Are you someone who finds it deeply gratifying to check something off your to-do list?
If so, then maybe you’re also the type of person who likes feeling productive. You like having a lot of things to think about. You like being creative. You like the feeling of a “job well done.”
But at the same time, you can often take on too much, and before you know it, you’re overwhelmed, stressed and close to burning out.
Your busyness is also a double-edged sword.
On one hand, you hate idleness and boredom. You can barely sit still—and when you do, you have to check your phone, read, or watch something on a screen.
But on the other hand, you may feel like your entire life has become a treadmill of tasks, duties and input.
And you have to admit, that when you do have a rare quiet moment and do nothing, you don’t just feel bored, you feel EMPTY. As if your life has ceased to have any meaning, joy and purpose unless you’re constantly DOING SOMETHING.
And that empty feeling? It’s even scarier than feeling overwhelmed and stressed out!
That’s why you can’t imagine being idle…and at the same time you can’t imagine continuing this “level 10” treadmill for the next five, ten or thirty years. It’s exhausting!
You’re stuck and discontent.
You want so much to find peace and contentment, but you don’t want to feel empty.
If you can relate to any of this, you’re certainly not alone…
I have many clients who come to me with the same or similar concerns. I also personally know many people who struggle with this.
My client Jacob, for example, always has a list of what he needs to do and he feels safe and worthy when he can check things off his list. His list keeps him busy with the next task and the next, leaving him no time to be present in the moment.
When I ask Jacob, during a phone session, to go inside and feel what he is feeling in the moment, he tells me that it doesn’t feel very good to be inside his body. He doesn’t like to be present because he is often in emotional pain.
However, it’s a circular problem: Ignoring his feelings by staying busy and focused on tasks causes more pain and emptiness. Until Jacob is willing to face his feelings and the pain he’s avoiding, he will continue to create this pain with his addictive avoidance behavior—his busyness.
Addictive avoidance behavior is anything that we do compulsively in order to avoid having to feel something (boredom, anxiety, fear, sadness, loneliness…).
An acquaintance of mine, Emily, is a talker, especially about herself.
Emily is rarely in the moment, either with herself or with others. Talking keeps Emily from feeling the emptiness that is ever-present within. She is so busy covering up her feelings with talking that she is unaware of others trying to get in a word edgewise. She is so out of the moment that she is almost completely unaware of the presence of others.
Aiden just can’t seem to enjoy anything because he is so focused on getting it over and done with—even when he is doing something he enjoys. Coming from a background of child abuse, Aiden learned when he was very young to just think about tasks and get through the day as a way to survive.
Now, he still focuses on his tasks and getting through the day, but now his avoidance of the present creates more pain instead of alleviating it.
Just like the people I mentioned above, there was a time when I, too, used to avoid being in the moment. I also had an intense busyness addiction. I didn’t want to be in the moment because, whenever I tuned inside, what I felt was loneliness.
Busyness kept me from feeling that intense pain of loneliness.
I learned as a small child that the way to avoid feeling lonely was to stay very busy and productive. Because I received some satisfaction and a bit of approval for my productivity, it only served to reinforce this coping strategy. In fact, I was so good at staying busy that I didn’t even know I was lonely, or that I was addicted to busyness!
A pain we either don’t know about, don’t understand, or don’t know what to do about it even if we are aware of it.
This numbing is one form of “self-abandonment.” Self-abandonment means that you’re in denial of your pain or pushing the pain away from yourself with substances, addictions, workaholism, and in this case—busyness.
Self-abandoning is a dysfunctional way of dealing with your suppressed or hidden emotions.
What’s worse is that dysfunctional strategies such as busyness keep you in an emotional limbo because the underlying cause of your pain is never addressed.
So you keep busy…book more activities and take on new responsibilities…join another club or organization…say yes to even more.
This dysfunctional way of coping with your suppressed emotions starts to run your life.
You can’t slow down, you can’t relax, and at times you feel on the edge of burnout.
