Wednesday, August 10, 2016
TOXIC SHAME: The core of Addiction and Codependency
By Robert Frank Mittiga
Shame is so painful to the psyche that most people will do anything to avoid it, even though it’s a natural emotion that everyone has. It’s a physiologic response of the autonomic nervous system. You might blush, have a rapid heartbeat, break into a sweat, freeze, hang your head, slump your shoulders, avoid eye contact, withdraw, even get dizzy or nauseous.
Why Shame is so Painful
Whereas guilt is a right or wrong judgment about your behavior, shame is a feeling about yourself. Guilt motivates you to want to correct or repair the error. In contrast, shame is an intense global feeling of inadequacy, inferiority, or self-loathing. You want to hide or disappear. In front of others, you feel exposed and humiliated, as if they can see your flaws. The worst part of it is a profound sense of separation — from yourself and from others. It’s disintegrating, meaning that you lose touch with all the other parts of yourself, and you also feel disconnected from everyone else. Shame induces unconscious beliefs, such as:
• I’m a failure.
• I’m not important.
• I’m unlovable.
• I don’t deserve to be happy.
• I’m a bad person.
• I’m a phony.
• I’m defective.
Chronic(Toxic) Shame in Addiction and Codependency
As with all emotions, shame passes. But for addicts and codependents it hangs around, often beneath consciousness, and leads to other painful feelings and problematic behaviors. You’re ashamed of who you are. You don’t believe that you matter or are worthy of love, respect, success, or happiness. When shame becomes all-pervasive, it paralyzes spontaneity. A chronic sense of unworthiness and inferiority can result in depression, hopelessness, and despair, until you become numb, feeling disconnected from life and everyone else.
Shame can lead to addiction and is the core feeling that leads to many other codependents’ symptoms. Here are a few of the other symptoms that are derived from shame:
• Low self-esteem
For codependents, shame can lead to control, caretaking, and dysfunctional, nonassertive communication. Shame creates many fears and anxieties that make relationships difficult, especially intimate ones. Many people sabotage themselves in work and relationships because of these fears. You aren’t assertive when shame causes you to be afraid to speak your mind, take a position, or express who you are. You blame others because you already feel so bad about yourself that you can’t take responsibility for any mistake or misunderstanding. Meanwhile, you apologize like crazy to avoid just that! Codependents are afraid to get close because they don’t believe they’re worthy of love, or that once known, they’ll disappoint the other person. The unconscious thought might be that “I’ll leave before you leave me.” Fear of success and failure may limit job performance and career options.
Because shame is so painful, it’s common for people to hide their shame from themselves by feeling sad, superior, or angry at a perceived insult instead. Other times, it comes out as boasting, envy, or judgment of others. The more aggressive and contemptuous are these feelings, the stronger the shame. An obvious example is a bully, who brings others down to raise himself up, but this can happen all in your mind.
It needn’t be that extreme. You might talk down to those you teach or supervise, people of a different class or culture, or someone you judge. Another tell-tale symptom is frequent idealization of others, because you feel so low in comparison. The problem with these defenses is that if you aren’t aware of your shame, it doesn’t dissipate. Instead, it persists and mounts up.
Theories about Shame
There are three main theories about shame.
The first is functional, derived from Darwinian theory. Functionalists see shame as adaptive to relationships and culture. It helps you to be acceptable and fit in and behave morally in society.
The cognitive model views shame as a self-evaluation in reaction to others’ perception of you and to your failing to meet certain rules and standards. This experience becomes internalized and attributed globally, so that you feel flawed or like a failure. This theory requires self-awareness that begins around 18 to 24 months old.
The third is a psychoanalytic attachment theory based upon a baby’s attachment to its mother and significant caretakers. When there’s a disruption in that attachment, an infant may feel unwanted or unacceptable as early as two-and-a-half to three months. Research also has shown that a propensity for shame varies among children of different temperaments.
Healing requires a safe environment where you can begin to be vulnerable, express yourself, and receive acceptance and empathy. Then you’re able to internalize a new experience and begin to revise your beliefs about yourself. It may require revisiting shame-inducing events or past messages and re-evaluating them from a new perspective. Usually it takes an empathic therapist or counsellor to create that space so that you can incrementally tolerate self-loathing and the pain of shame enough to self-reflect upon it until it dissipates.
