The relationship among trauma and addiction is increasingly well documented. Traumas, most often relationship forms, commonly produce overwhelming emotions and sensory overload. Few people so traumatized have the available resources, skills, support, and knowledge to master extreme emotional states. Some traumatized people present to medical practitioners and may be medicated to suppress the most distressing emotional and physiological symptoms. Whilst relieving symptoms with medications, original and ongoing traumas often produce ongoing symptoms. In some cases people seek relief from non-prescriptions drugs, both illicit drugs and alcohol or tobacco. Addiction can be seen as an excessive need for a drug, food, or compulsion, becoming a habit in the absence of the resources, skills, support and knowledge to master the symptoms naturally. Addictive processes can also be seen in non-drug domains, examples being food bingeing, exercise extremes, relational co-dependence, and even workaholic tendencies.
What’s you addiction?
Addictions are usually considered problematic when they interfere with a person’s occupation, education, recreation, or personal relationships and impair functioning. It is not necessarily the use of a substance or behaviour that defines it as an addiction but the inability to cease it, or an increasing need over time. In this sense the addictive behaviour can be used as a monitor of progress toward mastery of other life skills, particularly of emotional experience and expression.
Recovery from addictive behaviours can be viewed as a lifelong process of mastery, and of understanding the effect of traumas, how to predict and prevent future traumas. Mastery requires practice, persistence, consistency and discipline – initially discipline imposed by others but eventually self-discipline – lifestyle change toward wellness and natural methods. Most often this will take the form of a mind-body discipline chosen for the fit between personality, interests and passions. Existing knowledge and talents can often be utilized to grow capacity for further learning and mastery. For some traumatic memories that can be well specified and described, specific techniques to desensitize and reprogram intrusive thoughts or flashbacks may be utilized, where safety permits.
Do your relationships damage you?
Because so many addictions are a result of relationship trauma – abuse or neglect – an increased capacity for assertion is a necessary requirement for the maintenance of enhanced lifestyle and personal growth. Assertion can be defined as a defense of boundaries, a standing of ground without harm to the other. This differs from counter-aggression, where the other is harmed or threatened with harm. It also differs from retreat, withdrawal, or passive tolerance of others’ aggression. For both aggressive and passive responses, strong emotions are elicited. Emotional overwhelm requires containment if aggressive assault or passive inferiority are to be avoided. Uncontained, such feelings can be diminished by a person’s addictive behaviours.
Mastery & assertion skills:
Alternatively, assertive behaviours, backed by improved interaction skills, tend to produce emotions more easily mastered. An improved prediction of abusive others can be learned, as is an increased capacity for mastery of assertion skills to contain the worst aspects of others’ inappropriate behaviours. Our role in this process often evolves into a coaching format within a lifelong learning approach: the actual practice is up to you.
B.Nursing, B.A. (Psych),
B.Soc.Sc (Psych Hons), MAPS
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools...