For as long as I can remember, I have always watched a lot of TV. It was something I could do with my dad, usually watching sport, and because Dad wasn’t able to give us much attention – simply because he didn’t know how to at the time, – it was one of the few activities we were able to do together.
So began my life of watching TV – a lot of sport, movies, sitcoms – anything! It worked beautifully with my pattern of checking out from the world … and as I got older, TV, along with alcohol and various other drugs were used. Looking back I can feel how TV watching increased my anxiety, which then led to procrastination and a life of stress and rushing, doing just enough to get by.
This pattern of numbing myself and numbing my awareness lasted a long time. I was 40 years old before I finally gave up drugs; I gave up alcohol about 5 years after that, but TV endured until just recently. Although I have felt the effects of scanning through the channels, looking for anything to watch, hours spent watching sport and re-runs of comedies from 20 years ago, it took a weekend of way too much TV to make the firm decision to give it away and find out what I might achieve without it.
When I allowed myself to really become aware of the effects TV watching was having on me, I could feel that it was numbing my awareness and much more.
I called these effects the T.V.‘D’s; I wrote them on a ‘post it’ note, which eventually got stuck to the TV.
The T.V.‘D’s are as follows:
Drains my energy – we function on energy, and time spent in front of the TV is stimulating to the mind, which then makes getting to sleep difficult. The consequence of this for me was that I was still tired when I got out of bed the next morning. If I stayed up late, it was usually because I was watching TV, so that also meant I would be tired the next day.
De-motivates me – this one is self-explanatory: when watching TV, not much else gets done. I would do a bit of work, tell myself I’m tired and need a break, sit/lay down and watch TV, then whatever I had planned to do after that was ‘forgotten’ and left for another day. On occasions I would have a trip planned for work but get caught up watching TV, resulting in me cancelling the trip. This was followed with lies and untruths about why my trip was cancelled and my services were to be delayed. This procrastination sometimes caused a whole series of events where I put myself under pressure and stress, which then increased my level of anxiety.
Dulls awareness & understanding – while watching TV, it was easy to override the awareness of how tired I really was. Usually I start to get physically tired around 7.30 pm, but if I was watching TV I couldn’t feel that and therefore I would stay up way past my bedtime, a very naughty boy! It is also a very effective way to numb something I don’t want to feel. Eating while watching TV was the most effective form of numbing and distracting myself since I no longer used alcohol and drugs.
Develops anti-social behaviors – on far too many occasions I made the decision to watch TV rather than going out into the world to interact with others. Go to a party or watch a good movie on TV I might have already seen? – TV wins. An opportunity to learn more about love at a presentation by Serge Benhayon or AFL grand final day… tough decision – but TV and the live telecast of the footy wins. Go out tonight, tired from watching TV, so ‘too tired to go out’. You get the picture.
Disastrous for eyes – this one just occurred to me now. When I would watch hours of TV and then go to bed, I could feel the effect on my eyes – they hurt. From what I can tell, all of this TV has diminished my eyesight as I can feel the difference when I watch less or no TV.
It is clear that becoming aware of the T.V.‘D’s a year or so before giving up TV shows the difficulty I have had in deepening the love for myself – that is true. I also know that if I had made myself give up TV before now, then that would have been for some reason other than it being a truth for me. Although that’s not great, it is better for me to make changes that are true for me, rather than to change a behaviour because someone else does.
Since giving up TV I have found I have so much more time to devote to reading and writing. I am getting things done before I need to, getting to bed earlier, getting up earlier and my eyes feel better. I have also noticed how other distractions put their hand up to replace TV… so far I have been able to not take up any new ‘pastimes’. As with other things I have let go of in the past, I know it takes a little time for those thoughts of ‘maybe just one episode of Seinfeld’ or ‘just a half hour, then turn it off’, to diminish, so choices must be made and resolve must be consistent.
Over time, it has become clear to me how letting go of choices that don’t support me are not so much about giving up something, they are about saying ‘yes’ to who I truly am. When I am choosing to be all that I am, the desire to numb or distract myself falls away without effort, and I get on with what needs to be done.
In appreciation of Serge Benhayon, for showing there is another way, not only by what he presents, but also how he lives.
