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Asclepius' Ampoule - Addictions

Addictions: a feature of the human being

by Andrea Pascale, psychologist and psychotherapist

"... " [1]

Addiction" as a modern word has a negative meaning, often connected to our fragilities, our pathological needs, morbid and symbiotic devotion to something.

Actually, to be more objective on this "feature" of the human being, we have to make a step backward.

The human being is the mammal with the longest period of weaning: in nature, there is no other animal which needs so much attention from its parents to survive. We are social animals, unique in our addiction to other human fellows, we are not able to survive all alone and we always need an external support.

That's the first assertion of the bond between human existence and the feature of addiction: in psychology we find the "attachment theory", which explain that all the evolution phases during the growing up of our species have a strong impact on the rest of our lives.

In the context of attachment theories between parents and sons we find a clarification of the concept of addiction, which is one of the possible schemes of a "relationship". Sometimes addiction moves to a dysfunctional form and derives to a real pathology.

"In some particular subjects, addiction becomes the only way to live a life", writes Maura Anfossi in her book, "Emotionally". Some people just can't live without a support from another person, who becomes the savior, the only interest, the only handhold.

Essentially, the other person becomes the mean to satisfy a need and to replace a lack. We can't leave unsaid that addiction (in a relationship) apparently generates well-being and serenity, but brings pain, frustration, fear… because all the energies are concentrated in keeping the other around and avoiding a possible estrangement.

This kind of relationship is usually started by familiar situations which degenerates in suffocating and overprotective, even if born in a state of mutual love and affection; for a person involved, the world becomes a dangerous place, in which isn't possible to survive without the original nest.

These families start to build a sort of spider web difficult to untangle, because affection and overprotection are a comfortable way of hiding from responsibilities: this is a common problem in nowadays society, where it's already difficult to find independence due to everyday precariousness.

People who live in this grey area of addiction are continuously hampered from trying new experiences: every news sounds like dangerous and threatening, and the natural looking for independence is killed by the comfort of addiction.

Therefore the addicted individual feels fragile and has the perception of being a parasite, which cannot live without the recipient "horganism" since he needs continuous care.

Another characteristic of an addicted person is to be constantly in a state of alert: this behaviour comes from the need to minimize the spaces of uncertainty. This kind of person needs to foresee what's happening next, in order to feel the minimum size of uncertainty, and then is constantly anxious and in alarm.

There are many forms of addiction: addiction to food (eating disorders), to cigarettes, to sex, to gambling, to drugs, to adrenaline, etc. . Behind these kind of disorders there is a fundamental instability, followed by the need of an ideal foothold: addiction becomes a necessary evil to survive (our thoughts go immediately to drug addiction), in order to calm down, to exist in a social relationship.

The final result, no matter what addiction we are talking about, is to be imprisoned in behaviors more and more rigid and dysfunctional, which will drift and careen the individual towards an abyss with no safety net in sight.

Emerging from the tunnel is difficult, but not impossible: one way to get free from addiction is trying to understand which are the needs that has to be satisfied with addiction; as we said before, we have to dig in the deepest questions of our soul, our roots and our growth.
Fighting addictions involve the pursue of a tiring path, with a good dose of patience and suffering; this path needs to be walked with the help of someone else, never alone.

In conclusion, addiction could be seen as a step of evolution: is a path of growth in awareness, both of our fragility and of our abilities to live independently from other's judgement.

With the help of doctor Anfossi, we can say that "… growing up means the acceptation of a bit of inevitable loneliness and try do to things that commonly scare us… sailing in the open sea, experimenting the adrenaline of new things is the surprise of our personal power."

1. Maura Anfossi: Psychologist and Psychotherapist, teacher at the Institute of Central Approach about Individual, writer in the Italian weekly "La Guida"

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