What is Layering?… Addiction to Excitement / Inner Drug Store 101

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From “Adult Children of Alcoholics”

Layering is subconsciously taking multiple minor, addictive/distractive substances and blending them together to get a bigger hit of anxiety.

A hit which is available to us 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We can create a hormonal symphony to try to escape from our lives and our feelings. We create a “normal” biochemical state that is anything but beneficial.

It is a masterful distraction from our internal pain.

Some examples:

● Our romantic relationship is dramatic and unstable.

● We put off filing our tax return until the very last moment.

● We may live paycheck to paycheck. If we get a raise, we may simply start spending more money so we continue to live paycheck to paycheck.

● We drive too close to the person ahead of us on the freeway.

● We are having an affair with our best friend’s spouse, threatening both our marriage and the relationship with our best friend.

● We would feel better about ourselves if we could just afford to buy (fill in the blank).

● We either tend to stay “busy “with lots of scheduled activities, or we stay isolated at home.

● Rather than wake up 10 minutes earlier in the morning, we often risk being late to work.

● We compulsively try to rescue a friend, then may flip to anger or victimhood if we feel they don’t appreciate us enough.

● Our inner critic berates us for a minor mistake we made.

● We may binge watch TV.

● We tend to take responsibility for other people’s feelings.

● We often check social media even though we may end up feeling worse after we do because we just don’t measure up to others.

● We wish we could talk to someone in our fellowship about all this, but we can’t pick up the phone to call — so we belittle ourselves for that.

● Our boss berates us again and we think, again, about finding a new job; but we never look for one.

● We focus on others, using gossip and judgment rather than focusing on improving ourselves.

● We eat something full of sugar and fat, then beat ourselves up for doing it.

We compound and layer the stressors. When one drops off (like we finally file our tax return) we add another one or two. By layering, we never risk having no excitement in our lives.

The state of being distracted can become an addiction.

The Perfect Storm:

When we layer enough things, we may end up over-stimulating ourselves, perhaps bringing on an emotional crash.

“For those habituated to high levels of internal stress since early childhood, it is the absence of stress that creates unease, evoking boredom and a sense of meaninglessness.

People may become addicted to their own stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol.

To such persons stress feels desirable, while the absence of it feels like something to be avoided.” (Hans Selye)

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Thank you for this perspective and the wake up call.

  2. I missed this through all my therapy and meditating and reading and practice.

    Those who are taking action to heal,will find this wisdom on ptsd. Very helpful

    It takes so much to heal and I see most people not willing to take the bare minimum action to improve

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