Recovery From Addictions, Part 4
In Part 1 of this series of articles, I defined substance and process addictions, and described the four major false beliefs that underlie most addictions:
1. I can’t handle my pain.
2. I am unworthy and unlovable.
3. Others are my source of love.
4. I can have control over how others feel about me and treat me.
Part 2 was about the first of these beliefs – learning how to handle pain. Part 3 addressed the second and third beliefs – “I am unworthy and unlovable” and “Others are my source of love.” This section, Part 4, explores the fourth belief, “I can have control over how others feel about me and treat me.”
If I had to choose one false belief that causes the most pain for most people, it would be the belief that we can control how important people in our lives feel, think and behave.
In my work with individuals and couples dealing with addictive behavior, I encounter this belief and the many ramifications of it over and over. It seems very difficult for most people to accept the truth about their lack of control over others. The pain, frustration, loneliness and aloneness that result from not accepting your lack of control may be the underlying cause of your addictions.
Take a moment right now to reflect about what you think and do that is a direct result of this belief.
• Do you judge/shame yourself to try to get yourself to act “right” so that others will like you? If you do, you are operating from the false belief that you can control how others feel about you by how you act. You are also operating from the false belief that self-judgment will work to control your own behavior. Judging and shaming yourself can lead to addictive behavior to avoid the resulting pain.
• Do you act “loving” to others with the hope that others will act loving to you? If you do, you are operating from the false belief that your behavior controls others’ behavior. It is wonderful to be loving to others because you feel good when you are loving, but when you have an agenda attached of being loved back, then your “loving” is manipulative – you are giving to get. The hurt you feel when others don’t love you back can lead to addictive behavior.
• Do you get angry, judgmental and critical of others? If you do, then you are operating from the false belief that anger and judgment will have control over how others feel about you and treat you. You can certainly intimidate others into complying with your demands as long as they are willing to do so, but you cannot control how they feel about you. And they will comply only as long as they do. At some point they might leave, so ultimately you have no control over them. Your resulting stress may lead to addictive behavior.
• Do you give yourself up, going along with what another wants of you, such as making love when you don’t want to, or spending time in ways that you don’t want to? If you do, then you are operating from the false belief that giving yourself up will have control over how another feels about you and treats you. A loss of a sense of self can lead to addictive behavior.
• Do you withdraw from another or resist another’s requests? If you do, you are operating from the false belief that you can change/control another’s behavior toward you by punishing them through withholding love. The deadness of withdrawal can lead to addictive behavior.
In important relationships, most people do some or all of the above behaviors, resulting from the false belief that you can control how others feel, think and act.
If you really accepted the truth of your lack of control over others, what would you do differently? If you deeply, totally, completely accepted the truth of your lack of control over others feelings and behavior, you would be left with what you CAN control – yourself.
I have seen over and over that people finally take loving care of themselves only when they fully accept the truth of their lack of control over others. It is truly amazing the rapid progress the people I work with make when they finally accept this truth.
Shifting out of this one false belief and into the truth will go a long way toward healing your addictions.