Soft addictions: we’ve all got ’em

21 Mar

            As I sit in my favorite comfy chair in my living room this fine Sunday evening with freshly cut hair I began to think “I have a soft addiction.” I like to get my hair cut, get the response to getting my hair cut and it makes me happy to think about getting to make a small change to something, getting a fresh start. Plus I love the feeling of healthy cut hair and getting to style it differently, again! Now after hearing some of my rationalizations of why I like this soft addiction I will explain about soft addictions, to make sense out of why we do what we do, when we do it. First, the term soft addictions, as coined by Dr Judith Wright, author and cofounder of The Wright Institute, are explained as habits, compulsive behaviors, or reoccurring moods, ways of being or thought patterns. She continues to explain that soft addiction’s defining quality is that they satisfy a surface want but ignore or block the satisfaction of a deeper need and they numb us to our feelings and spiritual awareness by substituting a superficial high or sense of activity for a genuine feeling or accomplishment. Some of the most common soft addictions include:

  • watching television
  • going on the internet
  • sports
  • gossiping
  • nail biting
  • collecting items (coins, stamps, toys, bears, glasses, etc.)
  • shopping
  • work
  • talking on the phone
  • texting
  • being in a bad mood
  • being in a good mood
  • looking beautiful


            What we do not realize as we are engaging in these activities we call “harmless” is that they are taking up WAY TOO MUCH time, energy, intimacy and money! How much more time would we have if we didn’t talk on the phone and instead scheduled meetings and had meaningful interactions? How do we jeopardize our own safety by texting, let alone texting while driving? How many relationships do we miss out on engaging in by watching weekly television shows and veging out (aka “relaxing”)? Most, if not all, of us have numerous soft addictions and even more elaborate lists of why we have these habits. Not only do we have these addictions and the rationales to why we have them, we also have defensiveness to identifying that they take up too much time and that we are not satisfied in what we get from them. In addition, we also are often AWARE of our soft addictions and categorize them into “good vs bad” and “small vs big” addictions. The smaller they are, the less important they seem. I know I fall into this contingency. I often say “texting cannot be that dangerous” or “I don’t really want attention from cutting my hair,” which are both true and untrue, in moderation. The difference I am trying to discern and learn through is how much time and energy am I actually putting into my soft addictions and can I limit the behaviors and go for my deeper, more satisfying hungers. Some of our deeper, more satisfying hungers include:

  • wanting to be seen
  • wanting to be heard
  • wanting to be acknowledged
  • wanting attention
  • wanting to be part of a group/community


            Even through the awareness of our soft addictions we are not cured from them and the point is not to rid them from our lives. It is to become aware of WHAT we are actually looking for and HOW to go about getting it. If it is not connect with others and we find ourselves texting, why not pick up the phone or set up an appointment with the person instead. Rather than watch a weekly show and “relax,” go for a walk or read a good book, read a book with friends even. Rather than wanting to look beautiful and spending the time and money to do so, pay attention to the qualities that make you unique and develop those qualities fully. Rather than being addicted to “being a crabby person” or “being a happy person,” just be YOU, crabby, happy, sad, angry, lovely, annoying or pensive. Although these suggestions are easier said than done, I, too, need to listen to my deeper hungers and look for the connection I seek through my soft addictions.

            “So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”
Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook)

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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Personal Growth


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