Everyone can probably think of that friend, family member, or colleague who always just seems so busy. In fact, if you meet up with them they just cannot even seem to sit down for more than a minute.
Or maybe this description fits you. You just never seem to have a spare moment and even if you sit down for a cup of coffee, before you know it you are back on your feet doing something.
Could it be that some people are addicted to being busy?
What is seen as generally being behind any addiction is the need to mask or numb some incredibly acute inner pain. It’s a pain that is most often carried since childhood.
Like most wounds left untreated, it gradually gets worse. This is why it’s said that addiction is a progressive illness.
So many people try to cover or block this pain that at times can feel overwhelming. It defines how and who they are.
Unless it is treated it will get increasingly worse. Just because someone’s not looking at something doesn’t mean it’s not still there.
Addiction acts as a distraction as well. It is not just the time using or doing; it is also the planning, preparation, and recovering and/or clearing up the mess left behind.
Unbeknown to most addicts, they are making sure their addiction consumes as much of their time and attention as possible. For any moment it does not, there is a possibility that the negative feelings and pain will rise once more to the surface.
What an addict is seeking to do is avoid this at all costs. An addiction also gives someone the illusion of being in control, which is an attempt at counteracting the pain and turmoil going on inside them.
Addiction is an attempt to solve human pain
As addiction expert and bestselling author Dr. Gabor Maté says: “Addiction originates in a human being’s desperate attempt to solve a problem: the problem of emotional pain, of overwhelming stress, of lost connection, of loss of control, of deep discomfort with the self.
“It is a forlorn attempt to solve the problem of human pain. Hence my mantra: ‘The question is not why the addiction, but why the pain.’
“Childhood trauma is the template for any addiction. All addictions are attempts to escape the deep pain of the hurt child, attempts temporarily soothing but ultimately futile.”
Dr. Maté goes on to explain that not all traumatized people become addicted – but that all addicted people have been traumatized in some way. Drinking or taking mood-altering drugs excessively are perhaps the most well-known ways that people attempt to deal with this.
Why is someone always so relentlessly busy?
It is clear to see that some people also make themselves relentlessly busy. This can become an addiction in just the same way that people use other things in an attempt to deal with their inner pain.
It can leave people in the same way as with any addiction: with poor physical health caused by stress and not eating regularly or healthily, and feeling isolated and disconnected.
Alongside the obvious connection to workaholism, those who are always busy will often crave constant noise too. This could be that there is always a television or radio on, even if they are not specifically listening to it.
There might be some noise from a television or radio in more than one room in their house. Once again, this is an attempt at distraction to keep the quiet away – because when it is quiet, this person’s negative feelings have more chance of rising in them once more. They simply cannot tolerate calm and quiet.
What are some signs of an addiction to keeping busy?
• Obsession. They will always be thinking, talking about, or doing what they think has to be done. It can seem to others as if some of the things that they say must be done there and then… could wait or in fact never need to be done at all. This could be such as ironing socks or cleaning a house that is obviously clean. OCD can also be a part of this and is strongly connected.
• Compulsion. Closely linked to obsession is compulsion. The person cannot seem to stop themselves from doing the things they think have to be done there and then. This can be seen such as if a friend visits for a chat – but the person addicted to being busy cannot sit long enough to even finish one cup of tea. Consequently, they often feel overwhelmed and tired.
• Perfectionism. This is often connected to compulsion. Because there is a demand for things to be perfect in their mind, it means delegating tasks is something that they find extremely hard or seemingly impossible to do. So, they end up making unreasonable demands upon themselves – such as having a long list of tasks to do every day. For any person, it would not be possible to complete such a long list. But then they berate themselves for not doing all they feel they absolutely needed to do that day. They sense people will feel they are flawed, and they detest giving anyone the chance to say or see that. They are likely to have continual feelings of anxiety and restlessness.
• Defensive traits. If someone suggests, even in a kind manner, that they are always doing something and need to relax, they will often go quiet or get very defensive. It can be seen to be like someone telling a person addicted to cannabis that they need to cut down or quit. Sometimes they will give implausible justifications or even lie so that there are no more comments or accusations about them always being so busy.
• Escapism. Being busy means they can escape themselves and the pain or trauma they suffer from every day. It is something that’s used to try to avoid feelings of guilt, remorse, shame, and/or feeling depressed.
• Approval. Most of us in the Western world live in communities where working and being busy are most often encouraged and praised. Many people who do not have healthy self-esteem will seek external approval – through what they can achieve. Also, because they crave such love and approval, they find it extremely hard or even impossible to say no to any request from another person.
• Control. When there is inner turmoil, a person feels out of control. Keeping constantly busy is a method some people who feel like this use in an attempt to gain a sense of order in their life.
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