I don’t believe in the notion of ‘addiction’. People don’t become ‘addicted’, they instead get dependent on a behaviour that meets their needs.
By calling something an addiction, it can encourage the person demonstrating it to absolve themselves of any responsibility, and the ‘addict’ can then see it as an affliction they have no control over, like a disease. They can see themselves as a victim, with hope of recovery an unrealistic goal.
When a client presents to me with an ‘addiction’, I immediately refer to what they present as a ‘compulsive behaviour’. I often meet challenge and resistance when I call their ‘addiction’ a compulsive behaviour, because the idea that someone might be choosing to be ‘addicted’ is unthinkable to most. This reframes the issue immediately, and offers a new perspective that we can work with.
When I begin working with a new client I very rarely talk about the behaviour, which always surprises them. The client thinks their behaviour is the problem, when in fact I help them realise that that it is instead a symptom of something else. It is the something else that my attention is directed towards.
As a therapist my focus is on:
- Finding out how the behaviour ‘works’. What needs to be in place, in order for the client to carry out and continue with the behaviour?
- What are the times when the client resorts to using it?
- Are there any exceptions i.e. are there times when the behaviour is NOT present, or the desire for drugs/alcohol/eating/gambling etc is reduced?
By doing this, I am getting to the core of the behaviour. This is why willpower and affirmations very rarely create sustainable change, and we don’t stay the course, because the focus is on changing or managing the symptom, rather than working on the cause.
I sometimes use hypnosis to get behind the behaviour and open up the subconscious mind. A lot of our behaviours have become ‘unconscious’, we just act as if on automatic pilot. We say we want something, then we behave in a way that goes totally against what we wish, which creates incongruence, and this incongruence contributes to the perpetuating compulsive behaviour, thus keeping the cycle going.
Every behaviour serves a purpose, and the purpose is usually about a feeling. Either to avoid or numb a feeling, a desire to experience a different feeling, or sometimes the behaviour reinforces a limiting belief or conditioned learning about oneself. Often both driving factors are present.
Let me give you some examples:
- Client 1 was a binge eater. We identified the feeling that eating enabled her to avoid, was loneliness. She always reached for the biscuit jar the moment after the feeling of loneliness surfaced.
- Client 2 who chain smoked and drank alcohol to excess. She felt worthless and had zero positive self-regard. Her behaviours reinforced her self-hatred and belief that she’d be better off dead (in effect her behaviours were allowing her to commit socially acceptable suicide) a belief she had developed whilst growing up.
- Client 3 who stayed up all night watching porn and having sex with prostitutes. He was avoiding the feelings of rejection, and feeling he was undesirable and unlovable.
- Client 4 who chain smoked marijuana. The drug allowed him to numb himself and avoid feelings of loneliness and worthlessness. This behaviour meant he was stoned most of the time, which reinforced his self-belief that he was useless, and would never be successful. He created a self fulfilling prophecy.
- Client 5 was morbidly obese. She claimed she wanted to get to a healthy weight but had never achieved it. Working with me she realised her weight protected her. It kept men away by making her less attractive. She had a history of abusive relationships so men equalled danger and pain for her. Once she made the connection, we were able to work on breaking the pattern of relationships with abusive men, by bringing into her conscious awareness and understanding how she had subconsciously been creating more of the same driven by her own limiting beliefs about herself.
By establishing what is driving the behaviour, I can identify it’s purpose, the secondary gain for the client, the positive intent……the ‘pay off’. There is always a pay off to a behaviour, otherwise an individual would not indulge in it. We are not random creatures, we always act with positive intent, but not always in the healthiest, most considerate or legal way.
The strategies people create to get their needs met can be distorted and damaging, but the intent behind the behaviours are often not in conscious awareness. By identifying the underlying need, I can work with the client to develop new behaviours.
It’s not just physical behaviours such as smoking, overeating, gambling etc that might ‘serve a purpose’. I believe Depression, Anxiety, OCD, mental health issues, personality disorder, eating disorders, dyslexia, ADHD, people who stutter…… and a whole host of other afflictions are all just symptoms and can be resolved by reorganising our internal world.
As humans we are self regulating, perfectly functioning in mind and body, until something throws us out of alignment or blocks us, that problems present.
I work on helping clients challenge their limiting beliefs, explore their conditioning, identifying ‘THE GAP’, and teach them how to develop unconditional positive regard for themselves.
‘The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.’ ~ JOHANN HARI
Once they find the connection to themselves, and become more in alignment with who they truly are, life gets so much better, and so there is no longer a need for the ‘addiction’. The behaviour resolves itself without any attention, focus or persuading. It falls away.
If you yourself, want to know why you aren’t getting what you say you want and are persisting in a behaviour that you’d like to let go of, then choose not to do the behaviour and see what feelings surface. These are the feelings you are avoiding.