What emotions are you addicted to?

We BRING to ourselves situations that will meet the biochemical craving of our cells by creating situations that meet our chemical needs.”

Have you had a chance to mull that over?

It’s a huge statement.

Let me unpack it a bit…

Neuroscientist Candace Pert states that the hypothalamus part of our brain is “a little mini factory … that assembles certain chemicals … PEPTIDES … into neuro-peptides or neuro-hormones that match the emotional state we experience on a daily basis. … There’s a chemical for every emotional state we experience. The moment we experience that emotional state, in our body or our brain, the hypothalamus will immediately assemble the peptide and then release it to the pituitary and to the blood stream.” … The Peptide DOCKS onto our cells … and “changes the cell in many ways.” Read more here.

If the cells aren’t receiving their peptide of choice, they send a message to the brain to produce more. The brain then searches it’s emotional memory bank and pulls images from the past, that then create the thoughts required to release the required peptide from the hypothalamus (a very simplified version of a complex process). The cells don’t have a preference over whether a peptide produces helpful or harmful emotional states or behaviours, they just need their fix! This is where the concept of emotional addiction comes in. The loop between cell, hypothalamus and behaviour becomes like a record constantly cycling in the same groove.

An example would be someone addicted to stress who constantly displays self-sabotaging behaviours such as leaving things until the last minute, or a lack of any organisation. Sub-consiously, at a cellular level, they are continuing the same ‘loop’. Alternatively, someone who practices gratitude may display calm, positive behaviours. Their neuro-emotional ‘wiring’ is in a ‘loop’ that supports this behavioural output.

We can break emotional addictions that are unhelpful to our wellbeing, but it does require conscious effort. Over time we have hardwired chemical reactions in our brain that produce certain behavioural patterns. Through mindful practice, we are able to create new neuro-emotional connections, which in turn can change our patterns of behaviour.

A pathway to changing harmful emotional reactions and behaviours

The first part on the journey is to notice. To take a breath, then hold our thoughts at arms-length and look at them with an inquiring-mind. From this dissociated space, we are able to see the interplay and effect our thoughts have on us.

The next step is to name the emotions you are experiencing, take ownership for them… no one but yourself is making you react the way you are. It’s no-one’s fault!

The next step is to decide on a new way of approaching the issue and continually practice creating a new neural pathway and emotional response. This is hard-work! We are changing at a cellular level. Seek help from those you trust to support you not to fall into old thought patterns. Ask them to gently (or not so gently) to remind you of your commitment. Eventually, over time a new neuro-emotional connection will be formed - one that supports your wellbeing.

As you move forward into this week, take the time to consider which emotional states and behaviours are helpful or harmful to your wellbeing.

Which neuro-emotional connections will you strengthen?

Which neuro-emotional connections will you choose to manage?

What new neuro-emotional connections do you wish to consciously create?