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Addicted to Big Feelings: Triggering Ourselves

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This morning was an interesting moment. I wanted some social interaction. My first meeting was hours away. I considered calling a friend for breakfast. I thought about all of my options. What breakfast I wanted. What view I wanted. But what was I looking for?

Looking for a Hit

I made an odd choice. This morning I’m eating breakfast at an upscale grocery story where I did penance for a year as I struggled to remain out of a major depression following a particularly protracted breakup. I knew I would fall off the map if I hibernated in my mom’s house. So I applied and interviewed, not certain I would be able to get out of bed. Even as I was feeling about an inch high I was able to present myself as a viable “partner” as they called their workers. I had no motivation other than survival. It’s the isolation that kills us.

This morning, I was not feeling particularly isolated or depressed, but I wanted something. Sometimes even a happy life needs some kind of boost. As I headed to the scene of my most recent crackup, what could I have been seeking? Why do we return to the scene of the crime?

What occurred to me, driving over here in anticipation of some emotional change was a new awareness. I was looking for a hit, even if that hit was a downer. Big feelings trigger some of the same hormones, good or bad. For a while, I might’ve told you I was addicted to the downward spiral. On the up-side of the balance I can tell you, I don’t crave sad feelings. But this morning, something voyeuristic was in play. I wanted a big feeling. I wanted a hit of dopamine, or is it serotonin? What I wanted was a jolt.

Resting In Our Happiness

Is it possible that our happiness is influenced by our reflections on bad or tough times? Is my happiness this morning, enhanced by seeing my old checkout station, or co-workers from six years ago? Am I taunting my own depression? Or am I waving my victory lap wave?

When things are just “good,” I often want great. When I’m at a 5, I long to be at a 7. But, I’d repeat what I told a close friend a few days ago.

“Things are really good in my life. Job. Girlfriend. Health. Spiritual connection. Writing. My energy feels coordinated. This morning, a typical Tuesday morning, was going along fine. And I answered a craving. Today, I’m not going to buy ice cream or treats. Just organic whole milk for my coffee. And a few moments of triumph over these past moments I wasn’t sure I would survive.

I survived.

Resting in our happiness requires some self-awareness if we’re hoping to remain above bubble. I am still learning how to rest. Sure, I nap a lot, but that’s not the same as rest. Rest, to me, is the lack of struggle. A pause in the striving. Rest can even be a creative dry spell. Not writing can give me energy. Calming my creative impuse goes against my grain. But, if I am dreaming and pushing all the time, I will drain my batteries until I am exhausted.

I don’t want to be an exhausted artist any more than I want to be a starving artist. Both are contraindications to happiness. What I want is rested and motivated inspiration.

From This Side of the Morning

del amitri - from this side of the morning
del amitri – from this side of the morning


My breakfast tacos were delicious. The music in my headphones is jamming. And my hormonal system has received some altering impulses. Here I am, on this side of the morning, and I’m happy to be here. Writing. Grooving. Counting a coup on my past mistakes.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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