The Cause of all Addictions
Toxic Shame is the core problem in our addictions, compulsions, co-dependencies and the drive to super-achieve according to John Bradshaw in his book “Healing the Shame that Binds You”.
From addictions we are familiar with: alcohol, drugs, food, sex, money to the unfamiliar: feeling and emotion addictions, addiction to excitement, enthusiasm, self-mutilation, even verbal, physical and sexual abuse are on the list.
John says with our addictions we have no control, with our compulsions, we have total control.
“Control is one of the major strategies of cover-up for shame. All the layers of cover-up are attempts to control the outside so that the inside will not be exposed”.
Listed among compulsions are: dieting, fasting, work, cleaning, washing, mental detailing, hoarding, saving, being puritanical and psychosomatic illnesses.
“A shame based person believes there is no hope for a cure because she is defective. We are totally alone, in solitary confinement and we need relief from this intolerable pain. We need something outside of us to take away our terrible feelings about ourselves. We need something or someone to take away our inhuman loneliness. We need a mood-altering experience.
Our compulsions and addictions become our highest priority because they take away our intolerable pain”.
At this point we enter the control/release trigger cycle where we have compulsions on one side, addictions on the other. Every time we attempt control through our compulsions (as a mood altering experience), we naturally trigger our addictions as a release response. Control triggers release and release triggers control.
What this process looks like to a person who emotionally eats is: we come into contact with a difficult feeling, let’s say loneliness. We panic and feel overwhelmed believing that we can’t deal with our loneliness – we need a mood altering experience. We rush to fill the void and at the same time take away our emotional pain by eating – the addiction.
We eat, the job gets done and our pain is gone in the moment, only to resurface in the guilty aftermath where we feel compelled to restrict, fast or purge to ‘make up’ for the binge – the compulsion.
This cycle can continue unbroken for decades if we never learn new skills to deal with our original difficult feelings. And it’s the same problem with every addiction – we don’t know how to deal with difficult feelings.
John offers many ways of working through these issues including this gem: “Toxic shame’s greatest enemy is the statement I love myself. To say ‘I love myself’ can become your most powerful tool in healing the shame that binds you. To truly love yourself will transform your life”.
Another suggestion is to accept the addiction. That is: don’t deny it and don’t fight with it, simply work on accepting it until it becomes an integrated part of the self.
Other ideas I can offer to move forward:
Naming the problem. We can’t change anything we don’t acknowledge. While ever we pretend everything is fine, nothing moves and nothing changes.
Share your experiences of feeling ashamed by speaking with a safe person who can hear you and support you.
Shame lives in the dark and feeds off fear, so while ever we don’t speak about it, it gets bigger and we feel more powerless trapped in our addiction/compulsion cycles.
As soon as we begin to speak about something we find terrifying, a lot of the fears we have around it will dissipate, releasing its grip over us and resulting in an internal energy shift. You'll feel the shift, it’s palpable.
© Copyright 2016 Karla Cameron