"Epiphany Addiction"

The concept in this article is relevant to broader self-development, not just social skills. "Epiphany Addiction" is an informal term I came up with to describe a process that I've seen happen in some people who are working on their personal issues.

It begins when someone is trying to solve a problem they have, like a lack of self-confidence, and something causes them to have a seemingly profound epiphany or realization. It may be triggered by a piece of advice or motivational snippet they read in a self-book or hear while watching a video of a seminar. It may be set off by their own words or thoughts as they journal or self-reflect about their situation. Maybe a friend or counselor says something insightful and thought-provoking. I'm not sure if certain types of people are more prone to having these epiphanies, although I'd guess over-analyzers are more susceptible.

The content of these epiphanies are often kind of basic or trite when you look back on them, but they feel very profound and life changing at the time. They make you feel really pumped up and excited for discovering something so simple, yet so powerful. An example is, "Instead of worrying about whether you're a good match for other people, think about whether they're a good fit for you." Nothing too special about that idea, but it may hit you the right way, and you'll feel psyched up and think, "Yes! Yes! That's it! Of course! I always worry about what other people think of me. I need to start caring about what I think of them!!!"

The problem with these epiphanies is they cause you to feel really charged up, and like the final missing puzzle piece has fallen into place in your mind, and that everything will be different from now on. However, they usually don't lead to any tangible results. You walk around for a day or two feeling ready to take on the world, but you don't act any differently, and the "high" soon wears off.

The "addiction" part comes into play when people fall into a cycle where they come up with epiphany after epiphany to try to recapture that fleeting pumped up state. They may fuel the addiction by journaling their way through half a dozen notebooks or by devouring mounds of self-help books or websites. Each time they have a fresh epiphany they feel as if they've stumbled on some life changing discovery, are energized for a bit without going on to make any real-world changes, and then return to their default of being stuck and unsatisfied. They always end up back at the drawing board of trying to think their way out of their problem, and it's not long before they come up with the next pseudo-earth shattering insight.

As the cycle goes on the effect of each new epiphany becomes shorter and shorter. The first time someone has a supposedly profound realization they may feel fired up for a few days. As the pattern progresses they may be hit with an epiphany and then totally forget about it five minutes later. It's often at this point that they realize that faux-profound insights are cheap, and they won't solve their troubles by having some magical thought that will radically realign their mind all in one go.

I touch on this in other articles as well, but the flaw with this whole approach is that actual improvement almost always comes over time, and often through doing some sort of work in the real world like practicing your social skills or facing your fears. If you want to be more self-assured or socially savvy you have to build up to it. It's possible you already have the capacity to be socially capable and confident, but layers of baggage and insecurities are keeping that version of you from showing itself. However, those inner restraints need to be chipped away bit by bit. There's not one 'Aha!' moment that's going to tear them down all at once.

This isn't to say people never make big, sudden mental shifts that lead to tangible improvements in their daily lives. But they're relatively rare, and I don't think anyone should chase them to the exclusion of more practical, gradual steps. Interestingly, truly helpful epiphanies often don't feel that energizing. The feeling is one of mild confusion, as an old unhelpful belief dissolves and it suddenly hits you that it doesn't make sense, as in, "Wait?... Why do I think I can't do X. I obviously can... hm...". At the time you may not even realize your worldview is doing a 180.