This article is for anyone wanting to create a life they love, enjoy and are inspired by. A life that is truly beautiful!!
ACTION #19: AM I BUFFERING?
Okay, okay so you've probably have no idea what I mean when I say "buffering". But trust me, you do!
Buffering behaviour is any behaviour we use so that we don't have to feel.
You know… the over-drinking, emotional eating, over-consuming, over-spending, watching hours of TV, mindless scrolling through social media… or even, participating in idle gossip.
A buffer is any behaviour that numbs you from feeling. We might use them to "check-out" altogether, or to distract ourselves when we are bored, or to escape our lives, to give us an instant high or perhaps to make us feel better about ourselves.
Whatever the behaviour, it acts as a buffer to your reality.
EXAMPLES OF BUFFERING
I learned this specific use of the word "buffer", through the wonderful Brooke Castillo in her work in the The Life Coach School. You can check out her work here (she is amaze!).
Here is a quote from Brooke on the topic of buffering:
I talk a lot about the idea of buffering and how it is one of those things that we do in order to not fully experience our lives. And the reason why we don’t want to face the truth of our lives is because we don’t want to experience any type of negative emotion. – Brooke Castillo
Basically when it comes to buffers, you are using something external to yourself to fill you up to make you feel better or even to not feel at all.
For example, when you:
- Use alcohol or some other substance, to make things more "fun", or to make you feel more confident or simply to check out of your reality altogether. Yes, my friends that would be a buffer!
- Spend hours each day watching television, movies or scrolling through social media because you are bored, procrastinating or again just wanting to distract yourself so that you do not need to deal with emotions like boredom, sadness, anger or even just numbness. Yep, that's also buffering!
- Sit around gossiping or complaining about others to make yourself feel better, to entertain yourself or just to do something. It can almost feel like it just takes over you, you are doing it automatically, sucked into the vortex. Yep, that too is a buffer! If you were really happy and full of love, why would you want to engage in this sort of behaviour?
- Eat too much or emotionally eat to make yourself feel better or distract yourself from negative emotions. Or perhaps, you consume something to give yourself an immediate high like sugar or caffeine. Again, that's totally buffering!
- Go shopping to get that retail high. Oh yeah baby, you are totally buffering!
And gee whizz, wouldn’t you say we are pretty addicted to buffering?? It’s so sneaky, because it really seems as if we either have no control over the behaviour or that we do and we are simply exercising our power to choose.
But let’s get really honest with ourselves for a second… when we use behaviour like this to distract ourselves it never provides a lasting solution to the underlying problem. And that my friends, is why the behaviour is a buffer. You use something external to yourself to feel a better way so that you do not deal with the underlying problem. So it’s still there lurking in the morning.
For instance, when it comes to alcohol, many people drink alcohol because they believe it would be boring not to. As Brooke Castillo points out in her wonderful podcast series: Stop Over-drinking (which you can access here) – if your life is boring when you don’t drink, it is still boring when you do. When you buffer with the drinking, you never actually get to change the real problem which is the fact that you are bored.
What we really need to do is get proactive and find a lasting solution to the problem. And this my friends requires us to feel those negative emotions too.
WHY WE NEED TO BECOME AWARE OF OUR BUFFERS:
Your buffering behaviour gets in the way of you moving forward and it usually removes you from the present moment altogether. The behaviours are often self-destructive as well as they offer no real value to you.
And when we escape our reality, we actually disempower ourselves. We lose the ability to live with intention and consciously create our reality.
Remember when we spoke about the importance of presence? If you missed it you can check out the article here.
The only moment we ever have guaranteed is the very moment we are experiencing right now.
When we buffer, we actually make the underlying issue worse.
When we don’t experience our negative emotions, we repress them and rest assured that they will be sure to manifest themselves in some way later - like in disease, sickness, mental health issues or even addictions.
You might like to check out my earlier post on how to move through negative emotions most effectively here: Feel Your Way to Love. Negative emotions are just a feeling after all and we are humans my friends which means we need contrast, so sometimes we feel good and sometimes we feel bad. When we feel bad, we need to accept that we are feeling bad, experience the emotion and turn inward to ask ourselves how we can change our reality to make ourselves feel better.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. – Albert Einstein
Awareness is key. When you become aware of what you use to buffer, you will be better able to catch yourself each time and then make the conscious choice not to give up your power to feel.
