The Addiction to Doing


Are you a human being or a human doing? Looking over my life, it is pretty clear that I am a human doing. Many of us highly productive over-achievers are. A few generations ago, it may have been thought that doing was a gender issue, with men being more “doers” and women more “feelers”. Now, however, those distinctions are too limiting. In fact, as you look at the pace of modern human life, it could be argued that nearly all of us have become human doings. Working at that which gives us meaning or, at least, a paycheck. Grooming the shelters and vehicles we dwell in: bodies, cars, homes. Climbing the corporate ladder, or making sure our kids can, with piano lessons, soccer, summer camp. Running around in circles. Jumping to conclusions. Dodging the bullet. We are nearly always doing something. In fact, so much so, that we often can’t even stop to allow our bodies to do those effortless “no-things”, such as sleep and elimination. We even have to “do” meditation in order to get ourselves to “do no thing.” The word undoing also implies doing: breaking addictions, losing weight, relaxing.


It was recently expressed to me that one of the worst parts of being ill is that “you can’t get stuff done.” True, there are many consequences for being unable to fulfill our responsibilities. So, we often reach for the bandaid medication or surgery rather than getting to the root cause, just trying to get stuff done. However, it is also the withdrawal from the addiction to doing which is so uncomfortable. What are the symptoms of this withdrawal? Guilt, shame, blame of myself and others. Of course, there is also a great temptation to point the finger outside myself and focus on all the “forces” which require me to do: rent, taxes, body maintenance, childcare, creative expression needed to nurture whole-personhood. But what really is at the source of the need to DO? If we peel back the layers of this essential root cause question, we see that we come up with some version of lack of worthiness.



You will never be enough.

You are so inadequate.

You are useless.

You are worthless.


The concept “I don’t matter” is at the heart of the addiction to doing. Between the horror of feeling insignificant to anyone else and the anguish of deeming myself “nothing”, I can do. I literally do until I drop. Doing takes that agony and hides it, soothes it, distracts from it. Psychiatrist Lance Dodes, MD, takes a radical stance on addiction in his book The Heart of Addiction. Rather than labeling it as a disease with a twelve-step “treatment”, he describes it as a reaction to being in an intolerable situation of feeling out of control. The internal rage at this helplessness causes us to do something. Reach for alcohol, drugs, food, work, exercise, gambling, sex. Something. Something is better than nothing.


We all detest the helplessness of feeling out of control. As a founding member of Control-Freaks-R-Us, I really can’t think of anything worse. Being in the straightjacket of “do nothing”, I reach for my “fix” of doing something. Even when my somethings fail or mess up, at least then I can feel: disappointment, anger, frustration, annoyance. Doing is also at the center of mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. In depression, the feeling of helplessness or hopelessness to change our circumstances overwhelms us. In anxiety, the constant inner directive to “do something” to avoid a perceived threat engulfs us.



Self Empowered Healing is a process which helps us identify and take charge of the doingness, rather than being victimized by the addiction. Rather than one more thing on the “I-Don’t-Want TO DO List”, Self Empowered Healing gives us laser-like precision on what is directly relevant to physical, mental and spiritual health. It gives us control over the things we actually can control. Being in control is the ultimate doing. That’s why we addictively reach for something to do when feeling out of control. And yet, despite our many illusions to the contrary, there is very little we can actually control. As one of my patients told me, there are only three things we control:

1.) What we put into our bodies, ie. food, drink, medications, recreational drugs, nutraceuticals, etc.

2.) What we do with our bodies, ie. how we move, exercise, sex, the personal environment we chose to live in, etc.

3.) What we do with our minds, ie. which feelings and thoughts we chose to entertain.


That’s about it. A dauntingly small plate. Not my family, my co-workers, politics, gasoline prices, or pandemics. Self Empowered Healing actually gives us back a feeling of control by placing that which we can control directly within our grasp. With expert guidance on Functional Medicine approaches to healing, precisely focused mind-body practices to enhance outcomes, and compassionate mentoring to overcome stumbling blocks, you can get past the helplessness and hopelessness of disempowering health conditions to have the well-being for the life you were truly born to live. Instead of reaching for a quick fix medication or surgery so you can get back to your addiction to doing, empower yourself to vitality and wellness with Self Empowered Healing.


Joanne Pizzino, MD, MPH, is board-certified in Preventive Medicine and diplomate-certified in Integrative Medicine. After her own self-empowered healing epiphany in 1997, she has guided people to live healthier through both Eastern and Western medicine, ancient and ultra-high-tech healing. Learn more about how to claim your power to heal yourself at our website SelfEmpoweredHealing.net. Sign up for a Free Discovery Session to learn if the Self Empowered Healing process is right for you.


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