Does the Addictive Personality Exist?
As someone with a past history of addiction I’ve often heard people describing themselves as having an addictive personality. At times I’ve wondered if that was true of me…?
Until I discovered the work I do now. Then I began to realise that the source of all of my compulsive behaviour was driven by a collection of deep misunderstandings about how I, and life, work.
The first misunderstanding was the belief that my feelings, including hurt, disappointment, frustration and anxiety, were coming from people and things outside of me. So whenever I was feeling any kind of distress, it felt as though I was a kind of hapless victim of circumstances. Energy would go into changing those circumstances in an attempt to improve how I felt. Yet because the true cause of my feelings was actually the invisible and ever-changing stream of thoughts, beliefs and values that I subscribed to, no amount of outside change could lead to contentment.
The second misunderstanding was that solace could be found in a substance, object or behaviour. Drinking, smoking, relationships, acquisitions, work and food were places I looked. Because it is the nature of thought and feeling to vary from moment to moment, there would indeed be moments of peace which coincided with the various activities. We live in a culture which reinforces ideas that many of them are synonymous with happiness. There is a common suggestion that ‘treating yourself’ involves eating, drinking, or spending money on some luxury. Yet for the very reason that outside behaviours or events can never actually create a positive feeling in a human being, any ‘benefits’ are short-lived. They disappear the moment a new thought occurs, but many, including me, fail to notice that bit.
Sometimes clarity emerges about a particular behaviour and substance. Smoking for example, which has become socially unacceptable, becomes the problem rather than the solution. However if the ex-smoker doesn’t have a deeper realisation about where their feelings are actually coming from, they may well turn to something else to ‘comfort’ them. This is frequently food. So some ex-smokers put on a lot of weight after stopping. The same thing happens too when other compulsive behaviours are stopped and the idea of the addictive personality, cursed with the tendency to swap one addiction for another, arises.
Yet that concept is merely a misunderstanding born of confusion about the source of our experience. Events around us are simply neutral until our own thoughts direct us to what we notice and what we think about it. It’s an instant and invisible creative process happening in each moment of our lives. We can never stop or control that creative, experience-making operation. But we can waken up to, realise what is going on and thereby take our own thoughts and feelings less seriously. The way most of us don’t take dreams too seriously. Instead of seeing ourselves us victims of circumstance, we realise that we are the experiencer of a creative process happening within.
We each have the possibility of realising that the waking experience is far more like dreaming than we had understood. Although experience is being created from our own thoughts, imagination and creativity, we feel as though we are passive recipients of people’s actions and external events, just like dreaming. We can’t control the creative stream, just like dreaming. We are each in our own thought-created reality, even when we are in the same physical place as others. Everyone involved in a public transport delay will experience it differently. The creative stream is ever changing, just like dreaming. The value of knowing this is that we can begin to take our thinking/feeling a bit less seriously. Feelings or resentment and victimisation tend to diminish. We can cease putting effort into changing everything around us in order to feel better; and simultaneously see what should be changed because it is the wise thing to do. And it ceases to make sense to turn to addictive behaviours in an attempt to control or medicate the perpetual, creative stream of Thought/Feeling running through us.
There is a third misunderstanding that can fuel the idea of an addictive personality. It is the notion that we can be broken or damaged. This notion may have been borne of compassion: ’X has had such adversity that they are now broken or damaged.’ But the compassion is misplaced because there is an essential self within that is unbroken and unbreakable, no matter what has occurred in a person’s life. At its most extreme this misunderstanding can suggest any negative feeling or low mood is evidence of brokenness. Actually it is more often just part of the ebb and flow of being human.
Evidence of our innate wholeness can be seen in every recovery meeting, which are taking place daily all over the world, as just one example. People who discover the Inside-out understanding – the basis of my work – have similar life changing transformations. A sudden shift from a life plagued by self destructive compulsions to a life or freedom and creativity.
These misunderstandings are deep and largely invisible until we open to seeing the truth behind them. Moments of insight into that truth can occur spontaneously or in conversation with others. Those insights are accompanied by sustained freedom and transformation.
If you feel as though you are caught up in some compulsive behaviour there are 12 Step groups to support people freeing themselves from virtually any compulsion. Or take a moment to connect with that internal part of you that comes up with deep peace and fresh ideas. Notice the moments – whether fleeting or not – when you feel contented. Ask yourself what you are effortlessly good at. Or get in touch for a deeper conversation.