What are the secret little lies we tell ourselves about addiction? Not the stereotypical addiction of being strung out on drugs or in rehab but the mental health definition. Addiction in mental health means any behavior you’re unable to control, uncontrollable behavior.
Examples of uncontrollable behaviors are yelling too much, drinking when you say you aren’t going to, eating in secret, or smoking when you’re by yourself.
Behaviors can also be addictive. Behaviors such as putting off starting an exercise class, or putting off getting your degree, putting off spending more time with the kids, or working too much. Working and procrastination can be addictive behavior patterns too. There’s a lot of things we can lose control over, but we don’t know why.
Out of control behaviors cover up some kind of pain. Often, when we cover up pain we don’t want to see, it’s often a secret to ourselves why we’re covering up that pain. It’s either very little understood, or it’s totally unconscious, and it’s important to do the work in therapy or coaching to learn where the pain is coming from, and ask yourself why am I so unhappy? What is causing the pain?
Example of Uncontrollable Behavior
For example, I had a patient and everything in her life was disorganized. Her garage, her closets, her desk, her calendars, everything was so disorganized. She kept promising she was going to clean it up or hire people to clean up; she got everybody’s buy-in but she couldn’t get it off the ground.
Learning the Why
When she didn’t get it off the ground, she blamed everybody from her dog to her boss. Everything was a problem and a reason. In therapy, she learned why. When she was in middle school, she was sent to boarding school. The teachers there were very big into organization, and shamed, ridiculed, and punished her for her disorganization.
This led to a great deal of rage towards the teachers, which led to rage towards her parents for sending her to boarding school. She felt very guilty about having these feelings because she really liked or loved these parental figures in her life. So, if she didn’t clean up at all, she didn’t have to face any of these feelings.
In therapy, she was able to answer the questions, “why am I so unhappy?” She discovered why she had been so disorganized. This became her backbone, making it possible for her to get on top of the behavior.
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