The Roots of All Our Troubles!?

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Most of my distress and emotional pain in recovery comes from wanting stuff, and not getting my way or not accepting things as they are.

As Bill Wilson noted, we seem to get distressed when we don’t get what we want or feel people or trying to take away what we have.

This was his observation after a decade of psycho analysis with the psycho analyst Harry Tiebout.

A decade of therapy also showed Bill Wilson he has two default settings in his relationship to other human beings – he either tried to dominate them or he became dependent on them for his sense of self and emotional well being. In other words, he became dependent on others, on external means for approval and elevating his self esteem.

This is similar to relying on external means, i.e. alcohol, drugs, addictive behaviours to regulate our emotions and bolster our low self esteem.

We are in a sense co-dependent on other people for our sense of esteem.  We rely on others in terms of how we feel about ourselves.

As a result we are guarded against those that we perceive will reject us or be negative to us, harm us in some way and we seek to dominate these folk or we are dependent on those who are kind to us, help us and care for us. We swing at times between these extremes.

Some of us are “people pleasers”, some of us are dismissive towards others. I can be a dismissive person more than a people pleaser. It is all manipulating our interaction with others to our selfish ends.

Some of these tendencies are the result of our childhoods and how closely attached we were to our parents.

Some of us have this knawing feeling of not being good enough, have a hole in the soul which we are/were kinda always unconsciously trying to protect, shield from the world.

It is a strange feeling of not wanting to be found out of being less than, not good enough. “If people realise what the real me is like, they will reject me!” type thinking although a lot of this is unconscious and does not pop in to our minds as thoughts but is an unconscious self schema that shapes our behaviours.

In simple terms we manipulate via people pleasing or we push people away via being dismissive and putting others down, we guard against any threat of perceived rejection or threats to the self via defense mechanisms such as projecting what we do not like about ourselves on to others.

We often do not like traits in others because they somehow mirror traits in ourselves although we are not always conscious of this.

We have difficulties in our relationships with others, these relationships are often unhealthy and ill.

Some of this is touched on in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, but much of it comes from later observations by Bill Wilson after the publication of the Big Book and my and others’ observations since.

I have seen in myself how fear and shame seem to drive most of my maladaptive behaviour.

My illness of addictive behaviours.

I have an illness of chronic malcontent, things are rarely good enough and I am rarely good enough, according to my “out of kilter”  thinking which  I usually try to ignore, turn over to God or on occasion challenge via reasoning and sharing with other people.

My thoughts are often not my friends, they are often not in the service of my ongoing well being, quite the opposite in fact.

This is how a mental health disorder manifests itself as distorted fear based thinking which appear, if acted upon, to make one’s situation a whole lot worse.

We can not rely on our thoughts and feelings or, in other words, our Self Will. Our self will has become impaired and is no longer in the service of our successful survival.

I have found over the last decade in recovery that when I turn my Will over to the care of the God of my understanding that I am restored to sanity and my thoughts are sound, they are on a higher plane as the Big Book tells me.

I can become the fullest expression of me in the God, not the ill, deluded version while running under my own self will. That has been my experience.

It is only with God’s help that I get restored to sanity or reasonableness.

When I have a fear of not getting stuff and this is linked to insecurity, as mentioned in the Big Book, it is usually in relation to my pocket book, financial insecurity, personal relationships, self esteem etc.

I will now look at this fear based reaction to my security which is mainly to do with stuff out  there (external) such as work, people and how they affect my sense of self before looking at how my internal sense of self, based on the fear based emotion of shame seems to play a pivotal role in my relationship with others and the world around me.

I am assailed externally by fear of what other’s think about me and internally about what I think of me – when these two line up it can have a powerful and damaging effect on my psyche.

Desiring stuff seems at the root of my fear based stuff – the exquisite torture of desire which soon loses it’s so-called relish and just becomes torturous.

Alcoholics do not seem want stuff like normal folk, but have a pathological wanting, an all consuming need to get stuff regardless of it’s worth or value.

We seem to compulsively seek to relieve an inherent distress of not having what we set out to get. Our decision making seems fueled at times by this need to relieve distress rather than the intrinsic value of what we are seeking.

We seem to become manic in our pursuit of things and end up overdoing whatever we are doing via this stress-based manic activity.

This seems compounded by not always being able to read our emotions or somatic states.

One of my own difficulties is realising I am hungry or tired and I can often end up exhausted by over-doing stuff especially manual work around my house. My stop button broke a long time a ago and probably did not work very well to begin with.

