How many of you have found yourselves dancing to the rhythm of chaos on and off throughout your lives? With eyes firmly closed and hands woven together, have you implored a higher power to grant you a simple, boring, yet satisfactory life? I am willing to bet that some of you even got your wish, but then renounced it in the name drama. If this sounds like you, keep reading.
So, what does a chaos-led life entail? Although everyone’s different, I find that most individuals who struggle with this addiction have one thing in common: volatility. The incredible highs and lows of life are encompassed in instability. For example, do you crave financial security and yet find yourself surrendering to the clutches of debt? Or, do you wish to find a partner who will finally provide you with a sense of security, only to recoil at the prospect of being in a healthy relationship? Instead, maybe you often find yourself in toxic relationships?
I wonder if some of you may even find it difficult to establish and maintain a love connection for longer than three months. Moreover, do you assume the role of fugitive as you’re coming down from your honeymoon-phase high and those neurochemicals are wearing off? As you’re running away from one partner, do you find yourself colliding into a new “promise” of love? – “Perhaps this time it’ll be different. They’re different. They’re not like my ex”.
There are additional signs to watch out for, such as engaging in self-sabotaging behaviours, suffering from other addictions, having controlling tendencies, starting unnecessary arguments with loved ones, and having blurry boundaries with yourself and others.
In order to understand your possible addiction to chaos, it might be useful to revisit your past. Several of my clients, whose lives have been riddled with tumult, experienced some instability during their childhood. Some may have had caregivers whose behaviours were unpredictable, whilst others may have been subjected to other types of trauma, such as bullying, neglect, harassment, and physical violence. It’s important to look back to childhood, as that’s when a specific type of brain chemistry may have been established.
Chaos, Biology, and TV
When exposed to a potentially dangerous situation, the amygdala (which is part of the limbic system in the brain), will identify a threat and “raise the alarm”, propelling the nervous system to activate the fight/fight response. The nervous system will then release stress hormones and chemicals, (cortisol, adrenaline), to increase your chances of survival. Childhood trauma can cause the amygdala to become overactive, which means that it will misinterpret non-threatening situations as dangerous, resulting in the fight/flight response being overly activated. An overactive amygdala can lead to a myriad of issues, such as hyper-vigilance (constantly being on edge), anxiety disorders, PTSD, avoidance (avoiding situations or people that may trigger your anxiety) etc. (Shafir, 2023).
The hippocampus, (which is the part of the brain that stores our memories), and the pre-frontal cortex, (where complex thinking processes take place), can also be affected by childhood trauma, resulting in: health issues, depression, chronic stress, unhealthy lifestyle choices (drinking, smoking), interpersonal problems, impulsive decision making, learning problems, and ADD (Shafir, 2023).
When an individual grows up in a tumultuous setting, and consequently gets “used” to the physiological and mental changes caused by trauma, they may unconsciously recreate or choose situations similar to the original childhood environment. This is portrayed quite powerfully on the show Yellowjackets. Shauna, who, alongside her teammates “The Yellowjackets”, survived a plane crash as a teenager and had to resort to unspeakable acts in order to survive in the wilderness, in adulthood rejects the tranquility and stability of suburbia for danger and excitement. Having spent extended periods of time in survival mode has probably had an impact on Shauna’s brain functioning thus rendering her more impulsive. She’s self-sabotaging by relinquishing her power to chaos, her shadow by now, and letting it run wild. Perhaps she’s also unconsciously wanting to trigger her fight/fight response in order to get a rush, by releasing adrenaline and cortisol. Now Natalie, her teammate and fellow survivor, had a difficult childhood prior to the crash, which meant that she had already experienced an unstable upbringing. The addiction to chaos seeps into adulthood, as we watch her struggle with substance abuse, interpersonal problems, depression and potentially hyper-vigilance as well.
So, if we have experienced some form of trauma, like The Yellowjackets, are we doomed to a life of turmoil? How can we prevent ourselves from living in the eye of a tornado? Can stability still be attained? The good news is that you can achieve a more harmonious life. Here are some tips on how to live a more stable life:
- Below I’ve listed some extremely helpful resources for those who may be addicted to chaos. They include a quiz to determine if this is a problem for you, grounding techniques to soothe yourself, and conflict resolution tips for relationships.
- Internationally recognised yoga teacher, Silvia Mordini, who struggled with chaos addiction herself, recommends practicing yoga, meditation, using mantras, taking a break from technology and getting your hands and feet dirty in nature as a way to regulate your nervous system (Mordini, 2013).
- Keep a diary and note down instances where you felt that you have sabotaged yourself. Is there a pattern? Are all areas of your life affected by chaos or is it just one? Speaking to a therapist can also be extremely helpful in mapping these factors.
- Once you have identified certain patterns of behaviour or thought, think about ways to have more stability in your life – e.g. if you find yourself overspending and never saving, could you ask a loved one to help you handle your finances? If you start arguments with your partner and/or friends, could you perhaps take some time to reflect on the issue at hand, before bringing it to their attention? If you find it difficult to form interpersonal connections, I would suggest that you read about the attachment theory.
- Heal your inner child! I recommend the book “Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing your Inner Child” by John Bradshaw. Or, if you’re pressed for time, read Ellie Bull’s article on the subject right here on Onilien.
The central question to ask yourself is this: if you crave excitement, are there healthier ways to obtain it? You are more in control than you think – don’t let chaos dictate how you should live! Hopefully this article has inspired you to evaluate the role of chaos in your life; to consider what is best for you in the long-term. Let the tornado lose energy and it will eventually dissipate.
- Chaos Addiction Quiz (at the bottom of the article)
- Grounding Techniques
- Conflict Resolution Tips for Relationships