Counselling and Psychotheray

The Relation Between Addiction And False Self


The Relation Between Addiction And False Self

Addiction includes engaging in any behavior that becomes compulsive and interferes with the individual’s responsibilities, such as work, relationships, health and so on. People can be addicted to drugs and alcohol or sex, gambling, shopping, etc.

People with addictive behaviors feel the need to take action in order to deal with some difficult underlying feelings. These feelings can often be unconscious and individuals may find it hard to pinpoint why they engage in addictive behavior. Addiction is a defense mechanism, protecting the individual against difficult feelings of helplessness, being out of control, low self-esteem, anxiety and so forth. Addiction gives the person the illusion of having control over their feelings of uselessness and powerlessness. It provides a temporary feeling of acceptance and self-confidence but these feelings do not last.

Addiction and the existence of a false self

Perhaps the idea of a false self (refer to my blog about false self) may help us to understand why an individual engages in addictive behaviors in order to self-regulate his feelings of frustration.

This problem goes back to the early days of life. With a reliable and trusting mother, the infant, the child, the adolescent and later the adult, is able to get in touch with his real self and to live an active life, being able to choose his own destiny and not feel fated to just survive life.

The adult with true self-being is able to be himself without any fear or anxiety about not being accepted, is able to reach his potential, feeling real and alive. He is able to ‘trust’ the world and the people around him, knowing that, like his own family, everyone will help him to achieve his goals and potential. He will know what he wants and will feel strong in his desires.

However, if things do not go well in those early or adolescent years, having a parent or parents who are not trusting, who are unreliable, using their child for their own needs (once again refer to my blog about false self), then the child, and later the adult, is not able to choose his own destiny. He becomes trapped in a world of demands and commands. With an underlying feeling of anxiety and a fear of losing his caregiver, the child loses his true and real self and adapts to the parents’ needs and demands. He feels empty and is fated to live a life that he has not chosen. He feels frustrated, angry and desperate, able only to move through life, as he knows of no other way.

This is where addiction comes in. Desperately looking for something that is comforting and always there whenever he wants it (reflecting a need for a parent who is always there and can be relied on in times of need), the individual takes refuge in any addiction, something easily to hand, to simply relieve himself of those underlying horrible feelings of helplessness, anxiety and so on. In this, he feels in complete control of his feelings even though this will not last.

Although the addicted individual unconsciously, or at times consciously, yearns for a connection, a part of him avoids any real connection with others, as he is frightened of being disappointed and his trust once again broken. This part of him forcefully pulls against the only seemingly reliable relationship, the drug, the alcohol, gambling and such like. This gives the individual a feeling of omnipotence, the sense that he does not need anyone, that he can do it all himself. This will result in feelings of isolation, emptiness and depression.

How does therapy help?

A therapeutic relationship with a therapist who repeatedly challenges the individual’s omnipotent behavior, and helps him to get in touch with his difficult underlying feelings, will eventually result in the unhealthy addictive relationship being replaced by a healthy humane relationship and will assist the individual to find other ways of managing difficult emotions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *