Lissie Turner is an Author, former Broadcaster for the ABC, Therapist and a Podcaster. Her clinic work specialises in the dissolution of negative patterns that propagate harm and the formation of new life-lasting positive patterns. She also specialises in female endocrine education and health through her organisation Living Hormoniously. Lissie is the Founder and lead Facilitator of the 21-Day Dissolving Patterns Program that runs in group live online sessions, On-Demand and is launching as a 21 day live-in program in 2024.
Addiction is a word I rarely use. It’s loaded with pre-conditioned ideas of extreme behaviours and worst case scenarios – it makes for a dynamic movie: Christiane F, Requiem for a Dream, Trainspotting, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – the idea of addiction presented as a horrendous affliction that generally involves large amounts of misplaced bodily fluid in a myriad of ways and eventually death.
Whilst this is the highest risk of addiction and needs great attention, it is but a tiny sliver of the whole. The Oxford Dictionary defines addiction as: the condition of being unable to stop using or doing something as a habit, especially something harmful. It doesn’t mention booze, cocaine, tobacco, gambling, sex, barbital or benzos. Not even methamphetamine - for all of its hard work in the spotlight - gets a mention. Addiction by these terms then is simply when a person is caught in the hamster wheel of a behaviour – any behaviour – even if it’s causing harm. This is the very epicentre of human suffering.
It’s difficult on hearing the word addiction to not paint a picture of the person it’s being related to. But you know who it relates to? You. And me too. If you are in a human body, you will almost certainly have this tendency. There is no us and them, it is simply a sliding scale.
Now I’m not saying this to make any of us feel a bit rubbish – quite the opposite! This is very normal human neural process, which I’ll get to shortly – but most importantly what I want to open up for you, is a smorgasbord of opportunity: a buffet of positive possibility born from negative habits.
Let’s consider some examples of things that could be harmful, remembering that we’re not looking at these as stand alone, we’re looking at them in the context of being snagged by them in some way and getting caught in a behavioural loop: drugs, alcohol, sex, relationship patterns, gambling, streaming services (which you may be intrigued to know are fast becoming the most prolific addiction in my clinic), food, opinions, coffee, tea, herbal tea, cannibas, ice-cream, cracking your back, plucking your eyebrows, physical exercise, absence of physical exercise, the way we speak to our partners, the way we speak to our children, sunbaking, avoiding the sun, doing things too fast, doing things too slowly, not doing things at all…I could go on and on and you could throw anything out there and without a doubt someone, somewhere will have a negative relationship with it. Bad habits are highly individualised. Custom made if you like, designed by all of our individual circumstances that have conditioned us to crave, dislike and fear certain things.
So for the good of us all, let’s ditch this exclusive word addiction. Let’s make it a little kinder and trade out addiction, for the more palatable word, patterns. It’s more neutral and can be divided into both positive and negative.
Patterns are amazing neural superhighways; formed by doing an action over and over again. This repetition telling the brain, ‘this is what we do, this is a regular part of our life, so get to it and make this process cost-effective to my time’. The brain responds by ‘chunking’ behaviours together into a single routine to form a ‘pattern’. I’m able to brush my teeth, stand up, walk, drive my car, speak whilst moving my hands, all whilst expending minimal cerebral energy, because of patterns. The good news, is that this allows us to do a phenomenal amount of things moment to moment, with little to no involvement from the conscious mind, it creates our autopilot. The bad news? Is that this brilliant process does not discriminate. Whatever you do with repetition the brain will see as something it must make more easeful for you – it conditions you to do the thing, good or bad – because you are giving your brain the message that this is a thing that you do.
I think of this is our Homer Simpson setting. The part of the mind that will reach for that can of beer, no matter how many times it electrocutes you if reaching for the beer is an existing pattern.
So why do we do that? The answer can be made very complex but if we distil it right down, it’s very simple. Somewhere along our own individual timeline, we experienced something that created an impression – either positive – oh yes I like that, I want more – or negative - oh no, I never want that again. From there we begin creating patterns of either pleasure-seeking or pain-avoidance behaviours which can look like anything and everything depending on the immeasurable details of that individual and the particular details of the moment.