By Mark Payne, NSW, Australia
Coming to the Truth about how I was Living…
Biting my Nails – Old Habits die gently
I wonder how TV watching has become so popular, why, out of all the choices for things to do have we, as a global humanity taken to TV watching so enthusiastically – myself included. There must be something more than just the entertainment factor, there must be something else about it that speaks to us as people for it to have such a far reaching affect. An affect we are totally willing to succumb to no matter the scientific results that prove that TV watching is damaging to the physical body, it is something we chose again and again with increasing fervour and extremes.
I loved your sharing Mark of how TV impacted your life, and with that realising you chose to make self loving choices,” When I am choosing to be all that I am, the desire to numb or distract myself falls away without effort, and I get on with what needs to be done.”
A very honest and astute dissection of what happens to us when we watch TV – how it alienates us from others and escalates anxiety, a state we learn to live with and might even call ‘normal’, but one that falls way short of our true potential and the joy of engaging with and committing to life. It is as though watching TV puts us on hold and we park ourselves somewhere, out of sight and out of circulation.
Much of what has been written here I can relate to, and it makes sense that checking out to this degree would leave us feeling lethargic, uninterested in what’s going on in the world, giving up of things ever being any different, and waiting for our next fix. To me TV addiction was very serious and I allowed it to rob me of so much in life – so these days there are no favourite, must see shows or movies, and life is definitely fuller with things that matter.
Often when we give up an addiction without healing or dealing with what caused us to taken on the addiction in the first place may result in us choosing another addiction to replace the one we have just given up. Often I have heard people say, ‘yes, it is great I gave up smoking but I gained a lot of weight because I started eating a lot more’, so is it possible that if we do not shift the consciousness that drives our addiction it just simply gets disguised in another form of addiction?
I love how what is needed comes to us if we surrender and are willing to evolve. I am aware of the TV D’s but have not quite managed to turn off yet. TV is filling a need in me as well as being a huge distraction, depleting, demotivating (yes I know that one too). I have used it as a way to numb out the intensity of the world, right from when I started going to school. I remember that I would get home from school and instantly sit down in front of the TV with as many chocolate biscuits as I could get away with. I do the same now after a ‘tough’ day (minus the chocolate biscuits). I see it as time for me but in reality it is me choosing to not be me and to abdicate my responsibility to be present. What we need to truly understand is that when we do this we may think no-one else is affected, but that is so not the case. EVERYONE is affected, so by me being irresponsible I make it harder for others to choose responsibility and easier for them to join me in the irresponsibility. We do nothing in isolation – everything is felt by all.
This was really interesting to read ‘Looking back I can feel how TV watching increased my anxiety’ as I have never associated watching tv with anxiety. Numbing, checking out and procrastination yes .. but anxiety? However, after reading your T.V ‘D’s’ this made sense with procrastination then comes anxiety of what we haven’t done or need to do .. the delay we have been in. I haven’t got a t.v or watched this for ages but definitely need to ponder on where in my life I procrastinate that in turn causes anxiety.
I remember when I was a child I used to feel anxiety towards the end of a movie because I knew once the movie was finished it meant I had to return to reality and face a very loveless environment. So, from a very young age, I recognised watching TV was an escape, it was like a break from life where I was able to lose myself in the story of whatever I was watching. Often afterwards, the image of what I had watched on TV would replay over and over again, leaving me fairly distract and this was another form of escaping from life and from responsibilities.
it is extraordinary isn’t it Mark… If television didn’t exist, and one wrote a science-fiction movie about about this insidious screen that was in everyone’s lives that people all around the world, from the poorest hamlets in India, to the richest houses, and where people stayed glued to the screen, and lost connection with the extraordinary magic of the world and the divine all around them… Well it would be a horror movie wouldn’t it
Great perspective Chris. That’s the last time I watch TV!
I’d say that last part is a key point in changing our behaviours, it’s not about focusing on and removing the harmful behaviours but instead giving our focus and attention to loving ourselves and confirming that love within us. When I initially started to appreciate myself daily I realised it was having an effect on my negative, critical thoughts simply because it wasn’t feeding them and instead feeding and allowing what is amazing to grow and take up more space in my life.
Television shows seem real when you look at them. Occasionally I step back in myself and imagine the directors, the cameraman, the make up artists all creating the “show” and then realise I am not watching the world, I am watching a made up story that isn’t real.
When we do not live true to who we are, we are easily seduced by a world of images that lead us away from this and promise to alleviate the tension of the perpetual pull to evolve back to who we truly are and that we otherwise feel when not so numbed and distracted by these.