Treatment of toxic shame is paramount in addiction and codependency recovery. FOR HELP today contact us Ph 0439 399 809 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
ADDICTION IS A DISEASE NOT A DISGRACE:
by Robert Frank Mittiga (IMAC)
Addiction is primarily a brain disease, meaning permanent brain chemistry alteration as result of either repetitive ongoing substance abuse, or the repetitive abuse of some behavioural process such as gambling or even sex. In other words addiction is a “Primary Disease” and not a symptom of some other pathology. However it always has some component of emotional disfunctionality that parallels this disease, or if you like “fuels the addictive disorder”. This is extremely important to understand, because simply putting the “cork on the bottle” so as to speak, is only a small part of the solution, however an important first step. I view addiction as a biological, emotional, and spiritual disease.
The World Health Organisation’s definition of addiction is “a pathological relationship to ANY mood altering substance, behaviour, event or thing that has life damaging consequences. What is important to note here is that it is the individual’s “pathological relationship” with the substance or behaviour that is really the problem.
Nearly all human beings have a deep desire to feel happy and to find peace of mind and soul. At times in our lives, most of us find this wholeness of peace and beauty, but then it slips away, only to return at another time. When it leaves us, we feel sadness and even a slight sense of mourning. This is one of the natural cycles of life, and it’s not a cycle we can control.
Addiction, on its most basic level, is an attempt to control and fulfil this desire for happiness. Addiction must be viewed as a process that is progressive. Addiction must be seen as an illness that undergoes continuous development from a definite, though often unclear, beginning toward an end point.
We can draw a strong comparison between addiction and cancer. For us to understand all the different forms of cancer, we must first understand what they all have in common. All cancers share a similar process: the uncontrolled multiplying of cells. Similarly, we must first understand what all addictions and addictive processes have in common: the out-of-control and aimless searching for wholeness, happiness, and peace through a relationship with an object or event. No matter what the addiction is, every addict engages in a relationship with an object or event in order to produce a desired mood change, state of intoxication, or trance state.
Although all of the objects or events described are vastly different, they all produce desired mood changes in the addicts who engage in them.
Types of Highs
Addicts are attracted to certain types of mood changes or highs. Individuals in the grips of addiction chase different but specific addictive highs, in which they are attracted: arousal, satiation, and fantasy. Arousal and satiation are the most common, followed by fantasy, which is part of all addictions.
Both arousal and satiation are attractive, cunning, baffling, and powerful highs. Arousal comes from amphetamines, cocaine, ecstasy, and the first few drinks of alcohol, and from the behaviours of gambling, sexual acting out, spending, and stealing, and so on. Arousal causes sensations of intense, raw, unchecked power and gives feelings of being untouchable and all-powerful. It speaks directly to the drive for power. Arousal makes addicts believe they can achieve happiness, safety, and fulfilment. Arousal gives the addict the feeling of omnipotence while it subtly drains away all power. To get more power, addicts return to the object or event that provides the arousal and eventually become dependent on it. Arousal addicts become swamped by fear: they fear their loss of power and they fear others will discover how powerless they truly are.
Unlike the power trip of an arousal high, a satiation high gives the addict a feeling of being full, complete, and beyond pain. (Arousal gives the addict the feeling that the pain can be defeated.) Heroin, alcohol, marijuana, valium, and various behaviours such as overeating, watching TV, or playing slot machines all produce satiation highs.
The satiation high is attractive to certain types of addicts because it numbs the sensations of pain or distress. This pain-free state lasts as long as the individual remains in the mood change created by the addictive ritual. But this type of high attaches the unknowing addict to the grief process. The trance always fades away and sensations always disappear, leaving the addict with the original pain plus the loss of the pleasurable sensations. Over time, satiation addicts are forced to act out more often (if they’re behavioural addicts) or increase their dosages (if they’re substance abusers). The satiation high gains control over the person, always promising relief from pain. Ultimately, however, the pain returns, deeper and more persistent, until it turns into grief and despair.
It is helpful to view intoxication – the mood change of the addictive ritual – as a trance state, especially when examining behavioural addictions such as gambling, spending, and sexual acting out.
The trance state is a state of detachment, a state of separation from one’s physical surroundings. In the trance, one can live in two worlds simultaneously, floating back and forth between the addictive world and the real world, often without others suspecting it.
The trance allows addicts to detach from the pain, guilt, and shame they feel, making it extremely attractive. The addict becomes increasingly skilful at living in the trance and using it to cover painful feelings. In the process, he or she gets a sense of power and control, but also becomes dependent on the trance, which is part of the progression of the addictive process.