So we have  stress-based compulsive need to do something and very limited brakes in the brain stopping us and very little emotional feedback going on, a limited consideration of  “aren’t we overdoing this a bit?”

Desire obviously runs contrary to the idea of being in God’s will, in fact it is being in Self Will that seems to create distress in many people with addictive behaviours.

I would add to this that I also get distress via fears of rejection from others, I suffer from fear based shame to a chronic extent.

Shame, also the consequence of being in Self Will, was not really mentioned in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, mainly because it was not really known about as a psychological or psycho-therapeutic concept then.

Much of the Big Book was influenced by  psycho-analysis which did not consider shame, but rather guilt, in psychological disturbance.

In fact, it has only started considering the role of shame in the last few decades.

So I would add fear of not getting what we want or having something taken away is also complemented by shame-based fears of being rejected.

For example there is an undercurrent in fear of things being taken away, of it being because we are not good enough, deserving enough, have failed in some way, which are shame based reactions.

In fact the Big Book gives me a good idea of the “sins” or “defects of character” I have when I have a resentment but does not explain why I have resentments in the first place.

It explains this as selfishness, self centredness… the root of all our troubles.

It does not, for me, clearly explain why we resort to these selfish, immature, emotional reactions or why we persist with resentments?

It does not explain the emotional immaturity at the heart of alcoholism,  this spiritual malady of inappropriate emotional response to the world around us?

Bill Wilson was struck himself, when he started working with other alcoholics, how much they were plagued constantly by various resentments. How they were haunted by memories of situations in the past, how they swirl around and pollute their minds in the present. How they could not let go of events in their past?

For me he was seeing the root of this spiritual malady, this emotional disease.

For me we engage futilely and distressingly in resentment because we have an inability to process and control our emotions, they overwhelm us and we often react by people pleasing (shame) or react via various defense mechanisms (also shame based).

Defense mechanisms are central to psycho-analytic thought – such as projection etc, the idea that we  expel “out of ourselves what we do not like about ourselves onto others.

Sometimes others expel the same negative emotions on to us. I have found this a fairly common trait among male alcoholics in recovery settings and meetings.

I was discussing this with a newcomer last week, how people who seek to “put us down”  do so out of shame and induce in us all the negative emotions they are experiencing themselves!

The newcomer gave me an example of a resentment he was experiencing after this guy at a meeting said “get off your pink cloud” a phrase that refers to the sometimes  mildly ecstatic feelings of early recovery.

This made the newcomer ashamed that he could have been so stupid for being on this pink cloud, as if this was a selfish indulgence!?

I explained to him that his pride had been hurt, he was in shame and his “apparent” depression every since was simply prolonged self pity.

If we leave self pity to fester long enough it becomes depression, that is my experience anyway.

I said the other guy was probably “hurt” to see a newcomer having such a good period of recovery (God does want us to be happy, joyous and free after all) – I said his false pride was hurt too, that he was not having the recovery experience at present of the newcomer (possibly because he wasn’t putting the effort in) and was in shame (not good enough) and self pity. This mesh of negative emotions can link up fairly instantaneously I find.  It is the web my spiritual malady seeks to ensnare me in.

The guy was probably in guilt too as he could been working on his recovery more.

As a result this guy put the newcomer down to alleviate his own sense of self, his low self esteem.

He “had to” react with arrogance, dismissiveness, impatience and intolerance, because his shame, which is a fear based emotion, made him fearful of his own recovery and fear makes one strangely dishonest (at times deluded), This is my experience.

All because a newcomer had the temerity to be enjoying his recovery?

Not completely, this is half the answer.

The other part is that this guy, if an alcoholic like me, has real difficulties accessing in his heart and mind how he actually “feels” at any particular time. Or rather what emotions he is experiencing at any particular time.

This guy could have been experiencing guilt or shame for example.

Instead of saying to himself I am feeling guilt that my recovery is flabby  compared to this newcomer or that I am being an arrogant “know it all”, putting this newcomer in his place because  he had been in recovery longer – although being in recovery and being sober are different things I have found.

Either way, if he could perhaps of had the ability to say this is how exactly I am feeling he could have acted on this emotional information rather than reacted to it.

What do I mean by this?

Well, if I was feeling guilty about this newcomer it would cause a disturbance in me because I have difficulties processing my emotions.

It would have turned up therefore as a resentment of someone having something I do not have and as them taking away the illusion that my recovery was going OK?

