Often, those who struggle with an addiction have experienced trauma at some point in life, preventing psychological development that reflects their physical development. In other words, adult addicts may have grown up and appear as though they are in their 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s, but on the inside the inner child holds the strings to their emotional life.
To give you a clearer picture, below is a list of six characteristics adults living their lives as children tend to have:
- React to life with a mindset of “survival”. Perhaps an early trauma or a series of traumas in childhood, which were never resolved, keeps an adult possessing this worldview. Survival was the main goal of childhood, and it remains to be so in adulthood as well.
- Possess feelings that they are not “normal” and they are forever convincing the rest of the world that they are.
- Tend to have an all or nothing, black or white kind of filter.
- Can be incredibly judgmental of themselves and of others.
- Tend to be always searching for validation from external sources rather than believing in themselves or having a strong sense of self worth.
- Have great difficulty maintaining intimate relationships.
A significant part of drug addiction therapy is exploring the parts of oneself that tends to have emotional control, not allowing certain feelings to be felt for fear of being overwhelmed. The above list is related to that inner child that needs tending to. Furthermore, an article published on this blog earlier this year (Knowing the Traits of Adult Children of Alcoholics), lists the typical behavioral patterns of those who are underdeveloped emotionally and psychologically.
Typical Behavioral Patterns
- Fear of Losing Control
- Fear of Emotions or Feelings
- Conflict Avoidance
- Constant Approval Seeking
- An Inability to Relax
- Self-Critical and Low Self Esteem
- Compulsive Personalities
- Difficulty with Intimacy
- Victim Mindset
- Fear of Abandonment
- Physical Illness
- Living in Grief
- Living in Chaos
- Confusion Between Love and Pity
Affects Of PTSD
The cause of this psychological and emotional situation, which is common among many adults, is the blocking of painful emotions. Part of drug addiction therapy is the exploration of these painful emotions so that they no longer have rule over one’s life. It is very similar to what happens during Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), when an individual blocks out a life-threatening experience.
It is as though the overwhelming moments of trauma are imprisoned within one’s consciousness and at any possible moment, particularly when a situation mimics or triggers a traumatic memory, the part of the self that experienced trauma begins to scream for help through flashbacks, tremors, nightmares, and frightening thoughts. Meanwhile, another part of the self is trying to keep that terrible memory and associated feelings far at bay. Just as therapy for PTSD would attempt to heal the trauma drug addiction therapy aims to heal the painful emotions that the inner child may still be holding onto.
One primary reason for this is that traumatized children often had to become adults even before they were at the right developmental age. Many felt the need to do this out of a lack of safety or a lack of having healthy models while growing up. However, even life without trauma can create the need to dissociate and push a part of the self away.
In fact, addiction is a continued pushing this part of the self away, and you might say that it is even an attempt to destroy this unacceptable, rejectable self and all of its associated feelings. Ultimately, drug addiction therapy aims to heal this part of the self by finally giving it expression. To do this, as hard as it might be, a recovering addict might articulate the challenging feelings and thoughts associated with the trauma or early experiences. Of course, doing this with a sponsor, a trained therapist, or a psychologist is the best environment in which to have this cathartic experience. You would need to feel safe and trust the adult that is facilitating this type of therapeutic conversation. Drug addiction therapy can provide this experience for those who are ready for it.
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