“To do something for the pure joy of it; to want to contribute something to others as a way of service is altruistic. But to be driven by an activity to the extent that everything else becomes secondary is abnormal. The individual who is obsessed, possesses compulsive ideas or irresistible urges.” – John Randolph Price
This essentially describes addictive behavior, behavior that arises when individuals go into their deep rooted shame and subscribe to a belief that they are flawed or guilty of something. They start creating a belief system about themselves; “No one would want to love me”, “I am no good”, “I always screw up.” They believe this because they don’t love themselves.
This is the root for all addictive behaviors: the alcoholic, the drug addict, the compulsive gambler, the sex addict, the overeater….you get the idea.
Sometimes this is a result of a traumatic experience. One example is a client of mine who was extremely overweight. She had been sexually assaulted as a very young child. The perpetrator keep telling her she was such a cute little doll and she was very pretty. She was frightened; she didn’t like what was happening, but the abuse occurred three or four different times and at some point she decided the only way to not be pretty was to eat…obsessively.
This is a choice some compulsive/addicted people make. A choice that becomes life damaging. My client now hates herself for being fat and thinks she is ugly, and the process of self-hate is now fed, (literally) by a new belief that she isn’t good enough, or pretty enough. The goal here is to heal the abuse and then address the eating issues by allowing her guilt surrounding the situation to heal.
Another example is the compulsive shopper. I counseled a young woman who would shop when she felt out of control. On the outside, she was intelligent, attractive, funny, and self-assured, but when she felt scared or unsure of herself and the decisions she had made she would take the rent money and go shopping. She described the high she felt while shopping – almost as if she were in a daze – and the low, guilty feelings she had when she “came down.”
By working with her to help her understand that there were just things that were out of her control, she was able to get her addiction under control. She no longer needs to buy things to feel good about herself.
To be free of these beliefs – and the guilt that accompanies them – we must choose freedom from guilt. No one put the guilt on us – we are responsible for our feelings, and now we are free to begin the healing process.