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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Babies Aren't the Only Ones With Pacifiers

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 4th 2011


Some infants and toddlers take to pacifiers and some don’t, but make no mistake, as we grow older and become adults pacifiers become more prevalent than ever. No, I’m not talking about the little rubbery thing we put in our mouths, it’s all the things in life we use to avoid what’s uncomfortable. But when is it healthy to use a pacifier and when is it unhealthy?

What are we talking about here? We’re talking about everything from subtle pacifiers like television, Facebook and mindless internet surfing to more chronic and destructive pacifiers like alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, and eating. Now, it’s not as if the former pacifiers are good and the latter are bad, it’s all about when and how we use them.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a baby expert out there who says that all pacifiers are bad and destructive, but past a certain age it’s healthy and adaptive to learn how to live in this world without the pacifier. But what often happens is at some point we begin substituting the rubber pacifier for some more abstract pacifier.

The average American adult watches 4 hours of television per day. If we’re working 8 hours a day and watching 4 hours of television per day  that’s pretty much the whole day. In other words we spend much of our time in relating to the television. If the foundation of health is feeling a sense of connection to ourselves and to others, this seems to leave little room for that. Even if we’re watching with other people, it seems like a very low level of connection. Just worth pondering.

While Facebook is a form of connection to the masses of friends, acquaintances and let’s face it, people who you may not even really know but have similar interests with; this also seems like a low level of connection.

Engaging to the degree of abuse with drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping and eating is a blatant avenue toward disconnection. It’s about achieving a temporary euphoric state to get away from something uncomfortable. There are not many people who would argue with this.

All of these are pacifiers, but we don’t need to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Television, Facebook and the internet can be stress reducing, provide pleasure, and even be educational. Even the latter pacifiers when used in moderation can be supportive to a healthy life (unless you have a predisposition to addictive behaviors, then it can just be a slippery slope).

All of this is to bring some awareness to our pacifiers. What are your pacifiers? What do you use to comfort yourself in times of stress and difficulty? Does it seem to be serving you in a healthy way? Or is it something that is stealing the moments away from truly being alive? It’s simply worth being curious about.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from. 


Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work™ program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

Preoccupied with TV - Jaime - Oct 4th 2011

Interesting article.  I have been aware in the past that I can spend too much time watching TV.  It becomes more evident during the summer months when there is nothing really worth watching and yet I find myself still scanning to find something that I haven't seen too many times that I can tolerate watching it again.  That is my first clue that I need to turn off the television and engage in life again.  I take great effort to set goals for myself, having used many tools and techniques to help with the process.  Yet after the lists have been made I find myself sometimes falling back into old habits of flopping in front of the TV at the end of a work day out of mental or physical exhaustion.  After all it is easier and a much more appealing option to just relax and disengage your mind with some television show than sit through an evening of setting your calendar for the week with tasks to work towards to lists of goals.  Yet month after month when those goals don't materialize and frustration sets in I can't help but notice that I have no one to blame but myself for allowing it to happen.  I guess I have been guilty of turning to my adult pacifier of TV far too often.

When I actually make the effort to turn off the television and put my goals into action the satisfaction of seeing my life's dreams realized is so much more satisfying than any television show or movie.  Yet why then do I have to continually prod myself to turn off the television and engage my willpower to make it happen.  Life is hectic, work hours too long and by the time we get around to doing all of the things on our MUST DO list for every day survival there is precious little time and energy left to set ourselves busy on the task of pursuing the items on our WANT TO DO/HAVE list.  I guess it is all a matter of priorities, time management and work/life balance.  I for one will work harder on put away my pacifiers and getting to the business of pursuing a more ideal life.  After all, we only get one.

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