This is how you find the origin of your (behavioural) addictions

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According to Gabor, we all have addictions: we are all hungry ghosts, looking for both sedation and redemption. Why do we choose certain things to be addicted to? And how do you find the origin of your addiction? You can read it in this excerpt from Hungry Ghosts .

We are afraid to feel, afraid to check with ourselves for what really matters, and so we continue to look for salvation outside of ourselves instead of within ourselves.

Why do you ‘choose’ your addiction item or behavior?

There are relatively many possible behavioral addictions. How is the ‘choice’ made then? Why does buying CDs activate my dopamine circuits and why does compulsive work have the same effect on me?

Aviel Goodman, the sex addiction authority, says: “It has to do with what experience brings relief from that which hurts,” he said. ‘For many people buying CDs wouldn’t be very high on their list, but I suspect that music means a lot to you, that it is a deeply emotional experience for you.

‘And why could that be so? “First, you may have a genetically determined sensitivity to music,” Goodman suggested, “and you may be influenced by the kind of music your parents listened to. But you can also be influenced by music very early in life. Perhaps as a baby you were often left alone in a room where you were not cuddled but where you could hear everything around you, making your auditory system an important channel for the emotional connection with the world around you.’

Looking for a substitute of love

Aviel Goodman, who knew nothing of my background, described almost exactly what I experienced (to my knowledge) as a small child. When parents are unable to regulate (keep within acceptable margins) their child’s emotional environment due to inner demons stemming from their own childhood or external stressors in their own lives, the child’s brain must to adapt. They do this by dissociating, shutting down emotionally, and finding ways to calm themselves, such as rocking movements, thumb sucking, eating, sleeping, or constantly seeking external sources of comfort. That is the ever-inner turmoil, ever-yawning emptiness that lies at the heart of addiction. People who cannot find or receive love must find something else as a substitute. That’s where addictions come in.

Music makes me feel like I’m self-sufficient and nourished. I don’t need anything or anyone. I bathe in it as in amniotic fluid; it surrounds and protects me. It’s also stable, always available, and something I have control over, meaning I can grab it whenever I want. If I want, I can also choose music that reflects my mood or that calms me down. About my forays into the music store, I can say that searching for music gives me a sense of excitement and tension that I can immediately channel and a reward that I can get immediately, unlike other tensions in my life and other rewards that I long for. . Music is a source of beauty and meaning outside of myself that I can claim as my own without having to examine how in my life I make sure I don’t experience these things directly. Addiction in this regard is the lazy man’s path to transcendence.

Looking for your self-esteem outside of yourself

The causes of my work addiction are clear to me. No matter how much she loves her child in her heart – and my mother loved me with all her heart – a child with a depressed mother constantly experiences a lack of something and profound upheaval.

My self-esteem, which is not based on who I am, has been taken from my work. And in the practice of medicine I found the perfect job to prove my usefulness and indispensability. It has been impossible for me to turn down work for a very long time. The drug of “being wanted” was far too powerful to refuse. In addition, I needed to be constantly busy, because that was the only way to keep out the anxiety or depression or listlessness that always lurked in the periphery of my psyche. Like any addict, I used my addictions to regulate my mood, my inner experience. When my pager went silent on the weekend, I felt empty and irritable. Those were just withdrawal symptoms.

stress and nutrition

Where do food addictions come from?

We see the same dynamics in eating disorders. You might wonder how it is possible that an activity vital to our survival can become so distorted and undermine a person’s health, sometimes so much that a person lives shorter. While it is common to blame the current obesity epidemic on junk food consumption and a sedentary lifestyle, these are merely the behavioral manifestations of a deeper psychological and social malaise.

In human development, food intake has a function that goes far beyond the obvious nutritional function. After birth, the mother’s nipple replaces the umbilical cord as a source of nutrients for the child and also ensures constant physical contact between mother and child. The proximity of a parent’s body also meets the emotional need for attachment, which is as basic to the child as the need for physical nourishment.

Looking for comfort

When babies are anxious or distressed, they are comforted with a human nipple or plastic pacifier, in other words, a relationship with either a natural nourishing “object” or something very similar. Thus, the child’s mind comes to associate emotional feeding with oral feeding or sedation. On the other hand, emotional deprivation will arouse a desire for oral stimulation or food as much as hunger. Children who continue to suck their thumbs after childhood try to calm themselves; that is always a sign of emotional distress. Except in rare instances of physical illness, the more obese a person is, the more emotionally deficient at a critical time in his life.

The obesity epidemic reveals a psychological and spiritual void at the core of consumer society. We feel powerless and isolated, so we become passive. We lead a hectic life, so we long to escape. In Buddhism, people are taught to chew slowly, being aware of every bite and every nuance of taste. Eating becomes an exercise in mindfulness. In our culture it is exactly the other way around. Food is the universal pacifier and many people feel the urge to eat towards psychic oblivion.

Never had enough

Addictions can never really replace the necessities of life that they temporarily supplant. The false needs they serve cannot fulfill us no matter how often they are satisfied. The brain can never feel that it has had enough, that it can relax and focus on other essentials. It is as if you are still starving after an extensive meal and immediately have to focus all your efforts on obtaining food again. In a person with an addiction, the orbitofrontal cortex and its neurological systems have been misled from childhood, leading them to value false desires more than real needs (we call this process salience attribution). Hence the desperation of the behavioral addict, the urgency to get that desire immediately satisfied,

Addiction reverses the lyrics of the Rolling Stones: sometimes you can get what you want, but no matter what you try, you’ll never get what you need. Addiction is always a bad substitute for love.


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