Craving and addictions seem to be one of the curses of modern life. When even someone like the ‘great’ Tiger Woods falls to an ‘addiction’, is there any chance for the rest of us?
Addictions and cravings can be seen as a response by individuals to displace or cope with inner feelings of frustration. As frustration builds up, the strategy of using drugs, sugar, chocolate, cigarettes, alcohol, pornography or other things allows the person to displace or reduce these feelings often as a method of coping. It seems that frustration is almost a routine part of modern life and coping with this affects many people.
Craving is very common. The ‘urge’ to relieve frustration or the negative feelings that have developed with a person becomes focused on something which can distract, minimise or replace the feeling of frustration with some other more positive (or acceptable) feeling or sensation.
Consider the powerful hit of chocolate; the relaxation of alcohol or cannabis; the complete change in state caused by harder drugs; the release of sex or the ‘rush’ of illicit activities. Each of these allows the individual to displace or reduce the underlying frustration, rather than facing and dealing with it.
Addictions may develop later, when the client becomes ‘rigid’ in the way that they deal with their frustration. Often, the strategy of coping is dulled by the process of adaptation. The person becomes ‘used’ to the effect or impact of the thing they use to overcome their frustration, and it becomes a necessary crutch in their lives. The other alternative is it becomes part of their ‘process’ of keeping their negative feelings and frustration at bay.
It is common when dealing with clients with addictions and cravings for them to say something like: ‘I couldn’t help it. The feeling just grew and I just had to do it again. Afterwards I really regretted it, but there was nothing I could do.’
From a strategic standpoint, this typical statement demonstrates a number of principles that are common in cravings and addictions: Something external has control of the client, the problem process is a ‘thing’, there is a low tolerance to frustration, the problem is constant and pervasive in their life and they have an inability to negotiate themselves out of their problem.
Cravings can often be manipulated or shifted with simple clinical techniques. Addictions often require more in-depth work to realign cognitive processes around these principles.
There are reports of a genetic basis for addictions – with some reports suggesting up to 50% of all addictions could be considered genetically based. Although the research is sound in describing ‘common’ genetic patterns in people with addictions, such research can also give ‘addicts’ a sense of helplessness and an excuse for giving up. How can they fight their genetics?
Often my clients will report after successful sessions that they were surprised that the ‘label’ of addict and the concept that they had a ‘disease’ had kept them stuck so long, and how this was not not relevant or true.
I believe we generate each feeling in the moment. As we are more than our thoughts and our feelings, finding ways to more usefully deal with unhelpful thoughts, feelings and urges can be important in reducing, relieving or resolving craving and addiction.
Regardless of genetics, improving the way individuals choose to cope and create more useful living experiences is always valuable for clients. I see dramatic and long lasting improvements in the quality of clients lives as they find new and effective strategies and skills for dealing with cravings and addictions with hypnosis and strategic psychotherapy.
How do you deal with frustration?
What do you crave? D you let yourself succumb, or do you have strategies for moving beyond cravings?
Darryl McCullagh Dip Hyp / Cert HypB