Meanwhile, your internal pain keeps getting bigger and stronger. And you numb it by staying busier and busier and busier.
Until one day, you’re so overwhelmed and stressed, you lose it. There’s a better way to handle our pain:Heal the Pain
With an addiction to busyness and productivity, it’s easy to think that it’s not problematic. We may be rewarded for our productivity and tenacity to “getting things done” (the way I was).
But if you avoid those painful feelings long enough, they WILL come out in other, less desirable ways.
You may end up getting ill or having physical symptoms.
You may blame others for your unhappiness and stress.
You may take your stress out on others, who won’t understand it and may not deserve it.
You may ruin your personal or professional relationships.
You may suffer from depressive symptoms.
Those are just a few examples of how hidden and suppressed emotional pain can eventually come out in ways that are destructive or highly unpleasant.
But there is a way to avoid this happening, and to face your feelings, uncover your hidden emotional pain, and stay more present in life—all of which has the benefit of giving you a sense of contentment and peace.
That way, you can still stay busy and get stuff done, without feeling empty inside when the to-do list dries up.
You don’t have to let busyness become so stressful and overwhelming that it runs your life and ruins your health and relationships. You don’t have to be stuck between choosing to feel productive or having to feel empty, either.
There’s another way, and it involves learning about your hidden emotional pain and then taking loving action toward healing that pain.
That’s what my process of Inner Bonding is all about.
Inner Bonding is a process which, when practiced consistently, heals the emotional pain stemming from fear, limiting beliefs, addictive behavior, and relationship problems, such as anger, shame, guilt, aloneness, depression, emptiness, and anxiety.
Inner Bonding provides you with the skills to take loving care of yourself, and be empowered to take full responsibility for all your own feelings and behavior.
It teaches you how to stay more present and enjoy the process of whatever it is you’re DOING…instead of feeling like you just have to “get through” the day, week, or month. It shows how to uncover the painful emotions that you’ve been burying with to-do lists and endless activity (emotions which, when you face them, you realize aren’t as scary as you imagined.)
Step 1 of Inner Bonding helps you examine and face the full range of your feelings, and starts to unravel the hold that “busyness” has on you because you’re no longer denying those feelings or stuffing them down.
That way, you can stay productive without feeling burned out or empty inside, because you’re not using busyness to avoid or suppress your painful emotions.
Then, steps 2-6 show you how to take loving care of yourself without having to turn to busyness, distractions and other addictions, but rather, take actions on your own behalf that are in your highest good.
Inner Bonding is a process I co-developed with my friend and fellow therapist, Dr. Erika Chopich, and have been teaching to clients since 1984 with incredible success!
My eBook, Thriving At Last, is the complete manual and guide to the Inner Bonding process. It not only gives you the theory and “why,” but it takes you through self-reflection exercises that uncover so much of which you’ve been unaware:
You’ll learn the most effective way to deal with overwork and overwhelm that leads to stress and illness because my eBook helps you discover the underlying cause of your compulsion to stay busy.Be Content and at Peace
When I started practicing Inner Bonding and learning how to manage painful feelings (so many years ago!), I finally opened to my loneliness. Whew! It was very intense when I first contacted this feeling. But as time went on and I learned to welcome, embrace, learn from and release this feeling, I learned not to avoid it.
As a result, I found myself being more and more in the joy and peace of each moment. For me, life is now something to be lived and savored, moment-by-moment, rather than something to get through or around.
I am hopeful it’ll do the same for you.
P.S. Are you often hurt by the unloving ways that people treat you? The thing is, more often than not, the problem isn’t the way that others treat you. It’s the way you’re treating yourself.
The way you’re treating yourself is the key to lifelong contentment and inner peace, because it’s the one thing you can do that will change everything about your relationships, the way you feel about yourself and others. How? Because you’ll stop seeking others’ approval, feeling resentful, and acting out of guilt. My eBook, Thriving At Last, will show you the 6 steps to take to be more loving to yourself …and make it easier for others to be more loving to you, as well.Treat Yourself Better