Guest Author: Written by Laura Jay (exclusively for MM)
It may seem hard to believe, but for some people, the times in life when there is most stability and happiness, are also the most difficult to handle.
These people are addicted to chaos; they do not know how to handle calm, peaceful, or “normal” situations and seek out drama because that is what they are most comfortable with. In this article, we discuss chaos addiction and seek important ways to overcome it.
One the most important and effective therapies, is mindfulness meditation.
What Is Chaos Addiction?
You may know somebody who is addicted to chaos. They seem to always have something to be angry about and tend to use poor conflict resolution skills to communicate, such as screaming, tension, or aggression.
Even when they are not facing a major problem in their lives, they will always focus their anger on someone: a noisy neighbor, other drivers, the people at work…
Chaos: Just the Tip of the Iceberg
Experienced therapists know that an addiction to chaos is just the “tip of the iceberg.” Beneath the addiction itself lie many layers of unresolved conflict and trauma. Often, those suffering from this condition will have grown up in a home filled with tension, where raising one’s voice was the only way to achieve anything and, perhaps, where crying or expressing oneself in an emotional state, were the only ways to be listened to.
Often, they have grown up in homes where alcohol and drug abuse were the norm, so they have never had the care they needed. Perhaps people have whizzed in and out of their lives, wresting from a sense of trust and stability. When these children grow up, they seek out tension because they feel secure within it; they know how to manage it or skirt around it.
The same cannot be said for stability, which they are uncomfortable with, because they do not know how to negotiate and communicate in this type of setting. They will often provoke a chaotic situation so they can once again feel like their old self.
When Is Chaos Actually Addictive?
Chaos becomes addictive when people cannot function normally – i.e. when their addiction interferes with their ability to eat, sleep and groom themselves regularly; when the quality of their relationships is affected; when it interferes with their financial stability or professional life; and when they continue to engage in destructive behavior, craving participation in this type of behavior.
How Can an Addiction to Chaos Be Managed?
1. Seek professional help if necessary: Since chaos addiction can mask a host of other issues (abuse survival, an addiction to substances and alcohol, anxiety, depression, anger management issues etc.), a trained therapist can be of great help. The most popular therapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which seeks to enlighten a patient on how what they think and how they behave, are intertwined.
CBT can be very helpful in helping people recognize the thought patterns that get them embroiled in negative situations, and in teaching them to identify these at an early stage before they manifest themselves in aggression or addictive behavior. A therapist will also be able to help the person find new, non-destructive ways of channeling their tension.
2. Mindfulness meditation: It is no wonder that yoga and mindfulness meditation are now important components of many of the world’s top addiction recovery centers. Numerous recent studies have shown the important benefits mindfulness can have on both our physiological and mental health and wellbeing. Mindfulness can help a person who is addicted to chaos in the ways mentioned in the section below.
3. Identifying chaotic relationships, environments and circumstances: In the same way that a person recovering from alcohol abuse or drugs should stay away from places where these substances are available, so, too, should those recovering from chaos, avoid the situations that tend to feed their addiction.
This does not mean that they have to cut ties with those they tend to clash with; rather, it is vital that they recognize the dysfunction and aim to change destructive patterns. Sometimes, the tension filled situation is at work, or another environment a person cannot simply exit from immediately. In that case, they should aim to make a new life plan that may involve a important changes.
4. Setting boundaries: Those who are addicted to chaos have been raised in environment in which limits have not been respected; they will therefore need to learn to set these limits and not allow others to overstep them. For instance, if they are speaking to someone who is highly negative, they should learn to redirect the conversation to a more positive place, or leave the conversation altogether if necessary.
5. Accept that one may have a relapse: Any engagement in chaotic behavior should be recognized as a relapse; i.e. it should be taken seriously. If we unwittingly get caught up in chaotic situations or enter into a chaotic relationship, we need to step back, identify the thoughts and acts that have led us to that place, and start from zero, as we would if we had a relapse while recovering from an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Why Mindfulness Meditation Is so Powerful
Mindfulness vs stress: A person who is addicted to alcohol, drugs or chaos, tends to indulge in destructive behavior when stress levels are highest. When the body is overtaken by stress hormone, cortisol, the ‘fight of flight’ response is invoked; an addict will opt for ‘flight’, using chaos or substances to escape from a difficult situation.
Mindfulness meditation invokes the parasympathetic response, lowering our heart rate and blood pressure and lowering levels of stress hormone, cortisol. It teaches us the important skill of being in the present moment, thus stopping stressful, destructive thoughts or beliefs from spiraling out of control and managing themselves in chaotic behavior, anxiety or panic attacks.
Mindfulness improves our mental health: A recent study published in renowned journal “JAMA Internal Medicine,” reveals that mindfulness meditation improves anxiety, depression and pain. The authors of the study noted that health care professionals should be aware of the positive results occasioned by mindfulness meditation, and should recommend this useful practice to patients with mental and stress-related issues.
Mindfulness promotes empathy: Those who are embroiled in addiction can often focus on the drama in their lives, failing to take into account the needs and suffering of others. Mindfulness promotes empathy and compassion for others, which is positive on all accounts, since by attempting to increase others’ wellbeing and happiness, we take the focus off our own problems.
One interesting study showed that mindfulness meditation also helped therapists be better at what they do, by making them more attentive, more in touch with themselves and their patients, and more comfortable with silence.
Mindfulness boosts brain and immune function: Those who are addicted to chaos and have abused substances as an escape can greatly benefit from meditation, because this millenary practice has been shown to improve the immunity.
Studies have also shown that those who meditate have higher grey matter density in lower brain stems, as well as differences in the structure of the brain, compared to those who do not meditate regularly. Mindfulness even improves our reflexes, by increasing the speed of reallocation of attention.
Enjoyed this article?
You may like:
- Recovery, Are You Addicted to Chaos?, accessed March, 2015.
- Harvard Medical School, Mindfulness meditation may ease anxiety, mental stress, accessed March, 2015.
- M Goya et al., Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014; 174(3):357-368.