I would have found this threatening to my sense of self so I would have reacted via defense mechanisms. I would have strangely blamed this person for making me feel the way I did! Even if this person had no such intention of hurting my feelings I would blame him nonetheless via my defensive reactions.

It is as if my emotional well being is dependent on other people and their behaviours, this is my spiritual malady, my emotional disease.

As I would have had a resentment, it would have had a wolf pack of negative emotions attached.

In this instance I might have have acted differently.

If I had been in God I would have been more sane for a start and had more loving tolerance for a newcomer.

I would have been acting not reacting. I would have had empathy for where the newcomer  “was at in his recovery” as I had been there once too.

This love and tolerance for the newcomer evolves the displaying of virtues (the opposite of defects are virtues).

What virtues? Well as the newcomer was relatively new I would attempted to be patient, empathetic, kind, gentle, tolerant, considerate  etc. These prevent the defects occurring I find.

If we practice virtues instead of defects then the brain changes for the better and we recover quicker. Our positive loving, healthy behaviours change us and our brains via neuroplasticity for the better.

Attempting to live according to God’s Will (which is a state of Love) also helps me not react but to act with Grace.

In Grace we can still experience negative emotions but God allows us to see them for what they are and not react. His Grace takes the distress out of thee negative emotions. This is my experience.

This allows me to do a quick inventory of my negative emotions and a prayer to God to have them removed. My experience is that they are always removed and that we are immediately restored to sanity.

I do not necessarily have to react to my feelings of negativity about myself, someone else does not need to experience the consequence of my resentments.

I can manage my spiritual malady or emotional dysfunction, I have the tools to do so.

I also impressed upon the newcomer that what the other guy was experiencing and was reacting is also how he, the newcomer, reacts and how I react too.

It is what our spiritual malady looks like I believe, it is the map of my impaired emotional responding.

I also impressed upon him that mostly I can manage this emotional dysfunction but often I fail to and get into a resentful anger.

This is why I have to forgive the other guy as I have been forgiven but also to forgive myself (or ask God to forgive me my shortcomings) for my reactions.

We are not perfect, far from it. We are far from being Saints but have a solution Saints would approve and achieve a kind of transient sanctity in this 12 step solution of letting go and letting God.

We have to show love and tolerance for each other as we suffer the same illness/malady. Dismissing others like us for having what we have and acting as we do is like a form of self loathing. We have to forgive ourselves and each other for being ill. Self compassion allows us to be compassionate  towards others.

Also we need to be aware what we project on to other alcoholics is the same thing as they project on to use and sometimes we project if back.

So we have two main ailments, distressed based wanting which results in the same negative emotions as being in a shame- based fear of rejection.

I can get out of the distress of wanting/needing stuff by asking God to remove those negative emotions which block me off from Him.

For example, if I really want something and feel someone is preventing me getting that thing or that they are taking this thing away from me I have a hunting pack of negative emotions running through by heart and pulsating through my veins, propelling me to want that thing even more! As if my very life depended on it?

These feelings are translated as “how dare you take that thing/stop me getting that thing” – False Pride – followed by fear of being rejected – Shame (this is because I am not good enough)  and possible Guilt (for something I must have done wrong as usual) – then leading to “poor me” and feelings of Self pity, all because I am in Self, so I am being Self Centred and not considering someone else’s view so I am Selfish.

I retaliate via by “I”ll show you/I’ll get you” emotions of Dismissiveness, Intolerance, Arrogance and Impatience – my “I’ll put you down to make me feel better!”

All because I am fearful that you are taking away something from me or rejecting  me –  Fear and Fear is always accompanied by dishonesty.

I will act out on these somethings, if I do now use my spiritual tools and let Go and Let God, usually by eating too much, Gluttony, having a shopping spree, Greed, engaging  sexual fantasy/activity Lust of “freezing” through fear in the subltle sin of Sloth (procrastination).

A perceived slight or a rejection can have an incredible emotional effect on me

This is all emotion dysfunction and immaturity. I have resentments because they are a true sign of emotion dysfunction.

The mature way to to access, identfiy and label how one is feeling and use this information to reasonably express how one is feeling. This way we do not retaliate, fight, flee or freeze. Instead our emotions do what they are supposed to do. They are suppose the tell the fronts of our brains to find words for our feelings. Not to tell the bottom of our brains to fight back or run or freeze.

Let me use an example.

