Addiction: seeking to reconcile opposites
We might see psychotherapy as the process whereby we are supported in coming to terms with the opposites of many of the things we want in our life. For example, we meet the love of our life, and over time discover she or he isn’t the god or goddess we had dreamed of and have irritating habits, or weaknesses of character. Or, we land the dream job and find we have been sat next to a work colleague who takes an instant dislike to us.
Psychotherapy is there to help us come to terms with many of these areas of experience, which we live in hope won’t happen to us. We place all our hope in the belief that somehow, with this new relationship or new job, that this time it all be different.
We might view addictions as being an amplification of this process. Nobody becomes an addict to become addicted, ruin their life and become profoundly miserable. People become addicts in order to find something better in their lives; to find more happiness and meaning for themselves. However, this comes at a price: a life that is lived without the inclusion of opposites (e.g. the annoying work colleague that dislikes you) leads to an existence that goes in search of anything that can provide some kind of distraction or relief in the face of what can feel like a crushing reality that doesn’t want to conform to our wishes.
This process goes a lot deeper though. For example, consider an individual who carries the burden of childhood abuse at the hands of care givers whose responsibility was to show love and compassion. This person may have no other means of dealing with this level of wounding except to get drunk every night; take lines of cocaine; or habitually find themselves in relationships which feel compulsive and uncontrollable.
Whatever structure we have created in order to bolster our fragile sense of sense, our addictive patterns end up becoming defences against the underlying angst of our past hurts, and can be viewed as failed anxiety management techniques. These woundings may lay dormant, out of conscious for many years; yet their legacy still rings in our ears through our addictive patterns behaviours.
Counselling for addiction issues can involve supporting them to break this cycle of addiction, through bearing the unbearable; in consciously delving into the obsession; in allowing a space for the unassimilated part of themselves that has remained buried for so long. It is only then that we can find a reconciliation of opposites in our life and wholeness. Paradoxically, in this sense, addictions can be seen as an attempt to find wholeness in ourselves.
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