The Addictive, Compulsive,
and Obsessive Lifestyle
Hopefully, as you do the work involved in uncovering the reasons you have those behaviours you are trying to change, whether you are taking the virtual classes, or attending the free online meetings I facilitate every week, you will continually hear/read my reference to The Problem with Instant Gratification, otherwise known as your PIG. This is one of the most important things to draw attention to, prior to going on any journey of behaviour change. It is a term that you will hear used a lot in the circles of recovery from addictive, compulsive, or obsessive behaviour patterns, but what does it actually mean? As I write this, it is 2023, and in my opinion, instant gratification is a big problem in society in general. We can get into a deeper, more philosophical conversation about why I believe this to be true at some point in the future, but for now, let’s just look at what it means to be stuck in behaviour patterns that are dominated by our quest for immediate rewards.
The Problem with Instant Gratification is a conversational topic that’s explored in a number of different programs designed to support individual people with their desire for behaviour change. Instant Gratification is basically defined as the quest for an immediate reward, and if we examine the way most people go about their every day lives, we can see that it is a really common practice to follow this behaviour pattern in the 21st century. Human beings have been conditioned in recent times to seek an immediate reward in so many ways. We do it through our access to food, entertainment, even dating has been set up to be at the touch of a button and immediately available whenever we want it. While there is nothing wrong with having desires instantly met for many people, for some, this can be a devastating journey into addictive, compulsive and obsessive behaviour patterns that creates problematic responses in absolutely everything we do.
I often refer to the way that some people experience The Problem with Instant Gratification as “The Next Shiny Thing” syndrome. I used to watch myself, and still see other people, constantly chasing the next great thing in life that will give us that sense of accomplishment, achievement, or validation for the work we have done. The problem with living life this way is that it will never truly fill the black hole of emptiness that can exist inside of an emotionally disconnected person, simply because you cannot fill an internal void with external things. Filling this void takes creating an emotional connection with yourself that has to come from within you. As a result, people constantly look for the new and better cell phone, the faster more expensive car, the bigger house in the better area, and for many people, the different relationship with the “better” looking person.
The main issue with this way of living, particularly for people who struggle with the PIG is that no matter what we get, and no matter what we do, it is never enough. We have an unrelenting standard around achievement that drives us forward, constantly trying to fill the internal void with external things, never really taking the time to appreciate what we are currently doing, or what we have achieved. This drive can help some people to accomplish great things in life when it is controlled in a balanced, harmonious way. For others it is the primary reason we never sit still, constantly moving, making sure we are always doing something to give us an external reward. Dialectically, it can also be the reason that people suffer from procrastination, and behaviour patterns that keep us avoiding the possibility of shame that’s connected to the failure of not being able to attain the standard we are setting for ourselves. Either way, this usually leads to emotional and mental burn out, we turn to old ways of coping that are slowly destroying our lives as a way to survive this unrelenting desire for Instant validation, reward, and gratification.
"I often refer to the way that some people experience The Problem with Instant Gratification as The Next Shiny Thing syndrome"
As we start to make changes, it is the intention that you will begin to build awareness for the many different parts of your personality that are activated by the schema you created as a child. If this is the case for you, then you will more than likely begin to recognize that your personality system is dominated by emotional child parts. These are the parts of your personality that use impulsive, undisciplined, entitled, and often angry behaviours to escape from the situation you may find yourself in. These parts of your personality are also strongly linked to your desire for Instant Gratification. As you will see, when these parts manifest in your personality system, they are selling the narrative that you “don’t have to,” “don’t need to,” or, “don’t want to” do something that is being asked or expected of you by others or even yourself. When we are blended with these parts, we become the emotional child within, and our desire for instant escape, and therefore Instant Gratification, is increased to a level you probably don’t have the skills to cope with right now.
This is why we “run away” through the use of addictive, compulsive, and obsessive coping mechanisms, which is the essence of the behaviour you are trying to change being the solution to your problems, and not the problem itself. When it comes to changing deep routed, ingrained behaviours, Instant Gratification is a huge issue. First of all, addictive, compulsive, and obsessive coping mechanisms are grounded in the practice of instantly rewarding yourself in one way or another, whether we want to admit this or not. Remember that the behaviour pattern you are trying to change is the solution to your problems, not the problem itself. In other words, we subconsciously experience an internal narrative that sounds something like, I don’t like the way I am feeling right now, it is uncomfortable, difficult to be with, something I don’t want to or know how to handle, so I am going to escape through this behaviour pattern to obtain instant relief. We have to build awareness for this way of thinking and recognize its presence when it enters our thoughts.