I had an argument with a guy once who suddenly proclaimed he was upset by what I had said. I was amazed as this guy was reading his emotions, identifying verbalising/expressing them to me in a way I have never been able to do.

My alcoholism is rooted in an impaired ability to read, identify, label and express my emotions (otherwise called emotion processing) – as a result my emotions have always troubled me and been so troubling in their undifferentiated state that I have always either avoided them or ran away from them.

I have sought refuge from my negative emotions in alcohol, drugs and other addictive behaviours. It is this that propelled my addictions, this inability to deal with my negative emotions. I dealt with them externally via addictive behaviours, not internally via emotion processing.

My emotions became wedded in time to being undifferentiated arousal states that prompted me to seek an external way to deal with these troubling emotional/arousal states.

Today when I engage in the above emotion dysfunction, engage in the above web of defense mechanisms it is because I have not been able to locate in me what feeling is disturbing me ?

On occasion it is, as the guy above said, because I am upset. I have not learnt the ability to say that I am upset etc. The words for these feeling states somehow can continue to elude me unless I am in God’s Grace.

God does for us what we can not do for ourselves!

Finding out what is really going on with us emotionally is at the heart of recovery. That is why we have to constantly share how we are feeling with others so that we can find out what we are feeling.

Unless, we let Go and Let God and ask God to remove these negative emotions/sins/defects of character we end up in a futile increasingly distressed spiral of negative emotions.

We end up cultivating much greater misery.

As soon as you can, let Go and Let God.

 

Phew! So it’s going much better than I thought!?

I have often written about all the difficulties I have had with reading my emotions. Especially in early recovery when I could not even identify and label the most intense negative emotions.

That experience has set me on a near decade-long search to better understand emotions and the way a lack of awareness of emotions plays in addiction and in recovery.

Today I would say the effective and rational/reasonable control of emotions is one area that has become noticeably better.

I tolerate negative emotions better, their intensity is much reduced compare to early recovery, the duration of these emotions is much much shorter than before. I seem to also make better decisions in my life based on not being overwhelmed by my emotions, particularly negative emotions.

It is said by much research that addicts, alcoholics and those with behavourial addictions have something skin to alexithymia, an impaired ability to read emotions and act on them in making decisions.

Humans seem to use emotions to make decisions which is something I never realized before.

When I ask my wife how have I changed she always says I have become more considerate and more mature in my emotional reactions.

This to me shows recovery as a process of handling emotions better, in a more emotional mature as opposed to immature way.

I also have looked at lots of research that says this emotional immaturity is there for many pre-using drugs or alcohol or engaging in unhealthy behaviours. So it may be a part of the aetiology of addictive behaviours.

When I first came into recovery I remember my wife would drive me to AA meetings. This was before my sponsor said I would be either walking or getting the bus from now on!

I was mortified?

ME!? Doesn’t he know who I am?

I have chauffeur, thank you very much?.

I had become so emotional dependent on my wife. It was like another addiction/dependency.

Recovery has been a long, at times painful, process of growing up, however reluctantly at times!

I was not only powerless over alcohol but fairly hopeless too when it came to living life on lives terms.

The more chronic my addictions became the more I regressed emotionally.

The more I recovered the more I matured emotionally,  is my point.

Even today I often have to “talk my emotions out” to see what I feel really, before I can label and identify what I am feeling really.

Before I can act maturely on what I am feeling instead of emotionally reacting which is what I always used to do.

As a fellow recovering person said in this article (1)  . . “. sit down with people and bounce some ideas off each other and get it off your chest and stuff. That’s very helpful and that kind of helps me, like saying it out loud to identify where I’m actually at.”

This is why ringing sponsors and talking to fellow recovering people is essential  especially in early recovery.

We do not how we feel clearly what we are really feeling otherwise, delude ourselves everything is fine, continue to make poor decisions to the point of becoming emotionally  drunk and then often relapsing to physically drunk.

We do all of this sometimes not because we want to drink but because we think we can do it alone when we cannot.

Sometimes in early recovery we haven’t go a clue what is going on, our arrogant pride however resists this idea and keeps missing the point of what is really going on.

Our errant emotion processing does not result in clear thinking, it results in negative, strangely deluded thinking.

By deluded I mean divorced from the reality of things as they really are. It takes some weeks and months to realize we cannot fully rely on our own thinking and this can be a blow to the pride.

The concluding part of this study (1) was very revealing to me and explained part of the “feeling” that often accompanies early recovery, the feeling of not recovering fast enough of not recovering NOW!

