Can you relate to always doing things that seem urgent? Moms especially! It’s like the dam sprung a leak and you’re the only one with a finger to put in the hole. “Mom do this. Mom take me there right now.” It’s all you hear.
Perhaps at work, it’s much the same. Everybody wants it right now. You’re always in a hurry but don’t seem to be going anywhere. You had to get the project completed today even though you had two weeks to do it. You even said to yourself when it was assigned that you were going to work on it each day and avoid the stress of “last minute” pushes. That seems to be how you get everything done these days; last second deadlines.
At the end of the day, none of the big important things got done. In fact, you didn’t even have time to think about them.
From the time you get up until you finally end your day, it seems that you are constantly doing something that seems in a hurry.
Do you operate this way? Do you think it’s normal? Is it stressful?
Is it possible you’re addicted to the urgent?
What are signs of an addiction?
The word “addiction” is most often used in connection with drugs. But there are many other well-known addictions:
- Sex (Pornography)
- ……the Urgent!
Most addictions start without any warning. In time they take over a person and become their habits. They are aware of them but can’t stop. Although some of those listed such as exercise, co-dependency, and work, are not ever thought of as addictions. In fact, it has been argued, and I agree, the biggest addiction in the world is co-dependency. That’s the addiction of needing others to affirm your self-esteem. This is where people be what they think others want them to be, instead of being who they really are. Co-dependent addicts are perfectionists, people pleasers and have a need to always perform. The three P’s I call it. Do you know anyone with these I’ve mentioned?
What is the Cause of Addictions?
While I was going through recovery for my own addiction I learned from John Bradshaw, one of the leading authorities in the world on addiction, and a man I closely followed to help me, that all addictions are shame based.
[Note: I was addicted to several on the list including co-dependency]
When I was first introduced to shame I didn’t understand it at all. What I did understand is that every time I acted out with my addiction, I felt deep shame. I tried to stop for years. I tried everything in my power to stop but couldn’t.
While you may be addicted to doing everything while it’s urgent, you may or may not feel shame, yet shame may be part of the cause.
Why would doing everything while it’s urgent be an addiction and how is shame connected to it?
There are levels of shame. The English language only describes one level of shame. Many other languages have different words for the different levels of shame. Recovery professionals in the US use the term “toxic shame” to describe the level of shame that creates additions.
Toxic shame is deeply rooted in the soul of a person. It can remain hidden for a lifetime.
John Bradshaw defines toxic shame as:
The feeling of being flawed and diminished and never measuring up. Toxic shame feels much worse than guilt. With guilt, you’ve done something wrong; but you can repair that— you can do something about it. With toxic shame there’s something wrong with you and there’s nothing you can do about it; you are inadequate and defective. (1)
(1) Bradshaw, John. Homecoming: Reclaiming and Healing Your Inner Child (p. 47). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
When toxic shame resides in a person, there is usually a deep emotional pain attached. The addiction; acting out by taking drugs, drinking, masturbating with Porn, exercise, work, pretending to be what you think others want you to be to get them to affirm you, numbs the pain. Acting out also numbs joy. Are you ever joyful while doing everything urgently?
Being addicted to the urgent may be a way of coping with toxic shame and numbing the pain.
I used to be addicted to the urgent as well as other addictions (most addicts have more than one addiction). It felt euphoric to be massively busy all the time. I was a perfectionist and was always doing (working) so others would affirm me. I prided myself on “outworking” everyone. While I never really liked long days during tax season as a CPA, the truth was it masked my own deep toxic shame and others gave me the affirmation I sought.
I had a lot of toxic shame. I received mine in childhood. For me, it took professional counseling and 12-Step Group work to recover. I owe much of my recovery to the work of John Bradshaw and Inner Child. No longer do I carry toxic shame. I’m ok just as I am and I don’t need to please anyone anymore. One of the best parts is I avoid the urgent. It gives me so much anxiety that I will not do anything that is urgent. All my projects are done in peace and I get more done now than before in my addicted state.
How to Overcome Being Addicted to the Urgent
Obviously only you with the help of a licensed counselor can diagnose if you are really an addict and create a plan to recover from it. If you suspect you might be a co-dependent, then it’s possible you have some level of toxic shame and don’t really feel that you measure up. Many people feel this way.
If you seem that you’re addicted to performing by being in the urgent state, you are not flawed! This behavior is just that, behavior. Being addicted to any of those behaviors I mentioned, does not define you.
Here are some steps to help:
1. Overcome any shame in your life. Watch John Bradshaw on my blog
2. Read Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection
3. Watch Brené Brown’s TED talk to learn more about shame
4. Follow the work of Stephen Covey who wrote extensively about productivity. Overcoming the urgent is in part prioritizing your life in such a way that each day you’re working on what’s important.
Stress certainly sucks. While things crop up in our life that is urgent and we need to deal with it, it’s not healthy always being in that state.
You are enough. You don’t need to be a people pleaser or have to perform to receive affirmation.
I hope you’ve learned more about this stressful behavior and are able to make the changes to overcome it. Peace and joy are far more powerful emotions than stress and anxiety.