The TVD’s are spot on and something I have experienced more times than I care to remember. It’s often a very conscious choice for me to numb out when I don’t want to feel something or if my anxiety is through the roof, sometimes I need to watch a very light show to actually calm me down. But for the most part, I watch TV to shut the world out. Although I do it far less than I used to, the side effects are even more obvious now.
Great points Mark, I think we engage in all these things because we don’t really have a purpose in life. If we cannot really feel there being any true purpose to life then why bother? Then watching tv or whatever we might do for past time seems ok. This is a great topic to raise for discussion as you have done but will we listen?
Such an inspiring statement ‘When I am choosing to be all that I am, the desire to numb or distract myself falls away without effort, and I get on with what needs to be done’ The irony is we distract ourselves to not feel what is to be felt, to not be aware of what is there to live, but when we begin to connect to who we truly are, our inner richness of love and truth, we then ask ‘why on earth would I want to numb or distract myself’. It is uncomfortable in taking the step, but that is only a spec of dust to what resides within us.
When you move the order of the word T.V.D’s you end up with DVT, Deep Vein Thrombosis, which is a clot in the vascular system that can be life-threatening. A great reminder to drop the procrastination and say ‘Yes’ to all we have to offer the world.
We all have our ways to numb and distract and to recognize these ways and be able to say no to them consistently as we have understood fully their effects of harm on ourselves is a a true joy to behold, this joy is not only because we have kicked an unsupportive habit, but it is in living the huge potential we simply are.
Like any activity in life we need to discern how we engage with TV and what we are seeking to avoid if we are looking to check or numb out or alternatively seek entertainment and stimulation.
TV is a pretty sure way to numb out – I am a master at choosing the right show at the right time to do this. I am drawn to drama shows where there is always a lot going on, and none of the characters watch TV. But whats funny is if I go without TV, I see that my day is full with talking to people, getting out to the world – and my life is just as rich and full as the characters who I thought had it all!
Oh great point HM – that we watch shows full of characters who never (or very rarely) watch TV. So there is this vicariousness to watching where we can fool ourselves into thinking we’ve actually been part of something and not the truth which is that we are purposeless and disconnected from life in very way.
I used to be hooked on TV shows too and I thought it was pretty normal, but once I felt how distracting, numbing and draining it was I gave up the TV shows. It was not through discipline but through listening to my body, I simply got to a point where I felt it was a complete waste of time to sit in front of the TV and my body actually felt agitated afterward. I didn’t like feeling stimulated and numb anymore.
What I am most appreciating in this blog right now is the detail of your process of giving up TV i.e. Building a strong awareness of its effects on you, and then allowing the space for yourself to make the change. I’m in the process of building my awareness around some old behaviours, and that is exactly the approach I have been advised to take. Reading this blog not only inspires me but confirms that it is a tried and true way forward.
Most can relate to using TV to veg out in front of when they are feeling depleted and tired from the day. Many saying they need to do this as a form of relaxation. But do we ask ourselves how does this rejuvenate as we are not looking a the patterns that created the exhaustion or frustration? Watching TV in this way is just a momentary Band-Aid with all the un-dealt with momentum still there in our bodies.
‘I could feel that it was numbing my awareness and much more.’ – TV addiction is much more prevalent than people care to acknowledge. It’s easy to withdraw from life with TV, not dealing with aspects of our day to day and instead allowing TV watching to take over.
I stopped doing something that had always been a part of my day from childhood, watching that box that would by magic pull moving pictures and sound out of the air into my life. We now have the technology to be glued to the tube 24-7, and we are no longer tethered by wires, so there is no place on or off this planet we can not watch TV. This allows us to check out not just at home anymore but everywhere. The world is full of amazing things and people… but they will not be found on the box.
Oh great blog Mark. I work in TV so you have not done the industry any favours! I have to say though, if I watch TV the D’s so happen – not all at once and not always but this line was me to a ‘t’ “TV watching increased my anxiety, which then led to procrastination and a life of stress and rushing,” Now that was spot on. So now I have to limit my TV and be disciplined so I don’t put undue pressure on myself.
Hey Mark, great blog. I’ve always been a huge lover of TV – but I haven’t actually had a television for ten years. I know it doesn’t serve me and I’ve proven this to myself in years gone by when staying with my parents or at a friend’s house, channel surfing until the wee hours of the morning. Today I value human connection much more – and I would much rather have a conversation with friends or family than tune in (or out) to the TV.