Addicts and alcoholics want everything NOW even recovery, they want the recovery of ten years in ten weeks!

” …some  participants interpreted negative feelings as global markers of overall emotional ill health and poor progress in recovery, for example, “I think I should be feeling better now” and “I thought I was progressing but in a lot of ways I haven’t and that’s not good.”

Here, participants realize they are experiencing negative feelings and understand it as suggestive of a larger negative phenomenon, for example, that they are not “better now” and not “progressing” as previously thought. This type of negative globalization is a type of cognitive distortion.”

A cognitive distortion is a deluded thought like those mentioned above. Our errant negative emotions produce distorting thinking.

Our negative feelings rarely tell us the truth. They give some jaundiced view of reality.

This is why we need to have constant contact with others in recovery to offload these negative feelings.

Just as with sharing with a sponsor or a friend to find out what we feel, we need to share with others to undistort our negative thinking. Negative emotions often give rise to negative thinking.

“As one participant said “And I know [recovery] is not a magic fix either because I didn’t expect, if you get sober to be all of a sudden everything is perfect. That’s not the way it works. . . . So it’s going to take you a little longer to feel better.””

I would add to this that it is  progress not perfection.

I would also add that we can feel better quicker than we think on a basis, one day at a time.

Ring someone, talk to someone and try to verbalise how you feel.

This straightens out your thinking and you will feel better right away.

We drank to go “phew!” a release from our thinking and negative heads, now we “share” with others what is really going on with us, to get to understanding what emotions ail us and this leads to the same feeling of release, to the same feeling of “phew!”

We never have to drink again to go “phew”, talk to someone instead.

We will discover things are never as negative as our thinking has lead us to believe, and are usually a whole better in fact!

We recover together.

 

References

1. Krentzman, A. R., Higgins, M. M., Staller, K. M., & Klatt, E. S. (2015). Alexithymia, Emotional Dysregulation, and Recovery From Alcoholism Therapeutic Response to Assessment of Mood. Qualitative health research,25(6), 794-805.

Reading Our Emotions Makes Us More Emotionally Literate

PIN your emotions

Emotional dependency is the result of being emotionally undifferentiated. The more differentiated we are, the less reactive we are to others and the better we can soothe ourselves.

We have discussed previously in various blogs how this lack of emotion differentiation leads to impulsive responding. In simple terms we cannot feel our emotions so do not recruit reflective goal directed or planning parts of the brain and instead recruit more motor based parts of the brain. In a confused emotional state we can react rather than  act via self reflection.

This tendency is seen in children of alcoholics at risk for later alcoholism and in practically every addictive behaviour from alcoholism to substance addiction, to eating disorders, gambling and sex addiction.

For me it may be a brain signature  of addictive behaviour, choosing now over then via a impulsive desire to relieve this negative feeling state and immediately feel better. Thus setting the cycle of addiction in action.

Your level of emotional maturity relates to your level of differentiation. The more mature you are, the more differentiated you are.

What are undifferentiated emotions? This is a state in which the individual’s emotions are so confused that their expression of them is only physical. In this state, they lack the language to describe how they feel. This is very confusing an explosion of anger is often not too far behind.

Undifferentiated emotions can be dangerous. People often resort to physical aggression or loud verbal tirades when they lack the words to separate the many emotions that precede anger.

Emotional literacy is therefore vital for anyone who wants to manage their anger.

Putting our emotions into words removes the mystery as well as the misery of not knowing what is going on inside of us.

Learning an emotional vocabulary brings clarity…One is now able to Perceive, Identify and Name (PIN) emotions that lead to the anger. This change often leads the individual to take greater responsibility for their actions

 

https://angeronmymind.wordpress.com/2007/06/14/undifferentiated-emotions/

Thus it is important to be able to recognize what emotions are really happening in us so as to be less reactive with ourselves and others.

 

photo-for-emotional-maturity

However, it seems to be there is more to this emotional immaturity that just identifying, labeling and verbalizng emotions (or processing emotions).

We also seem to struggle with dealing with emotions which threaten to overwhelm us when things do not go our way. Or we can’t get what we want, when we are frustrated etc.  Sometimes our reactive behaviour is so spontaneous that we only appreciate it afterwards.

I cite from a useful blog here –

“As addicts recover from addiction they gain emotional skills they never had before.

