Therapy for the Future
Beyond the label of addiction - towards a vehicle for learning self-compassion.
Updated: May 20, 2019
Addiction: A double-edged sword
Do you overly rely on something, that brings you both pleasure and pain?
Addiction has many guises, however, all addictions have one thing in common: it presents itself as a friend, but in reality as we know it is a foe in disguise.
'I am an Addict', the label of addiction
Society loves to use the word addiction to depict both serious and more lighthearted concerns. It is a label that gets stuck on too easily sometimes, and it is this labelling that can get you stuck in the cycle of an addiction, because your personhood identifies with it. Labels can give you a sense of order and control, however this has the potential to keep you stuck in the narrative of being an addict.
I am not advocating that addiction(s) don't exist and that people aren't living with some form of addiction. Neurobiologically we are programmed towards seeking pleasure and avoiding pain - precisely what certain substances and activities, ie. food, drugs, gambling, sex, shopping, internet, cigarettes and alcohol offer us.
I am posing the idea of moving beyond the label by looking at your relationship with your addiction and how that might mirror the relationship you have with yourself, by asking yourself 2 key questions:
1. What unmet needs or desires are driving my addiction?
2. What feelings are my addictive behaviour hiding from me?
Uncovering some of these answers puts you in touch with your authentic self, and it is with this self that you can begin to converse in compassionate dialogue.
A compassionate dialogue
Means acting with kindness and without judgement towards yourself, by learning to become more understanding towards your addictive behaviour.
Showing compassion for yourself may initially feel impossible, likely quite strange and uncomfortable. However, starting by showing a small act of kindness towards yourself, such as internally repeating a kind and supportive word or phrase, you can begin to build up a repertoire of self-compassionate thoughts and actions. For example, once you have uncovered the answers to questions 1 and 2, you are put in touch with that which has been hidden from your conscious mind by the addiction, your unmet needs and desires, and suppressed feelings - the driving force behind the addiction. It is this awareness that empowers you as it gives you a concrete reason to view yourself in a less harsh and critical manner.
Often, things are easier said than done, and a trained professional can give you the support you need.