Knowing how addictive TV can be and how anti sociable it is, it is very concerning that many of our young spend hours in front of a screen either watching drama or on computer games. Across the world we are already seeing how this is effecting mental health.
TV is but one of the many hundreds of thousands of ways so easily available to numb our awareness and bury our reactions so we can ‘manage’ life. Hence where true responsibility comes from is the humbleness to be honest and true with what we are really feeling.
Over time, it has become clear to me how letting go of choices that don’t support me are not so much about giving up something, they are about saying ‘yes’ to who I truly am. Love this Mark, and a super reminder……
TV is something I watch rarely now but am clocking that I can easily replace it with checking into and checking out on computer, The world wide web offers what is probably an even more destructive alternative where we can jump from one video to the next. I do notice how much better I feel when I limit my use of the computer to just what is productive and don’t get carried away with meaningless entertainment which makes my brain shrink and actually gives me less positive thoughts and much less productivity.
Mark Payne thanks for sharing what has become the key ingredient in todays’ society to keep the day running. What is interesting to note now is that the TV is no longer restricted to the home in the comfort of the lounge room or our bedroom but on tap 24/7 on our various devices. Creating more opportunities to check out or not engaged with those around us.
TV used to be such a big part of my life also but now it never gets a look in. I do not miss it one iota. It is such a waste of time and space. Great sharing Mark.
A true healing can only occur when I feel ready to let go of it. Sometimes this can happen instantly and sometimes it can take time but every time I choose to hold onto something that is not supporting me I am simply delaying because I know one day I will eventually give it up.
The term ‘who I truly am’ is one I hear often, which always confirms for me that we are living a way that does not feel natural. It is only by honouring this knowing of what is true in every moment that we can without perfection, return to blooming into our rightful expression in all we do and all we are.
‘Over time, it has become clear to me how letting go of choices that don’t support me are not so much about giving up something, they are about saying ‘yes’ to who I truly am. ‘ Beautifully said Mark, thank you for being so open and honest and sharing your healing of your tv addiction, this is such a great support for anyone wanting to change any behaviours/addictions that are holding them back from who they truly are.
This is huge what you present here Mark, as it is so normal in our society to watch TV every night and this is not seen as an addiction at all. But reading your list of TV ‘D’s brings home what we really doing to ourselves.
I agree, Judith – and it made me realise how for many TV has been replaced by phones, which allow us to check out in a similar manner. Perhaps the phone ‘D’s are no different?
Addictions come in many forms, and what is revealed here is a really insidious one.
I don’t have TV in my house and when I have the chance of watching TV in another house I can observe the disturbance it generates in my body. For me this is a confirmation of how harming it can be to watch TV unconsciously and continuosly.
Our addictions can be huge from smoking to the subtle behaviours in how we can override ways we don’t take quality care in ourselves. There is definitely a mixed bag in this department and the writer has shared with such honesty and simplicity that either way there is a responsibility for the part we play.
As I watched TV whole of my life I can relate to this and have to say: I used TV to get this T.V.‘D’s you are writing about, so I’ve got exactly what I wanted. More or less unconscious I wanted to dull, wanted to not feel so much, wanted to check out, wanted to be too tired to do something more. By and by and with my unfolding (on the way of the livingness) I discovered all of this but was still not able to let it go. Till the point I started to appreciate me more deeply, started to appreciate what I feel and the beauty of just being me. And this is just the beginning of something more grand. I like to discover more of me and my grace & beauty, the sense of living and the loveliness of intimacy – this are my choices now.
So I do not waive TV and feel like I am missing anything – I am full of a growing, unfolding seed of love.
Today I feel that being able to admit that I have any kind of an addiction to TV or even just to technology itself is an honest step in seeing the level of dis-connection with my body that I can live by. And although I know that this is not something that needs ‘fixing’, just by bringing in honesty to the picture helps me to re-address the underlying cause of why I choose to numb out and dis-connect from my body in the first place.
I have also watched a lot of TV in my life and still watch the odd TV. I rarely choose to put on the TV myself now and usually get caught in it when it is on. The thing that i notice mostly now is how tired I am when I wake in the morning after I watch any TV the night before. It’s also a killer of conversation. Where the conversation become about the TV rather than how we have been in our day. Our days are much more interesting and much more honest that what we could ever see on TV. In our lives we see the whole picture (whether we choose to see the whole picture is another question), whereas on TV it’s a slanted view.