Dimensions of Emotional maturity

  1. The ability to modulate emotional responses.  Addicts tend to have an all or nothing emotional response.  When they respond they become overly emotional and take a longer time to return to baseline.  They are easily flooded with emotion to the point of impairing functioning.
  1. The ability to tolerate frustration.  Another emotional skill learned as we grow up is the ability to tolerate a frustrating situation with a level of self control.  Addicts tend to respond to frustrating situations as disasters rather than having any perspective.
  1. The ability to delay gratification.  Emotionally immature people have trouble planning and working toward goals.  The ability to give up immediate gratification is necessary for anyone to go about life in a successful way.
  1. The ability to control impulses.  The mature self has the ability to see that feeling the urge to do something is not the same as doing it.  The recovering addict has a level of control over his or her behavior and can put boundaries around what is inappropriate to say or do.  This is the basis for making logical choices like whether to act on impulses or not to.
  1. The ability to be reliable and accountable.  Addicts are often self centered and not good at dealing with the everyday requirements of life like being on time, fulfilling obligations and telling the truth.  As they gain emotional maturity they gain the ability to get out of themselves and think about the impact of their actions on others and on their own lives as well.

Recovery skills promote emotional maturity

The process of recovery from addictions is in many ways a process of completing the process growing up.

The work that goes on in addiction treatment involves changes that allow for that process to occur.

Looking at the addict’s core beliefs.  The addicts assumptions about himself, acquired in childhood are largely negative.  Addicts feel they are basically unworthy and unlovable.  They lack trust and don’t feel that others will be willing or able to help them.  Looking at these negative core beliefs about oneself is a first step toward being able to question them.  Addicts in recovery begin by getting honest about what they are feeling.

Connection.  In recovery addicts are helped to see that they are not so alone or so different and that there are other people to connect with.  This in turn allows for learning the emotional skills of accountability and honesty.  They come to realize that what they do matters and has real life implications for themselves and for the people in their life.

Self reflective ability. The recovery process involves learning to stop and reflect on what is going on inside of oneself in any situation.  This is amazingly absent in most practicing addicts.  Impulse control and emotional regulation are impossible if the person lacks the ability to observe their inner state.  It is only through developing this “observing ego” that the recovering addict can have the means to look at things more realistically, self-regulate emotional responses without resorting to drugs.

Tolerating feelings.  In giving up their drug of choice, addicts begin to feel all the feelings they have been running from.  Abstaining from an addictive behavior means being forced to deal with emotions like insecurity, self-hate, and loneliness.   In this way the addict begins to have the means to see and label their own emotions and connect with painful memories that they may have buried. You can’t deal with a problem if you can’t allow yourself to feel it.

Feelings are only feelings.  When we gain emotional maturity we accept our feelings but we are able to deal with them effectively.  We have choices.

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2013/06/gaining-emotional-maturity-is-key-to-addiction-recovery/

 

More signs of being Emotionally Immature

“immature” adults are often unable to identify or manage their emotions. They usually avoid their emotions by intellectualizing, explaining, analyzing, disagreeing, attacking, flattering, joking, apologizing, evading, going silent, becoming aloof or suspicious, rejecting, criticizing or judging. They often come across as superior, arrogant, stubborn, defiant, hostile, people-pleasing, wishy-washy, phony, resentful, intolerant, self-pitying or victimized.

In contrast, the emotionally mature adult understands that “my emotions are not me, but mine – I’m in control, not my emotions”. So they are more objective are less judgmental. They are better able to detach themselves from triggers that would normally provoke an emotional reaction. They experience states of equanimity, serenity and inner peace. Blaming others is no longer a strategy they use to make themselves feel safe.

Emotionally Immature are reactive and throw tantrums. They are fearful, scared, needy, angry, resentful, pushy, bullying, jealous or envious. They can be quiet, withdrawn, defensive, argumentative or grandiose. They can come across as overbearing, micromanaging, controlling, disrespectful, fearful, angry, negative, judgmental, critical, abusive (mentally, emotionally, psychologically, physically), dishonest, insincere, narcissistic and focused on the self and the ego.

The most visible quality of emotional maturity is the capacity to be in the moment, to be present while being non-reactive or non-judgmental.

This “being present” supports our true and authentic self to guide us. We intuit “right knowing”, “right understanding” and “right action”. We feel our emotions without “becoming” our emotions. We grasp that the “trigger” for our reactivity may be “outside me”, but the “cause” of my emotions is within me.

http://www.management-issues.com/opinion/6811/emotional-intelligence-or-emotional-maturity/

 

 

 

 

Is My Neediness linked to My Insecure Attachment?

