Do You Self-Medicate?

by Herve Boisde

Here in New York City everyone self-medicates to a degree. Or to a large degree. Whether it's after work drinks with coworkers, a glass of wine at home to unwind, or some other substances ranging from pot edibles to prescription drugs, we are a society that consumes to relax. Why do we feel that we need them? For one thing, they can be a social lubricant that seem to enhance the good times with friends. But on another level they help us to forget our problems. Or do they? Addictive substances are addictive because they help keep unpleasant emotions suppressed below the surface. That means that those negative thoughts and feelings are still there somewhere but just not as easily accessed by the conscious mind. And too much partying can lead to a general numbness, so even the good feelings aren't much there anymore. Comfortably Numb is a good Pink Floyd song but probably not the best approach to life.

Carl Jung once noted that modern Western culture tends to favor a driven attitude and suppression of emotion that comes at the expense of the intensity of living. This has resulted in people forcing down into their subconscious much that is real and life-giving. Jung was exploring the Sahara desert when he came upon a figure dressed all in white sitting on a black mule whose harness was studded with silver. The man rode past without saying a word but Jung noted his proud demeanor and sensed that this person was somehow wholly himself and this struck him in stark contrast to the average European with his “faint note of foolishness” and his illusions of grandeur due to modern advancements in technology and travel.

Contemporary medicine also recognizes that suppressing negative emotions can have long-term effects as well. Effects of consistent emotion suppression include increased physical stress on your body, including high blood pressure, increased incidence of diabetes and heart disease.

Research has also shown a connection between avoiding emotions and poor memory as well as more misunderstandings in conversations with others. This is because people who regularly suppress emotion are often less aware of the signals they are sending to others and also less aware of the social cues present in daily conversation. Finally, men and women who avoid emotions, especially negative ones, are more likely to experience high anxiety and depression in their lifetime.

So if self-medicating isn't the solution, what is? For one thing, channeling our negative emotions, such as anger, in a healthy way can have enormous benefits and lead to more satisfying lives. Taking a kickboxing class to get some exercise while letting off steam that you accumulate during the workweek is much better than blowing up at your boss or your spouse during a stressful period. Other people prefer to meditate to help calm their minds. And of course hypnosis is extremely useful for balancing out the subconscious and conscious mind. Especially if there are repressed traumatic events, or stuff that doesn't naturally come up to the surface, then a few hypnosis sessions can be very helpful. Some of us have a hard time expressing certain emotions because of the way we were raised. Anger doesn't feel acceptable to some people. Hypnosis can help to relieve the anger and to change the trigger thoughts, while also anchoring positive emotions to help in certain problematic situations. And no matter what the negative emotions are, hypnosis can help to boost self-esteem which will naturally lead to more positive perceptions of the world and the challenges that life brings.