Red Flags – Beware of Substitutes in your Life – They Hurt

The Four Substitutes.

There is a great academic paper written about wearing cheap imitation watches. In summary it suggests that the individual who does it is doing more harm to themselves than good. Fake is fake. And it permeates all aspects of life.

But there’s no academic paper necessary when it comes to substitutes in life: When we are in substitute mode, we know we’re off track, out of balance and not operating on all pistons.

  • When we reach for a substitute we create our fears.
  • When we reach for substitutes we enter self-sabotage
  • When we reach for substitutes we are demanifesting the future
  • When we reach for substitutes we are not doing what will cause what we want

Sometimes substitutes are necessary, but only in emergencies.

I had one or many emergencies in my life when substitutes were really important to me. Like when I was lost in the Himalayas with a sprained ankle, alone at 5200 meters above sea level. I was seriously in trouble and with no compass, zero visibility, no help and nobody even knew or cared where I was, I needed all the help I could get, so I prayed.

Substitutes are important to us. Like eating and drinking for example. When we feel lost or abandoned by luck, we can often fuel our emotions with the energy of food or the reassurance of a full stomach. We can use food to make us feel loved when we feel unloved by someone or alcohol to block out reality when it’s too much to handle.

And that’s why going on a diet to lose weight doesn’t sustain itself alone. We need to respect that if we’re overweight or underweight, we’ve been using food as a substitute and that’s the issue that we need to address, not just change the stuff that goes in our mouth, but why as well. I remember many times in my life being overweight in spite of massive commitment to sport and exercise. It takes allot of carbs to cause that and it was always in times when I felt extremely vulnerable. Diets didn’t help, what helped was processing whatever it was that was causing the vulnerability. Truly, there is no vulnerability, it’s a construct of our mind, but a good one when we need a substitute.

Sex can be a substitute too. When my paddle broke and I became smashed against the rocks, splitting my spine and struggling for breath, my whole life flashed before my eyes. For a month or two afterward, as the surgeon searched for a way to cut into my spine to help me walk again, sex became my new sport. I ached for it at a time when I couldn’t do much about it. Ironic in a way, but sex, lots of it, is a human escape, a substitute, another way of NOT dealing with reality.

We can become extremely creative when it comes to avoiding dealing with shit in our life. The trouble is, when we use substitutes for medicine and avoid the real issues, we end up getting physically, emotionally and mentally ill. Nature is a persistent teacher. A total bitch when it comes to human development.

Another time in “band camp” I became work obsessed. This is another form of substitute called greed. Greed takes many shapes, but the best of them is “unsatisfied” and it’s mate, “self-critical” they both belong to the greed family of “never enough” and “never good enough.” We often call these greed driven friends obsession, or demanding or high expectations but they are not. They are just greed and greed is a substitute.

A Substitute Will Make Us Feel Better But It Eventually Turns to a Poison

No matter whether it’s food, alcohol, sex, spirituality or greed, substitutes are substitutes, they are not solutions, healing, love, success, productive, mending or healthy process. They are substitutes and “substitutes are poison.”

Here are just a few of the consequences of using substitutes to fix challenges:

  1. Depression
  2. Obesity
  3. Failure
  4. Divorce
  5. Violence
  6. Addiction
  7. Stress
  8. Panic Attacks
  9. Anxiety

So, you might glean from this list that substitutes play a major role in life for the majority of people who’s primary aim is to feel good, do good and be good. It’s the call to action of the “masses” who live “quiet lives of desperation.” Of course, quiet does not refer to the volumn of their hi-fi nor the drunken abuse of their family. Quiet, in this instance means, ineffective and un-influential.


If substitutes are substitutes for something, and the majority of people gravitate to substitutes to solve their discomforts then we will be doing ourselves a favour to know what “not substitute” is.

Let’s further explore a few substitutes that are called not substitutes by those who are using the substitutes as not substitutes.

  1. Organic food
  2. Save the planet
  3. Sugar
  4. Smoothies
  5. Corporate Culture’s
  6. Fundamentalism

We are led to a place in this inquest to find what a substitute is not. One can easily say “Truth,” but this in itself is a copout, a form of deflection for who would be the diviner of truth? It would be equally easy to say “God” but again, it’s really no solid answer.

I’m tempted to say “Love” but this word is so misinterpreted and one can love all the substitutes of food, alcohol, greed, sex and spirituality (god), too easily, so this is an unwise solution.

I’m led, through the vague language of Self-Awareness to the following book cover I created for a book (actually the back cover) I wrote back in the 90’s while living in New York. I spend half my time writing poetry and this starts to explain what a not substitute is.


We know what we want. When we are doing what will get us what we want we are in causation. When we are not, we are in self destruction, self sabotage , What we want is our calling, the natural result of our actions (unbiased by substitutes) and talent (undiminished by substitutes) to create something (un-compromised by substitutes).

If we know what substitutes are, we know what discipline it will take for us to fulfill our whole and uncorrupted potential. In this, i mean, “be happy.” I didn’t find a single human on earth who became happy by substitution. I didn’t find one person who said “my entire purpose in life was to procreate, eat, drink as much as I could, have copious amounts of sex, pray or feed my greed.” Substitutes are no satisfaction ambitions.

The satisfaction one gets from walking their path, honestly, hurting when they need to learn and learning when they need to hurt, is truly living alive. Keeping substitutes in check, minimising their impact is a very good start to living on purpose, deliberately doing what nature intended for you. It feels really good, much better than excess of substitutes which just makes us hungry for more.

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