(Note: The words habits, cravings, and addictions are used interchangeably in this article and are meant to be general and interpreted by reader’s own stage of habits. United Insights will post an article on the stages of addiction soon enough.)
My grandfather once showed me a trick on how to get rid of wasps, bees, and yellow jackets. What you do is tie a hot dog to a string and dangle it above a bucket of water.
The yellow jackets swarm around the hot dog and eat to their heart’s content. Eventually, the yellow jackets eat so much that the weight of all the food in their belly keeps them from flying.
Then, they fall and drown in the bucket of water!
Did you know that we live our lives just like those wasps?
Everybody has cravings both subtle and obvious. We are our own worst enemy. In some cases, we literally ‘stuff ourselves’ to death because of our addictions.
There is nothing morally wrong about a hot dog, or a bucket of water. A hot dog is just a hot dog! It is the cravings and the decisions of the yellow jackets that lead them to their own peril.
Why couldn’t the wasps stop eating the hot dog, even when their lives were in danger?
Wasps have a scarcity mindset. They are omnivores that eat whatever they can get their hands on when there is not nectar or fruit around. The wasps must work together with its nest to find food in order to survive.
In other words, wasps are not prepared to see an “all you can eat buffet” of dangling hot dogs.
Because of their “scarcity mindset,” they eat as much as their bodies can carry when the opportunity arises as they feel no consequences could come from indulging. Because their bodies are not designed to deal with overindulgence, they can’t fly, let alone hold on to the hot dog!
What can we learn from this?
We have a scarcity mindset in a relatively “post-scarcity world.” Food is cheaper than ever, we rarely (or never) have to run from predators, and we can travel anywhere we please.
Despite that we can still struggle to make a living, survival over the last hundred years evolved into a “corporate jungle of comfort and leisure.”
Our scarcity mindset drives us to overindulge because our mind does not know the consequences it will have on our bodies.
This could be a factor for why unhealthy lifestyle choices are the leading cause of death in modern-developed countries such as heart disease (which is likely from obesity)!
We have cravings that can cost our own happiness and wellbeing. We overindulge until the weight becomes our burden. In order to understand why we prioritize our cravings, whether it is entertainment, greasy food, relationships, and so forth, we must turn inward to discover the underlying problems.
A common objection is that turning inward is going the wrong direction, because people believe we cannot help ourselves to the modern pleasures of life.
Hot dogs are designed to crave, right?
Shouldn’t we put responsibility on the things we crave?
It is true that the cravings, such as eating a hot dog, have a degree of power and influence over us by catching our attention through our four senses, our emotions, and our deepest desires. They have an enticing smell, and its literally dangling there waiting for someone to eat it.
United Insights agrees that responsibility could be placed on who or what designs the things that we crave.
However, the decision whether we eat the hot dog or not comes from the reaction to those sensations!
We might as well take ownership of what control we have, right?
When we begin to understand our foundational needs that are not being met, then we can meet those needs with a healthy alternative that does not harm ourselves in the process!
Here are a couple of questions that can help you dig deeper into your habits and their effects on you:
What do you “stuff” yourself with and how does it harm you?
If you are a workaholic, does your work cause you to neglect time with your loved ones?
What about time for yourself?
Are you getting too little sleep because of it?
If you are a shopaholic, do you obsess over new deals?
Is it hard to save or invest your money for long term ambitions?
Does your junk accumulate over the years into a qualified episode of “American Hoarders?”
Does it hurt your ability to enjoy the things you already have?
If you are a ‘fast food binger’, do you stuff yourself to the brim with junk food that you regret eating the day after?
How does it affect your energy throughout the day?
Do you have health problems due to long term chronic-overeating?
These are a few examples of ways we stuff ourselves and the ‘side effects’ that accumulate in our lives.
Why do you crave what you crave?
What is it about those cravings that you see, hear, touch, or smell that grab your attention?
As a workaholic, the anxiety knot in your stomach could be the button that triggers your “fight or flight response” to take action. Some sensations may include thoughts such as the fear that you will lose financial security if you slack off.
Maybe you attach your identity to your work. If you don’t work hard enough, it makes you feel worthless.
The thought in your mind or ambition to earn money could entice you to work beyond a sustainable or healthy level.
If you are a shopaholic, you might shop out of boredom or discomfort.
You want the fastest, coolest, or cheapest “life transforming” item that will make your day easier or fix a problem you think you have.
You could be satisfied with what you have until you see an advertisement for the newest solar panel phone charging pocket flashlight that you can show off to your friends.
Now your old phone charger becomes a problem because it can’t deal with that ‘once-a-year’ power outage.
If you are a fast food lover, you may relate to the need for convenience. You could live a quick pace lifestyle that can only take in ready-to-eat meals. However, maybe you do not know how to cook healthy meals by yourself and there is a subtle fear of trying something new.
Food could be the reaction you take when you feel bored, depressed, lonely, irritated, and so on. Above all you might cringe at the prices you have to pay for healthy meals.
Many of these factors, not including all of the possibilities, can affect your decision to eat junk food.
In other words, your addictions have little to do with the things you are addicted to.
Have you ever stopped eating at Taco Bell to go to McDonald’s instead?
What about when you stop playing video games and you go to Netflix or watch YouTube videos without hesitation?
This is because we think that changing external circumstances will get rid of our cravings.
The reality is that we are setting ourselves up for “the great stuffing” because we are holding ourselves back, tightening the screws, plugging the cork on a pressure building bomb.
Eventually, we cannot hold our willpower any longer. Then, we will explode and stuff ourselves of the very thing we held ourselves back on. We are not dealing with the underlying desires that the addictions try to solve in the first place.
Stopping addictions, external solutions, without dealing with the core problem (the underlying desires) will only be replaced by new addictions.
How do I deal with these cravings? Where do I start?
Although United Insights will dig deeper into this topic later, the first step is to be like a scientist. Whenever you have a craving, watch the thoughts that pass by and locate where you feel the emotions in your body.
As you observe your cravings, you will learn what “internal buttons” trigger you to make your cravings into addictive habits.
A common objection about dealing with self-destructive cravings is that it is no easy task. Anyone can tell you to ‘will’ yourself out of addictions, but it is easier said than done right?
If you agree with this objection, you are not alone!
Addiction is a complex monster to overcome. The problem is interconnected throughout your whole mind and body. Your habits are ingrained in layers upon layers of bedrock.
It is no mistake that millions of people harm themselves in self-destructive behaviors just like the yellow jackets and the hot dog.
Every decision a person makes, even if it leads to self-harm, is based on what they believe is their best interest.
The plot twist is that we do not really understand what we want! (not until we dig beneath the layers)
Even if the mind is a tricky beast, we have the opportunity to map and understand what our real desires are and how to serve them with the healthiest alternatives.
The first step to free yourself is through acknowledgement, observing yourself, and learning about your addictions from the inside-out. Understanding yourself is the leverage you need to fine tune your habits, ‘reverse-engineer’ your addictions, and create freedom to achieve what you want.
If you enjoyed the content, have any questions, comments, concerns, or suggestions, United Insights would love to hear your feedback down below! We will leave you with one last question for you to bake for the rest of the day.
What addictions, both obvious or subtle, hold you back from living the juicy life you want?