On Breaking Addictive Behavioral Patterns: Leveraging Time, Space, And Hindsight
It is too easy to succumb to the illusion that the time and space that define physical existence itself are the enemies we are attempting to escape from, or trying to drown out with the series of addictive behaviors and substances in the modern world.
For many, some degree of learned helplessness convinces us that the passage of time and the things present in the space we occupy are outside of our control (whether they be perceived as good or bad). It is no surprise that we often become victims of this perception, after all it is too tempting to suggest that the traumas we’ve experienced are in and of themselves the perpetual catalysts of our misery. If we can manage to push past the point where time and space feel like they are perpetuating our misery, however, we can actually leverage them both to elevate ourselves into a sort of existence where a stable and unconditional kind of happiness is perpetuated by new experiences we are willing to engage with and by the hindsight we have earned by making mistakes in the first place.
While it is critical to acknowledge that there is some unknown symbiotic relationship between the makeup of one’s psyche as it has been shaped by past experiences and the series of addictions, desires, and habits that encode physical existence, it would be irresponsible to suggest that in the pursuit of recovery (or at least in the pursuit of self-actualization), people will ultimately become victims of the time and space that traps them here.
In the pursuit of freedom (and understanding that true freedom in the material world is only a projection of the freedoms we’ve granted ourselves internally), it would be most beneficial for us to at least begin to understand that the time and the space we’ve demonized are not, in fact, the enemy. In fact, in the pursuit of self-actualization on a planet subject to the laws of physics, time and space and at the end of the day, hindsight, are keepers of the happiness that we are looking for from day one once we learn how to leverage them.
In other words, once we reconfigure our perception of time and space to the degree that we are no longer wasting time and no longer keeping reminders of our inadequacies in our personal space, we are granted the hindsight that elevates us to new levels of freedom we, perhaps, did not think possible in a material world. Time and space and the momentum that they allow self-destruction to gain across the board are also the catalysts of self-improvement beyond our current capacity to comprehend what that means in the current state.
Like all other measurements subject to a human perspective to be understood, time is relative. The amount of time that we “waste” in the pitfalls of addiction, depression, or other compulsive and destructive behaviors may seem like it is slipping away from us on a linear platform, wasted and never to be seen again as we disintegrate into an older and jaded version of ourselves when we repeat thought patterns and behavioral patterns we are aware to be self-destructive.
If we can escape the linear understanding of time itself, however, (as we need to, to a degree, in order to escape these pitfalls of addictive and self-destructive cycles), we put ourselves in a place where linear time can actually be leveraged, a place where time itself cannot possibly be wasted. Once time is leveraged, once we have learned how to manage the time that is contained within the confines of our impermanent existence, we put ourselves on a productive trajectory that allows personal growth occur at an increasingly exponential rate. In other words, once we’ve figured out how to consistently pack what is meaningful to us into the 24 hour day, we get out of it a more meaningful existence than we could have expected. By figuring out what is important, and then what habits we can adopt that will embody what is important for us, we are packing the most meaning that we can into the limited amount of time we have in each day and watch as the “meaning” in our life seems to grow exponentially.
In this case, it may seem incredibly counter intuitive. After all, much of the stoic pathway, and much of the motivational content that we may consume in the effort to pull ourselves out of the “victim” mindset that perpetuates addiction requires that we come to terms with linear time so aggressively that we completely reconfigure our adult lives so as to not waste one moment of it. As they say live each day like it’s the last.
While there is certainly nobility in this effort, nobility in the appreciation of time as a limited resource and a resource that we ought to maximize, when we adapt the perception of time as a limited resource it can be crippling to come to terms with how much of it we’ve wasted in the pitfalls of addiction. To this, we must understand that the time we perceive to have been wasted is only perceived to have been wasted relative to what is going on in the present moment. To someone who has been through the roughest of times, there is incalculable value in the worst moments. Tragedy happens when we stay in these rough times, where the value of pain and suffering cannot be cashed in. We can only be sure that we are not wasting our lives once we’ve pulled ourselves out of the worst parts of our lives and seen it in such a way that allows us to ascribe such value to pain and suffering.
That is not to say we can ever avoid rough times, it is to say that it is possible (and for those who hear it loud and clear) inevitable that we re-enter moments of pain and suffering with the irrefutable knowledge that by navigating ourselves out of them we will have found great meaning in the larger picture.
While it would be unwise to make the argument that nurture is greater than nature in all regards, we can certainly acknowledge the role that environment plays as it perpetuates of our tendencies and habits (for better or worse). The origin of addictions, depression, the origin of our tendencies to fall into these things remains unclear, and probably is relative to the individual. But the space that we occupy is, at any given moment, telling us one of two things: to change our impulses or to continually engage with them.
It is tricky to make this point, once more, as it would be unrealistic to expect that creating a positive environment deletes the urge to engage with addictions and depression. After all, the origin of these things is within the confines of the human psyche, and the environment either allows self-destructive urges to unfold or presents a challenge to them that can only be overcome with the cognitive dissonance that eventually leads to a breaking point, or what many might call a rock bottom.
In those moments when we are not under the influence of self-destruction, we might find that we see our living space, our office space, our family dwelling space, and all other spaces where we engage with ourselves and others in a different light. Once we can leverage the moments when we are consciously free of our addictive behaviors or thoughts, we find that it is much easier to pinpoint the parts of these environments that are removable. In some cases, however, we might find that we are the thing we must remove from these environments and create a private space where we can finish our dark night of the soul and re-emerge as changed for the better.
The key to leveraging space, then, is to act on the urges when we feel that something or someone is contributing to our destructive behavioral patterns. It is not enough to make a mental note about what we should change, it is the active removal and introduction of these things into our environment that can jolt the subconscious programming, as always, for better or worse.
Hindsight, the holder of all unlearned lessons in the duration of time that we’ve perceived to have been wasted, the nougat of truth that are is revealed by linear time in ways we cannot perceive while in any present moment, is the most important thing we must learn to leverage, as it in and of itself overreaches the laws of time and space to provide us with insight about the time and space that have not yet unfolded for us.
In other words, without reflecting to the degree that we trap ourselves into the old spaces of learned helplessness, we must graciously accept the gift of hindsight that is the very thing that makes the time we perceived to have been wasted worth it. Without hindsight, there is no ascribed purpose to addiction or depression. Without hindsight, human suffering is arbitrary and those who have failed to become receptive of the gift of hindsight do not escape the cycle of hope and despair.
The gift of hindsight is the final phase of personal evolution, where we have solidified knowledge (and even better, living proof) that when we pay attention, become more assertive in meeting our needs, and become proactive in changing our own environment and social circle, we can feel (and be) a reflection of all the magnificent things in the universe that have also persevered and become infinitely better despite the laws of physics that they have been under.