger.
We can explore the world, knowing that we have a “safe base” to come back to. We’re not out there alone. Someone has our back.
Babies do this physically— you can watch them crawl out and explore their environment, play with toys, interact…but when they get sacred or uncertain they crawl back to their caregivers, looking for a shot of reassurance.
Adults have a way of doing this too. We latch on to certain people, institutions, or identities as our “safe base” from which to explore and take risks…and when scary or threatening stuff happens out there in the world, we come back to our “safe base” for reassurance and affirmation.
Depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction screw this whole thing up, because they sap our strength and hijack our focus.
Life is about exploring. It’s about taking risks and connecting with things and people we like and discovering new stuff that scratches us where we itch.
It’s about getting scared and getting tired and coming back to those places of safety and affirmation where we can get recharged, and then go explore some more.
Depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction throw up roadblocks to all of that.
They try to steal way our adventurous spirit.
They try to extinguish our curiosity.
They try to make us forget that we ever HAD hope of getting our itches scratched.
This puts our task in fighting our emotional and behavioral struggles in pretty clear focus: we need to find ways to manage and contain their impact on our lives, so we can get back to exploring and experiencing life.
So we can get back to what matters.
So we can get back to who we REALLY are.
And, as it turns out: we can.
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