Good afternoon, Steve Burns here I am a hypnotherapist in London at the Therapy Lounge. I just finished a client’s session, with a young man who is smoking far too much marijuana, and wants to give up. One of the things that he said to me during the session is something I hear an awful lot. What he said was, “Steve, I really need your help because I have an addictive personality.” In truth, we’ve heard that statement hundreds, if not thousands, of times over many, many years of helping clients overcome all sorts of different dependencies; whether that be a chemical such as alcohol or marijuana, or a behavior such as gambling.
What I said to the client was very, very simple. First of all, someone who’s telling me that they have an addictive personality, actually what they’re telling me is that they have a core belief that says “this is bigger than I am, because this is ingrained in my psychology, or it’s part of my genealogy, or whatever the case, it is part of me. And therefore, I cannot change it.” Obviously, that’s incredibly debilitating and confidence reducing if someone wants to move away from that addiction or dependency.
The reality is, as far as we’re concerned, anyway, and this is based on years of working with people who are struggling in this way. The vast majority of addicts we’ve met, they haven’t got an addictive personality. We can’t be born with one, and I don’t know what one is. What I do know is that as human beings, we have some very basic emotional needs that we’re born with: love, intimacy, connection, community.
The vast majority of clients that I’ve met who have a dependency on a behavior or a drug, they’re using that behavior or drug almost as a surrogate to meet their emotional needs. If you like, the marijuana smoker is able to go to what I would call kind of an instant gratification strategy to help them to change the way that they feel, because they’re feeling uncomfortable in relation to, for example, not connecting with their loved ones, or not having a group of friends that they can spend time with. Now obviously, that addiction or dependency is not helping them to achieve that emotional need. In fact, if anything, it’s making it harder and harder for them to make progress.
The work that we do is invariably to help a client to better understand themselves in relation to this specifically, to help them undertake an audit of their emotional needs currently, to gently point out to them areas that they might choose to do some work on. Invariably, we find that very quickly, once a client becomes a little bit more aware of why it is that they are doing what they’re doing and how the clearer view is to what other strategies they might use, it’s amazing how quickly those addictions start to fall away. No epiphany, no cartwheels down the corridor singing ‘Hallelujah, I’m saved.’ Just a genuine shift from a victim mentality of “This is part of my personality, and therefore I’m stuffed,” through to them taking control and undertaking some very basic action to help ensure that they experience a life changing shift.