Here’s some ways to tell if a pattern is not serving you:
● Is it already bothering you?
● How do you feel if you can’t have it or it’s taken away from you? Sad? Disappointed?
● Is it compromising your relationships? Our relationships with other people are an excellent mirror to see what we’re struggling to see about ourselves on our own.
So we’ve come to this point, where we’ve recognised that our attachment to something is unhelpful or harmful, what next? As the old adage goes, there is no greater motivation than suffering. Don’t hate on your suffering, harness it. Within it is the full power of your fire for change.
A list of don’ts:
● Don’t berate yourself. Not unless you’ve got a whole lot of energy to spare on this quest, that you can afford to waste it on berating.
● Do NOT put all of your efforts into pulling the negative pattern away. Absolutely not. Anyone who skateboards, surfs or snowboards, will tell you ‘do not look at the street sign/rocks/trees, look where you want to be going!’ Be aware of the obstacles, but keep your eyes on your goals.
● Do not set a timeline for your liberation. Not unless you want to set yourself up for failure. It is impossible to see the depth of our own mind. It is as vast as the entire ocean. The length of that negative pattern could be as deep as the length of your life, longer if you prescribe to reincarnation.
This is where the beauty of our negative patterns lie – they give us something tangible on the surface we can see. Something we can grab onto, that we can follow down and down into our own mind, discovering along the way, all the things we have wrapped up in that surface action. Connection, disconnection, ancestry, discontentment, loss, love, self-worth, survival – so many things. So many big things and so many tiny things. By grabbing onto just one behaviour that’s causing harm, even a small one, and allowing ourselves to really see it, to study it, we can begin our great quest! Here are the instructions:
● Work on the micro to dissolve the macro. We create thousands of micro patterns to prop up the big action, this is the brain chunking - don’t wrestle the big fella, undo the easy things that are holding it up. Start to identify all the bits and pieces of the pattern: where you stand, sit, what you say, the route you take, your body language, your breath, work on shifting those things. One at a time.
● Do something different. In the beginning it doesn’t matter what it is. Just begin to create these dissolution points in the pattern chain.
● Focus on diverting your attention away from the negative and pour it into the positive. A negative patterns must be replaced by a stronger positive one, we never just leave a void. The easiest, most long lasting way is to do this at three layers of the constitution:
Physical – Bring attention from the mind to the body. A minimum of 30 minutes every morning of movement specific to you as an individual.
Physiological – Improve your breathing. Your breath is the most important part of your entire constitution, as well as the link between the state of your mind and the condition of your body. Taking the time, every day for even just six rounds of conscious breath, will propagate exponential change. This links back to working on the micro, use the subtle, it will change the grand. Why? Because it is the underlying thread, it is always with you, responding and recalibrating. Initiate a graceful, steady thread in it and that will be the essence of all actions born from it, as well as the first alarm system when you’ve gone off course.
Psychological – I’m going to distil all the ways in which we can work with the mind, all the talk of the nature of the mind and everything that I’ve said in the previous points, to just one thing. Be in service to others more vulnerable than you. Weave your patterns into a meaningful tapestry, that remind you over and over again, that you are a precious and essential piece of something bigger.
Absolutely you will come up against obstacles, loads of them, but every time we climb a mountain, swim across a river, fall over, sit down, cry for a bit or awhile, we are more skillful, more experienced than we were before. Your own mind will be your biggest obstacle, it will be your only obstacle.
As the saying goes – your mind will either be your cruelest master or your greatest servant. Form a kind relationship with it and lovingly put it back in its place. Over and over again – use your smile as your sword. Use it to cut away the rubbish of the mind. Lovingly call your mind back like an adorable puppy in training and say ‘not today buddy, stop chewing the furniture and come back by my side’ You might have to do that a hundred, a thousand times until the message has been assimilated but every time you do, it counts. It is one step, deep in your sub-conscious, forward.
Lastly, it’s very important to note that change is not difficult. In fact, it is impossible to avoid. Everything is always changing, there is nothing in this entire world – not even the billion year life span of a star – that is permanent. Your job is to simply learn how to put the oar into the mighty tide of change and gently steer in the direction that you want to be going.
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