The addict views the trance state as a solution to a problem. Gamblers often state that the gambling allowed them to be with people without really being with them. The trance salves grief and sorrow. It fills up emptiness, no feelings of pain, as long as the individual is in the casino or pokie venue. Addiction and trance offer the illusion of a solution.
Our attraction to trance-like sensations grows out of our natural desire for transcendence to contact and live within spiritual principles. It is our desire to reconnect with the divine. The sensations of the trance produce a feeling in the individual that connection has taken place. It creates a virtual reality in which the spiritual experiences give us increased meaning and the skills to connect with meaning again, with healing and compassion. They give us a stronger belief in relationships and humanity. After experiencing the quasi-spiritual experience of the addictive trance, people are left with the pain and anxiety they were trying to escape, in addition to the emptiness created when the soul realises that no true connection has taken place.
Thus, the trance state is a part of the definition of addiction as a spiritual illness. Addiction is an illness in which people believe in and seek spiritual connection through objects and behaviours that can only produce temporary sensations. These repeated, vain attempts to connect with the Divine produce hopelessness, fear, and grieving that further alienate the addict from spirituality and humanity, and eventually end in either, death, prison or insanity.
The good news is that addiction can be treated, as well as the underlying pathology. Treatment does not provide a “quick-fix”. Proper treatment and recovery is a slow process and requires a real willingness and commitment. It requires a strong support mechanism and professionals that really understand this complex pathology. It also requires change in one’s life, not just the addictive behaviour, but also how one is living their life, which in itself can be a major trigger to the addictive illness. There is hope, if you can reach out and ask for help. This is a major first step.
Robert Frank Mittiga
ADDICTION / CO-DEPENDENCY SPECIALIST – RECOVERY COACH - INTERVENTIONIST – THERAPIST Addictions Recovery Coach
Founder and pioneer of various private rehab/recovery programs in Australia
Robert has worked tirelessly helping many individuals and their loved ones who have been in the grips of all types of addiction, from drugs and alcohol, to gambling addictions, sex addictions, love and relationship addictions, food addictions, eating disorders, work addiction, and co-dependency.
Robert has also been in recovery from his own addictions for well over 24 years. After suffering and addictions for many years he began his own recovery program in 1992 going through a life-saving rehab program in the USA. On returning home to Australia, he began to start a journey of studying addiction and co-dependency through a variety of resources. He also started a University Diploma in Addiction studies whilst working as a volunteer in a rehabilitation facility in Adelaide South Australia. He became very effective as a group therapist and interventionist, and he realised he had a natural gift for working with individuals with chronic addiction. He quickly realised that the most important factor for working with individuals in the grips of addiction was the relationship between the therapist and the client.
Over the years Robert began to understand through his own recovery, and also working with many other addicts in early recovery that treatment would have to involve more than just getting sober. He carefully observed that many individuals were also suffering trauma, often childhood trauma, childhood neglect, emotional abandonment, and many other underlying issues that left untreated became significant triggers for relapse. As he became frustrated with rigid models of treatment that he was working in, he began studying and researching various other models, and thus developed his own “Wholistic” model of treatment. This model involved four main components, Mental, Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual. He approached treatment addressing all four areas of the individual. His approach became very successful for his clients and was recording much more success for ongoing abstinence, as well as far greater all round wellness from his clients.
After starting his own treatment programs in Australia, which also included residential treatment facilities, he continued to continuously study all aspects of addiction and co-dependency, including the neurological aspects of addiction and he continues to explore more effective ways to assist individuals in early recovery. He also began to introduce many tools for his clients that needed extra tools, such as acupuncture, hormonal treatments, craniosacral therapy, a system of alternative medicine intended to relieve pain and tension by gentle manipulations of the skull regarded as harmonising with a natural rhythm in the central nervous system.
In his journey of learning and helping, he also began to realise that often the whole family needed help, when addiction was present in a family system. In his treatment model he began to offer family support programs, as well as individual counselling and therapy for other family members, which also included spouses. This also has proven to be paramount the overall treatment process. He found that when the whole family engaged in treatment the outcomes where extremely more successful than those that didn’t participate. This has now become an integral part of Robert’s approach to treatment.
Today Robert works as a Private Recovery Coach and often travels nationally in Australia as well as internationally to assist individuals and their loved ones in recovery. He also has an extensive network of other professionals that he uses for his clients. Robert also encourages 12-step program participation for his clients, and their loved ones.
Robert believes that ADDICTION IS A DISEASE NOT A DISGRACE,