A New Outlook on Treating Addictions and Compulsions
The root of any addiction or compulsion is deprivation.
Posted Jul 12, 2018
The root of any addiction or compulsion is deprivation–deep-seated, buried, chronic deprivation. The link is often not apparent at first, and the idea of losing the need to control to gain control might seem too contradictory to fathom, especially when we are in the midst of a painful addiction. If we were to peel back, one layer after another, to the root of what now seems to be an unruly beast, we often find a tiny, fragile, tender seed of deprived need.
Sometimes, the link is clear. Perhaps as a child, we were chronically deprived of warmth and attention, and as our yearnings for affection grows and festers; we become love-addicted, recognition-hungry, overly needy. Other times, the route from the surface symptom to its origin is not quite direct; it is covered up with detours of denials, avoidance, trials-and-errors.
“Wildflower; pick up your pretty little head,
It will get easier, your dreams are not dead.”
Often not realized is the sensitive and intense multipotentialite’s need for a higher-than-normal level of intellectual, sensory and emotional input. Because of their innate excitabilities, and the capacity to absorb and process a vast amount of information, they need a consistent supply of rigorous, ‘good quality’ stimulations, from a multitude of sources. Physical activities, sensual comfort, emotional depth, intellectual discourse, cultures, adventures and having varieties in life—these are the essential nutrients for their health and optimal functioning.
When we have been chronically deprived of fun, joy, and relaxation, we may resort to comfort food, compulsive sex, overspending, excessive drinking, gambling, even stealing—just anything that would allow us to experience the giddiness of following our hearts instead of the laid-down "shoulds." Our inner critical adult might say we are lazy, immoral, out-of-control, lacking in consciences, or even beyond help.
But as we quiet down and peel back one layer, we may see a mischievous teenager, stifled by the social and cultural confines, desperately gasping for a stamp of autonomy. As we dig deep and peel back another layer: We discover a child that was being silenced, deprived of joy and play, desperately floundering for some room for some spontaneous expressions. Keep peeling back, and we would eventually find an infant who just wants to know he is deeply loved, that his existence is justified. She wants to hear that she could just "be," without having to "do" anything, meet any expectations, or to become anything other than what she is.
“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
We now have a complete paradigm shift to how we ‘treat’ our addictions and compulsions. If we see that it was precisely self-imprisonment that has caused the problem in the first place, we realize we do not need any more control, rigidity, and self-denigration. Instead of deprivation and reduction, think abundance and expansion.
To our ordinary thinking, this proposition is scary. 'You mean we give that insatiable child more sweets, so he would no longer have to steal and hoard?' 'You say we allow that lazy girl to have fun, so she would discover for herself the joy of working?' 'How could this work? What if they get even more out of control?'
Well, could the situation be any worse than what it is now? If yes, well, maybe we have not come to the "rock-bottom" moment of our addictions yet. If not, what we have been doing has not been working, it is time to try a different way.
“She held herself until the sobs of the child inside subsided entirely. I love you, she told herself. It will all be okay.”
―H. Raven Rose
Perhaps you feel guilty when you take in pleasure, but see if you could reverse your thinking and realize self-love as a public service. By allowing yourself to take in pleasure and take your place in the world, you are demonstrating dignity, self-respect, and accountability for your own wellbeing.
At the end of your life, all that matters is if you have lived well, loved well, accumulated enough memories, and created meaning. If you had been a parent, a model or a teacher to anyone; or, if you had been a pet owner, you would know that the best gift is ultimately given only via your presence.
But you cannot "give love" the way you would with a physical gift. You do so by being fully present and attentive–and more importantly, by embodying and demonstrating it. You become the best gift to the world by loving yourself into your full potential. People do not flourish via punishment or discipline; in the same way, you cannot criticize your way to your best self.
Compassion is relational, whether it be between you and another, or between different parts of yourself. You deserve all the pleasure you can savor because that is the vehicle to self love and ultimately, it is only when your well is full that your resources can flow outward to others and the wider world.
“I am so beautiful, sometimes people weep when they see me. And it has nothing to do with what I look like really, it is just that I gave myself the power to say that I am beautiful, and if I could do that, maybe there is hope for them too.”
If you are suffering from addictions or compulsions of any kind, ask yourself if what you might need is more relaxation, comfort, fun, joy, excitement, human contact, or authentic expression. Then, consider nourishing yourself back into wholeness.
Take in joy, follow excitements. Do not let the myth of productivity and your primitive fear of being "not enough" get the better of you. Try taking an afternoon for a nap. Try having an abundance of nutritious food that you actually enjoy, not what the dietitian says is "good for you." Try getting a massage, ignoring all the noises that say you do not have the time or could not afford it.
Drop that fear-of-missing-out at work, getting drinks, going to reunions, engaging in small talk–go for solitude if you desire it. Or, drop the isolation and call up a friend you have not seen in a long time. Try, for once, not doing what you "should" do, but instead, what makes your heart sings.
You know, for that child inside of you that feels the need to rebel, and scream for addictive vices,
the only way to calm her down is by allowing him, not threatening him; is by giving her more, not taking away from her.
You can only love your way to the oasis.
Be brave enough to nourish yourself fully, and the rest will follow.
“Kiss a lover,
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure.
Face your life,
Leave no path untaken.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book