I don’t know about you but I have previously been described on occasion, and still can be, as being a bit needy, a bit grasping of affection, a bit manipulative in attempting to coerce others into given me attention, affection and so on.

It is not a trait that I particularly like in my self. I believe it is directly linked to my insecure attachment based on an uncertain, unpredictable and sometimes conditional relationship I had with my mother, in particular.

My mother was affectionate at times, distant at others. You could never really count on her being there for you.

Her affection  seemed dependent (conditional) on how she felt. Given that she was probably experiencing some form of mental breakdown and had already started taking the Valium that would in later years become full blown dependence would explain her ambivalence to me and my emotional needs.

I have forgiven my mother for her many omissions but that does not mean that this forgiveness has resolved my attachment issues or heal the emotional pain I have been scarred with.

I still live with the consequence of these emotional scars and they still impact on my life, behaviour and recovery today. In fact, the longer I am in recovery the more I become aware of internal battles that I re-enact in my daily life with people in general life often playing the role of my primary care giver. I fight the same fights over and over again but with different people and in different scenarios.

The long term s consequences are also a lack of trust in others, an a time emotional ambivalence to others, a low self esteem, a feeling of “I’m not good enough” and whatever I do, “enough is never enough” This is why I think insecure attachment may be a good reason for the knawing feeling many of us have that we are not good enough, that we are lacking, that we are less than, that are missing something very important. That we have no secure internal base. Instead we have this “hole in the soul”.

attachment2

 

I fight injustice constantly. I fight bullies. I have real difficulties with feelings of rejection, even seeming rejection from people I do not particularly like, respect or admire. Thus it is not a cortical, conscious process, it is a pre-progammed emotional response to rejection per se.

I am constantly trying to be good enough, better than good enough, the best if possible. To measure up. Be the Number One guy, just like Bill Wilson who had similar problems with his mother to me. Internally I am constantly trying to show the world I am good enough, deserving enough of their love, respect and affection, often when I consciously have no real desire for these things, from these people.

It is a continual re-enactment of the efforts I made, often unsuccessfully with my mother. My early childhood has habitualised my behaviours and emotional reactions to the world. I must have found my mother’s behaviours unjust also hence my constant fighting of perceived injustice, although I am well aware of the 12 step plea not to fight anyone or anything.

Easier said than done, for me.

What I am trying to say, I guess, is that I have become aware that I am fighting the same psychic battles over and over again. The adult child is still in turmoil, reaching out for unconditional affection.

I have found that unconditional love in a Higher Power but in my illness I relapse back to this emotional insobriety.

I have recovered though. I am sane enough to know that I have other issues that  have partly driven my addictive behaviours. They have created emotional disturbance and dysfunction which “sharing” my experience with others has increasingly helped self soothe.

Anyway back to my sometimes evident emotional immaturity.

I have studied neuroscience for a number of years and see that it offers a great facility for challenging existing views about addiction and contributing to the greater arguments and debates about causes and consequences of addiction but I am also aware that it does not have all the answers and that it can veer towards reductionist views and reductionist solutions such as giving drugs to addicts to help with behavioural manifestations of addiction which can be bizarre at times.

Bizarre because the manifestations of addiction are more complex that observable neuro-biological processes in the brain. Attachment theory highlights this issue for me. It may impact on neuro-biology and neural plasticity of the brain but it is not necessarily the product of these. It can not be “cured” bu purely chemical means.

It seems that it can only be resolved by re-applying behaviours that were missing in the first place. In this case, earned attachment via various group therapeutic groups can help with the consequences of insecure attachment experienced in early childhood.   In other words these more adaptive behaviours can help you “manage” the maladaptive behavioural patterns ingrained in one’s brain.

We need other people not drugs or medications in other words. We tried that, it did not work. Love is what we need, we are designed, to give and receive it.

It is a fundamental force in helping develop a healthy brain.

Via neuroscience, I have never been able to get an angle on two vital aspects of my addictive personality. The “hole in the soul” what is it, where does it come from, how can it be explained? The other is why I collapse to needy behaviours?

Attachment disorders explain this for me. It also also explains the constantly fighting. Trauma also has a part to play. I grew up in a very violent, traumatising place. This can also lead to constant fighting. Constant emotional reactivty.

While in SELF, I hasten to add.

 

Equally I have found a solution to all these problems. I am generally contented, happy in my own skin. I did not used to be. Now I am. I have much love that I share with those around me. I can also receive it, mostly. I have found what I have been looking for. Love.

