The Busyness Drug – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From:

How long can you just sit still and not do anything?

A minute?  Ten minutes?  Thirty?  A whole hour?  When do you start getting uncomfortable and start saying ‘I’ve got to find something to do!’?

I’d be willing to bet that after caffeine and alcohol, busyness is the third biggest drug in America.  We want to stay active.  Life is easier and simpler when we have something to do.  If we’re just lying around the house then we’re obviously being lazy, irresponsible, or depressed.

We all know about workaholism and how damaging that can be.  We see families torn apart because one partner spends all their time either at work or consumed by work at home.  But what is more subtle is the constant volunteer who will take on any job when asked.  Or the student who joins so many clubs that they’re busy every night of the week, and still insists upon getting straight A’s.  Or the parent who has to be involved in every part of their child’s life.

For people who are hooked on the busyness drug, when there is a moment of peace or calm there is also a low hum of panic.  “What should I be doing now?”  “I must have forgotten something?”  “What else could I be doing?”

It’s hard to just be without doing because you’re suddenly faced with the uncomfortable things you’ve been running away from by getting busy.  Like any addiction, the busyness drug is designed to help you mask, numb out, or avoid unpleasant parts of your experience.  For some people it’s the belief that they’re inherently unworthy of love and acceptance.  For others it is the belief that they’re life has no meaning or purpose.  For others it might be the grief of losing a love one or missing out on a dream for their life they once had.

And the busyness drug is the most insidious of all drugs because our culture rewards us for staying busy.  We get paid overtime and made employee of the month (or at least the boss’ favorite employee).  We get recognized for all our help and how essential we are to another person or to an organization we volunteer for.  Other people see us as “heroic” and “altruistic”; someone to be admired.  And we like that praise and those rewards.

But make no mistake: just because this addiction is more socially acceptable and even socially rewarded doesn’t make it any less damaging than any other addiction.  I’ve already alluded to the most obvious example, when a family is broken because one parent is consumed by work.  But when an individual spends all of her or his time running away from something by getting busy, they become alienated from themselves.  And that alienation leads to being trapped in a prison.

Being busy doesn’t fix the issue or make the issue go away, it simply masks that there is an issue.  The only way to resolve one’s fear about not being enough, or being lovable, or living life without a loved one is to face it.  When we face whatever it is we are running away from we can finally realize that we are enough, that we do deserve rest and pleasure, that life does go on without that loved one.  We come to find out that really we are OK.

So if you’re someone who is always “keeping busy”.  If you get stressed out with long moments of doing nothing, let me invite you to take a Sabbath.  Carve out a day where you do nothing, where you just sit and enjoy the state of being.  Notice what comes up.  Journal about it.  Become aware of what it is you are avoiding when you jump from task to task to task.

The constant need to stay busy is a prison.  The key to freedom is in being without doing. is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.