Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Overkill: Everything in Excess, Including Excess

I'd love to know what void this person is trying to fill.
My title is not original; it was the name of a photo blog on the Cheezburger network devoted to photos of 20 foot subs, ankle-length hair, enormous collections of stuff, and the like.  I looked for it today and it appears that they have removed the site.  For awhile there the network seemed to have an amusing photo blog for just about everything, and I guess they decided it was too much (they also had a site featuring irony).

I spend a lot of time thinking about what constitutes "too much".  It's been a long time since I've felt like I've had too little of anything.  Is three Coke Zeros a day too much caffeine? No, I console myself, because it's not near as much caffeine as someone who drinks three cups of coffee.  Do I talk too much?  Do I eat too much?  Do I take too many breaks?  Do I spend too much time on the Internet?  But who decides when I've crossed the line between "just enough" and too much?  Usually the only way I can define "too much" is by comparing myself to others, and that's tricky.  You see, I can always reason that I don't have too many pairs of shoes by thinking of those women who have hundreds of pairs of shoes.  But if I think of the child in Africa, or Asia, or anywhere, who has never owned a new pair of shoes, then I certainly have excess.  When I think of that child with no shoes, and realize that he probably has even more pressing needs, I feel a sense of guilt over this charmed life that I live where I never have to make a sacrifice. 

I watched a Beth Moore video today in which she stated, "All excess is rooted in emptiness" (Breaking Free, 124).  So where is my emptiness?  What holes am I trying to fill with Coke Zero?  I've been in therapy for over a decade now, so this shouldn't be a hard question.  I know that most of my addictions come back to my desire to be perpetually, endlessly, ecstatically happy.  That sounds nice.  However, I think I am now realizing that no one is actually that happy all the time.  Happiness is based on circumstances;  and since circumstances by their very nature are always changing, no one can maintain a very high level of happiness consistently.  There are sources of joy or contentment that make happiness less important, depending on your perspective toward it, but that is another story.  So then I must conclude that the amount of happiness I desire is more than anyone could possibly experience this side of heaven.  It is excess.  And I am back at square one again. 

The Webster's dictionary that my husband received for having a straight A average in junior high school defines "addict" as "to devote or surrender oneself to something habitually or obsessively".  Up until about ten or fifteen years ago I only thought of addiction in terms of substance abuse, but today this term is used much more broadly to refer to any habit or compulsion, good or bad.  Is it possible that the term has become overused in such a way that it is no longer seen as a serious problem?  For instance, in the past I have referred to my Coke Zero habit as an addiction, but recently I attempted to give it up for a long period of time.  I wasn't expecting success, but it turned out it was no big deal.  Perhaps our excessive culture has embraced it's bad habits to the point that the line between desire and compulsion is blurry. 

It's worth finding the line.  We all have desires; I can't imagine being human without them.  But if excess is truly rooted in emptiness then any addiction, no matter how benign, is only a losing battle in an inner war that we're refusing to acknowledge.  I'm not preaching, or if I am, it is directed at myself.  I think I may be addicted to anger.  I know I find it to be an easier emotion to access and contend with than sadness, disappointment, or grief, and I may be subconsciously seeking out things that infuriate me.  Now that I think about this it seems perfectly obvious that I'm caught in a cycle of anger as a bandage. I use it to cover over my less comfortable feelings, but since I'm not dealing with those feelings directly I never come to accept them and move on.  I do not pretend to be a psychologist, but if we stop looking at our addictions and instead ask ourselves what we're covering with them, we may be able to deal with whatever it is so that we no longer need what we were addicted to. 

How did so many people get to the point where instead of fighting for healing, growth, and self improvement they chose to sit down and get comfortable in their chains? 


  1. This entery is powerful, eyeopeing and stirring. Thank you for sharing

  2. Most people don't realize that they are in bondage because they've been in it for so long. They don't realize that they need healing because they feel the same way that they've always felt -- they are in their comfort zone with their anger or addiction or whatever.

  3. You're right, Gigi, that makes sense. I'm still trying to decide if the fact that I am rarely comfortable is a blessing or a curse.

  4. I know that your post is much deeper than this, but I see that car everywhere and I actually know where it lives. By chance...I am not following the car! I always find it interesting that after doing all that reflective stuff, they had to put a little sticker on the back of the car that says 'car'. By going so overboard and to such excess, their car lost its identity and had to be labeled. Isn't that what we do sometimes?