Social Media Addiction & Empaths

What numbing out online is really about

in EMPATHS

Lola Pickett, Empath Coach

It goes a little something like this…

As my fingers start blindly typing the facebook URL in my browser’s address bar, I notice what I’m doing and stop myself from hitting enter.

At the moment, I’m supposed to be writing an email to my community, in which I’ll make an offer for one of my programs.

While trying to craft a message that’s both sensitive and compelling, I remember that I’ve got comments in one of my online course groups to respond to. And didn’t I have that instagram post ready to upload? And what was it my friend said the other day about grief? 

Now, instead of facebook, I’m sucked into instagram. I need that quote. 

Scroll, scroll, scroll.

My concentration now fully broken, I’m suddenly awash with feelings of overwhelm and self-judgement. My “mean brain” pipes up and begins to berate me for having nothing valuable or unique to say, for living a lifestyle that no one could be remotely interested in, for having wisdom that’s still too nascent to pay for.

My cursor blinks blankly at me from the email I’m in the middle of crafting. I feel like it would be energetically and emotionally irresponsible to say anything right now to my community. 

I’m in no state to make an offer to them. 

Better go take a nap, make some tea, have a snack, sit outside, listen to a podcast, or watch that webinar replay about how to make sales.

Sound familiar?

If you’re an empath or highly sensitive person who’s also trying to run—or start—a business, then I’m guessing that it feels a little like I just peeked inside your brain.

But, why do we HSPs and Empaths do this stuff?

Why is it, the minute we feel clear enough and confident enough to put ourselves and our work forward, we let ourselves fall into the vortex of distractions that is social media?

It comes down to our highly sensitive Sympathetic Nervous System (NS) and the protective fight-flight-freeze-fawn response patterns it put into place in childhood to help us cope with life’s chaos and danger.

Illustration licensed on Adobe Stock

There is a lot of buzz right now about the Fawning response that arises from trauma. Fawning leads many empaths and HSPs to become chronic people-pleasers and codependent rescuers; often to their own detriment.

But today, let’s talk about the Flight response…

…The response that I believe triggers us to numb out with things like social media whenever we let ourselves touch a growth edge.

…The response that tells us (in so many ways and through so many vehicles):

“It’s safer to consume than it is to create.”

Image licensed from Adobe Stock

The flight response is an ingrained reaction to perceived danger that kicks up our adrenaline, floods our bodies with stress hormones like cortisol, tenses our muscles, and thereby helps us leap away from whatever is threatening us.

The only trouble is—most of the time—we’re not running away from a predator.

Instead, we’re evading our creative expression. We’re escaping from potential rejection and anonymous internet trolls. We’re avoiding the risk of being seen (and unfortunately, most of the rewards that can come with it).

So, with aching shoulders, clenched jaws, and a racing heart, we disappear into the lush protection of other people’s instagram accounts. Our breathing slows as we double tap.

We’ve slipped away again from the cruel jaws of our own success.

What a relief.

(That was sarcasm.)

So, what’s an HSP Empath to do instead?

Each of the “F” responses (Fight, Flight, Freeze, and Fawn) have an equal and opposite remedy that we can call upon to help us re-pattern our reactions to the world; to assess risks more accurately, to stop numbing and start trusting ourselves to stay with our fears of abandonment, failure, and even our fear of joy.

The remedy to Unhealthy Flight is Healthy Freeze.

You can practice the healthy Freeze impulse whenever you catch yourself flying away from growth… fleeing from the challenge of showing up for yourself, your commitments, your clients, for all of your relationships.

Freezing is about pausing. It’s the sacred NO. It’s an internal boundary from your inner parents who tell you to turn off the TV and do your homework.

If you HAD no boundaries growing up, no discipline (or too much), then this could be some very difficult work indeed.

But, you CAN do it.

And, there are even tools to help you stay focused by removing your most tempting distractions.

Browser plugins like Stay Focusd will block you from visiting whatever sites you choose after a daily time limit that you pre-determine. 

You can delete the facebook app from your phone to make it harder to access.

Ultimately though, it’s going to be up to you to start paying attention to—and taking responsibility for—your choices.

So, start noticing your flight behaviors. Practice telling yourself firmly but kindly to return to your intention.

Illustration licensed from Adobe Stock

My clients work with these questions as they learn how to Freeze in healthy ways:

  • What am I avoiding doing/feeling right now?
  • What am I afraid will happen if I do/feel this?
  • If I do/feel this, will I be proud of myself?
  • What good might come from doing/feeling this?
  • What is likely to happen if I don’t do/feel this?
Be honest with yourself.

With practice, this type of self-inquiry becomes almost automatic whenever you catch yourself trying to fly away. Sometimes it helps to allow rewards once you’ve completed tasks or followed through on something you’ve been avoiding.

I’ll take 5 mins on instagram to find that quote after I hit send on this email!

As an HSP or Empath, your nervous system IS more finely tuned and open than the average human. But, you don’t have to be a victim of your sensitivity and let your childhood patterns dominate your adult life.

Practice the healthy Freeze, take back the reins on your creative courage, and share yourself with the world.

We need your medicine, and we’ll never hear about it if you spend all day scrolling and “liking” everyone else’s stuff but your own.
Lola - Creator of Wildly Amazing Things at WildPlayground.com

Through her courses and programs, Lola Pickett empowers empaths  to rewire their brains, behavior, and bodies so they can create sustainable success & happiness. She is the published author of the Wild Messengers Alchemical Tarot and founder of EMPATH*ology™—her outrageously popular 10-week online course.

Her offerings blend cutting-edge neuroscience with trauma healing AND playful adventure to create powerful and lasting results. When not facilitating transformational work, you’ll find Lola on a hike, wildcrafting medicines, and loving up on her husband and kids in the mountains north of San Diego, California.

Lola's a Communication Empath.
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