Wednesday, September 20th 2017

Addictions, the last defence

Wonder why Congressman Weiner went weird? He might show skin but he is not comfortable in his own. Addicts never are.

BY MARY COOK, M.A., R.A.S. — Read any night about the most privileged people on the planet. Nic Cage is arrested for spousal abuse and public inebriation. Days later Cage’s son attacks his personal trainer. Meanwhile, Charlie Sheen is acting out again.

When our primary needs or desires in childhood are insufficiently gratified, we experience a deep and lasting sense of fear, incompleteness and inferiority.

Because it is difficult to contain fully conscious awareness of these feelings, defense mechanisms arise to dull, block or defensively glorify them.

We might adopt narcissistic or avoidant behaviors, or dangerous thrill-seeking practices, in order to distract ourselves from original fears.

Externalizing, projection and displacement are common defenses that deflect our original pain and problems onto people, places and things outside of us.

What you externalize with projections will be internalized as compulsions

Because fear interferes with our ability to feel internally comfortable and positive, we might attempt to artificially produce these emotions through food, drugs, sex, shopping and other compulsive activities.

(The video, by the way, is from Charlie Sheen’s own YouTube channel).

This is also our attempt to compensate for previous lack of gratification. When family or friends in our adult life confront our compulsions, a sense of anger and entitlement arises in us, and we complain that they don’t understand us. These feelings are from childhood and don’t usually fit adult circumstances at all.

The law of addictive attraction

The energies of past pain and problems attract new similar experiences. And our defenses reinforce the themes of what we are defending. These energies are maintained, because in childhood we internalize deprivation and mistreatment into our sense of self, and feel unlovable, undeserving and unworthy.

When we do not have a healthy dependency period, we do not mature into a healthy interdependent state. Thus when we experience childhood themes in our adult life, we lack a mature adult framework from which to understand and resolve them.

In order for us to heal, we must recognize not only the similarities of past and present circumstances, but also the differences between now and way-back then.

5 easy pieces

Are you older and wiser?

Do you have more resources, support, options and courage?

Even if the current event carries the same theme, does it contain the same level of danger or mistreatment?

Do you  have other experiences with successful positive change in thinking, feeling and actions?

Do you have people in your life today that model healthy behaviors and positive growth?

And now about spiritual beliefs that afford us faith, trust and guidance in new endeavors.

Discovering the roots of unhealthy thinking and behaviors diminishes their power over us. Underneath narcissistic attitudes, lie significant past failures in empathy, sensitivity and understanding. Perhaps in childhood we lacked a sense of being seen, heard, felt, touched and understood for who we truly were. Self-absorption, and feigned grandiosity and arrogance are attempts to compensate for this. Ironically these defenses pass on empathic failures to others, and reinforce the theme of distrust and hurtful relating.

Avoiding situations that stimulate original fears has limited effectiveness.

Can we we make our conditioning conscious?

When we do not address and heal our fears, fear enlarges and the elements that stimulate fear increase. We also continue to attract situations that reflect what is unhealed within us. When we romanticize fear through recklessness and dangerous actions, we focus on how outwardly courageous we are. We hope this will undo the internal effects of earlier trauma, but it only reinforces the original fear.

Externalizing, projection and displacement are defenses that give us temporary illusions that our problems and pain are not internal, but lie in outward circumstances and other people. So now we blame and attempt to control what we cannot control. Even if those we blame do change according to our wishes, we quickly find new circumstances or new people upon which to project our inner problems.

Compulsive activities can dull our conscious awareness of what feels painful and threatening, and provide temporary artificial euphoria. Because we associate the compulsions with positive feelings, this further undermines our chances for healthy esteem. And because compulsions cannot replace primary needs and desires, they involve us in an endless, futile struggle for satisfaction.

Our healing journey involves recognizing that we have a child and an adult sense of self. We can develop compassionate understanding, and ultimately loving guidance for our child self. We can view our adult self as equal to, rather than inferior or superior to others, and we can exhibit humanitarian and spiritual values.

We can identify and appreciate the differences between past and present stress, and increasingly relinquish defense mechanisms in favor of deeper awareness and corresponding integrity. We can remember that as adults, we hold the keys to healthy self-care, and we teach others how to treat us through this example. We can thankfully demonstrate responsibility for our safety, serenity, health, happiness and fulfillment, and experience a deep and lasting sense of wholeness and goodness.

Mary Cook is the author of “Grace Lost and Found: From Addictions and Compulsions to Satisfaction and Serenity”, available from Barnes & Noble, and through her own website. Mary has 35 years of clinical practice and three decades of university teaching experience. Based  in San Pedro, CA. Mary is available for telephone and office counseling, guided meditation, speaking engagements and in-service training. Her e-mail:

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