Once we know what our buffering tendencies are, we can stop them in their tracks.
So let's get down + dirty now!
OUR WEEKLY CHALLENGE TO CREATE A LIFE THAT IS BEAUTIFUL
This week on the Create a Life that is Beautiful journey we are going to build awareness about the behaviours we use to buffer. To build your awareness, follow the below steps:
- Write a list of what behaviours you use to distract yourself when you are experiencing a negative emotion like anger, sadness, boredom, depression, numbness, frustration etc. For example: what do I typically do when I feel bored?
- Over the next 7 days, catch yourself when you start engaging in a buffering behaviour or when you feel the inclination to and simply take out your journal and ask yourself what are you hiding from. Spend 5-10 minutes writing about how you are feeling and why. It’s so interesting what comes up! And you would be surprised how quickly this actually dissipates the urge to buffer. Try to get to the underlying problem.
- If the underlying problem is simply a negative emotion that just needs to be felt and released, feel the emotion, acknowledge it (and follow the steps in my previous post on feel your way back to love here). If the underlying problem on the other hand, is something you need to change in your life, then brainstorm some ways you might be able to bring back harmony into your life.
- What buffering behaviours are you committed to deleting from your life going forward?
The process of stopping to check-in and find out what is behind your inclination to check-out is incredibly powerful. Whenever I feel the urge to eat when I’m not hungry or to get some sugar into me, I like to spend some time journaling to see if there are any emotions I am trying to repress. It is remarkable what comes up.
This is something I learned when it came to emotional eating first (also through Brooke Castillo's work in her book, If I'm So Smart Why Can't I Lose Weight - which by the way I think you can access for free at the moment on her website).
I could not believe how effective this step is - of course, it can seem like the last thing you want to do at the time. But trust me, just give it a try and see the lasting change you will be able to experience.
Now I can hear you thinking, does this mean I have to give up all of these common buffering behaviours? Well... of course you don't. But try and do them with intention - you know plan ahead of time to over-eat, to drink alcohol or to over-spend your money. You will be surprised how much less appealing these behaviours are when you do that!
Alcohol is a really important example here because let's face it I don't believe there is a situation where we don't use alcohol to buffer in some way. It is a poison after all!
For me, I realised that I would use alcohol to make my life more fun.
I did this for years, when what was really at the root of the issue was simply that my life wasn’t fun or fulfilling at all. Alcohol provided a very fleeting distraction, but it never provided a solution to the problem.
Throughout my year of no drinking, instead I was forced to deal with the underlying problem and make real and lasting change in my life. I wasn’t able to hide behind the alcohol anymore! Enter real fun + fulfillment!
I also used alcohol to give myself confidence in social settings. I suffered from a mild form of social anxiety, believing that I was never as fun unless I had some alcohol to relax me and so instead of dealing with the root issue, the confidence and my sense of worthiness in my own right again alcohol only provided a band-aid for the problem.
What did eventually provide a solution was learning to love + accept myself unconditionally and practising presence. I cannot even begin to tell you how freeing this has been!!
Lovely people, just get to the real root of the problem causing the negative emotion and you will be able to overcome your buffering tendencies.
Why are you experiencing this dis-ease?
What could you do differently to bring you more love, joy and inspiration into your life?
When you remove a buffering behaviour at first it might seem hard, but after only a couple of weeks of consciously stopping yourself when you have that inclination to engage, that urge lessens and lessens. Until finally, you experience real freedom.
Stop escaping from your life my dear friend… you only have one to live after all!
Any behaviour you use to distract yourself or escape from negative emotion, does not provide a lasting solution to the underlying problem in your life. When you feel the urge to engage in a behaviour that uses something external to yourself to fill you up or make you feel better, stop and ask yourself what you are really hiding from.
Enjoy becoming aware of your buffering tendencies this week my loves!
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Lots of love,