Personal healing and the bubble metaphor

Personal healing and the bubble metaphor

When things get too much for us, we just stop dealing with it. When we overload on life’s challenges and traumas, even as children, we mentally quit playing the game at some point. Have you ever heard of defense mechanisms? They are tools of escape. They take over when we hit our emotional tipping points. When it’s just too much to take we start to deny, blame, shift guilt, look outside for any kind of solution. When life’s problems are just too much to bear, we climb into a bubble and distract ourselves from reality. No one is immune. To learn more about this subject of distraction from life through obsession, addiction, compulsion or mindlessness, we can use the bubble metaphor.


Imagine a little child dipping a plastic paddle into a solution and blowing bubbles.  The child keeps doing it over and over and eventually blows so long and hard that a giant bubble emerges and engulfs the child.  This is a powerful image for expressing what happens to us as a children through life’s traumas and something we work hard at resolving at our depression center.

Being hit with the obsession to act out is like being engulfed in the bubble.  We are powerless and carried away by the all-encompassing power of our compulsions, that have helped us distract ourselves from reality.  In the grip of our addiction, mind obsessions, depression and not managing our emotions we see the outside world through a transparent wall, but we can’t communicate with it realistically because the wall cuts us off.

The bubble was blown during those times when our minds were preoccupied with obsessive thoughts and fantasies and non-realities; it became full-blown when we progressed to acting out our pathological, addictive, obsessive or sexual rituals; and it burst only when the rituals ended in some kind of climax. Drink, sex, rock-n-roll. Anything that has little lasting substance or intrinsic value.

The exhibitionist who spent hours driving around in a car looking for victims is totally caught up in the bubble.  So is the eating disorder client who sits thinking about the next binge all morning. How to hide it. Planning the event that will remain a controlled personal secret. The alcoholic hiding her vodka bottles, taking secret sips, sneaking into bottle stores…planning the day around consumption. OH, what a clever escape from reality, even if it is only done half-consciously. The voyeur who waited outside a window hoping for a magical glimpse of a naked body, the addict who met someone and ended up quickly in bed with them, the addict who cruises the streets for hookers, or who hurried to an arcade to hide in a little booth and spend quarters to gaze at pornographic movies – all these people were slaves, and were helplessly in the grip of the bubble.

Personal healing and the bubble metaphor

Personal healing and the bubble metaphor is an appropriate, poetic image for many reasons.  It expresses the radical nature of the addict’s isolation.  Yes, you are addicted more to your thinking than any drinking! When we were in the bubble acting out, we existed in a secret world of our own creation where we sought thrills and pleasure.  Unfortunately this was also a world of shame and guilt, though these feelings did not hit us until the bubble burst and we re-entered the real world.  Addicted, lost and compulsive, we then prepared to create the bubble once again in order not to have to live with feelings of shame and this we were isolated prisoners within the downward mental cycle.

The bubble is also an appropriate image to express the sense of liberation we usually felt while acting out, as though we floated above all the burdensome responsibilities of normal life.  Life seemed as simple, symmetrical and unified as a bubble because all the great and overwhelming realities of life were reduced to a single purpose.  There was only one meaning in our lives during those hours spent in the bubble – all thoughts and feelings were expressed only in relation to that one purpose.  Life was immensely simplified in the bubble. But we didn’t know it wasn’t life at the time. It was distraction. Numbness. Non-movement and human stagnation at its finest. We were stuck, lost and going nowhere; the only things that were racing off were our thoughts. Repetitive, useless and hopeless as they were. Personal healing and the bubble metaphor teach us one thing is for sure in this world – only the truth (reality) shall set us free indeed!

Life was also ‘safe’ in the bubble, as though it were a womb.  Ironically, the wall of the bubble surrounding us actually seemed protective even when it carried us into great danger, because we believed that as long as we stayed in our own isolated world nothing could really touch us.  This is not to say that in the bubble we never experienced fear, on the contrary, fear of police, fear of discovery by a spouse, fear of disease – all these fears were felt in the bubble.

The addict, however, found a way to turn these fears into sources of stimulation that became part of the very ‘fix’ that was sought.  In the meantime, the real fears of life which we did not face – losing a job, financial insecurities, death of a loved one, rejection by someone significant in our life – seemed far, far away, outside the bubble’s wall.  That is why, in an ironic way, we felt ‘safe’ in the bubble, and further illustrates how the complexities of life became reduced in the bubble to single-minded simplicity.  We never had to deal with the real, complex fears of life; instead, all the feelings were expressed only in relation to our obsessive thinking.  This simplicity and safety enabled us to feel in control when we were in the bubble; “I know how to hide from the police and therefore my fear only pumps up my adrenaline, making me feel all the more in control and powerful.”  To deal with life’s problems we often resorted to acting out in order to feel that reassuring simplicity, safety and control that being in the bubble supplied.

The personal healing and the bubble metaphor is also an appropriate image for acting out because it expresses the irony that in this ‘liberation’ from the realities of life, we were actually trapped.  We may have felt as if we were flying to Mars, but actually we were trapped, engulfed in a bubble that felt like total freedom to go anywhere and do anything.  The problem, however, is that the simplistic single-minded obsessiveness which the bubble represents became more and more a restrictive space.  Finally we discovered that we no longer used the bubble – the bubble used us.  Work on personal healing and the bubble metaphor showed us that our freedom had become utter depressive slavery.

Being compelled to enter the bubble is an expression of our powerlessness.  When it bursts, as it inevitably did, we felt the unmanageability as we crashed to the ground.  The unmanageability was profound because our escapes into the bubble had prevented us from facing reality and learning the lessons necessary to effectively cope with life.

For more help with personal healing and the bubble metaphor, or information about our depression center programs to help you with an addiction treatment program, depression or anxiety issues contact us on 0824424779 or email


Published by Mark L Lockwood

Mark L Lockwood (BA)(Hons)(psy) teaches spiritual transformation and is the founder of Contemplative Intelligence. Author of The Power of Contemplative Intelligence, Autotherapy and Recovery Magic. Our work is about the science of finding your spiritual self.

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