I have faith that all my scars will heal in time as so many already.

The results of the study we cite and take excerpts form (1) showed that there is significant difference in attachment styles and emotional maturity between opiate addicts and non-addicts. The results revealed that addicts usually have insecure attachment styles while non-addicts have secure styles. Besides, addicts enjoyed a lower level of emotional maturity compared with non-addicts.

“Addicts suffer from negative and inflexible emotions so that they are often fraught with anger, resentment and hatred. They
also suffer from loss of love, joy and intimacy. They may have not experienced hope and love for a long time. This exposes them to a serious emotional vacuum which must be dealt with in a
treatment process. A typical problem with addicts is their lack of emotional maturity and propensity to self-alienation and dependency disorder which causes a universal sense of fear and
mental insecurity.

A thirty-year old addict may perform like a ten-year old adolescent in terms of emotional functioning because most of the addicts have been forced into adulthood before they could have experienced childhood. That is because both society and family have not given them the opportunity to grow emotionally so that they have been confined within the walls of emotional crudity and feel insecure towards the outside world. Evidently, they need support to be
able to escape the confinement and interact with their environment, which requires them to be dependent on others [11].

Addicts suffer from severe feelings of disillusionment with their mothers. Mother’s disregard for the child’s emotional needs causes disruption in children’s self-regulatory processes and consequently
damages their mental structure of internal behavioral control. As a result, they will become dependent on external mediums like drugs to compensate for their emotional deficiencies.
Therefore, their harmful experiences of childhood in regard to disillusionment with their mothers may be drawn upon to account for the mechanisms which influence attachment styles.
Accordingly, mothers’ disregard for children’s emotional needs may justify the prevalence of insecure attachment styles in these children [1].

Research has shown that insecure attachment style contributes to the development of mental disorders. Developed at early childhood, insecure attachment is a risk factor for drug abuse and may also influence the treatment of drug abuse disorder. Using Hazan and Shaver adult attachment interview (AAI), Taracena et al (2006) reported that there is positive correlation between drug abuse and avoidant attachment styles. Hankin et al. (2007) conducted a study at the University of Illinois and reported that there is positive correlation between insecure attachment styles and smoking, alcohol use and marijuana use. In a follow-up research in the same
university, the results showed that there is a significant positive correlation between anxious attachment style and the prevalence of stimulant drug use, smoking and alcohol use. Haward and
Medway investigated the relationship between attachment styles, coping styles, life stresses and due responses in 75 couples. They reported that with secure styles, adults’ attachments are positively correlated with family relations but negatively correlated with negative social behavior including alcohol use, smoking and/or drug use [3].

Therefore, attachment styles can influence drug abuse disorders through the processes of familial interaction, social control, emotional regulation and self-efficacy. Marlatt et al. (2002)
investigated the factors contributing to the frequent relapse of addition and reported that encounters with negative emotions and events are most effective in addiction relapse. It seems
that insecure individuals more frequently resort to drug use as a self-treatment mechanism to relieve their negative emotions and experiences comparing with secure individuals. Shakibaie
(2000) studied 137 people and reported that 91.3% of the participants suffered from at least one mental disorder. Accordingly, 68.7% of the participants experienced decreased libido, 59.3% had
hypersomnia, 58.7% suffered from major depression and 24.7% suffered from apprehension.
Therefore, in line with previous studies, the present research aims to investigate the relationship between attachment styles and emotional maturity in both addicts and non-addicts.

Hogan and Roberts (1998) contended that immature emotional
behavior includes: impulsive behavior, fuzzy temper, impatience in facing failures, incongruence between specific visual stimuli and responses, inability to forgive others, and too much dependence on others. The present findings showed that there is significant difference in attachment styles between opiate addicts and non-addicts,  that addicts suffer from lack of emotional maturity more than do non-addicts. In
addition, the difference between addicts and non-addicts was significant in all the subscales of emotional immaturity.

Torberg and Lyvers (2005) investigated the relationship between attachment, fear of intimacy and differentiation of self in 158 volunteers including 99 individuals registered in an addiction treatment program. As expected, the patients under treatment who suffered from alcoholism, heroin dependency, amphetamines dependency, cocaine or hashish abuse reported high levels of insecure attachment, fear of intimacy and low levels of secure attachment and differentiation of self comparing with the control group.

Insecure attachment, fear of intimacy and differentiation of self may indicate vulnerability of drug abuse.

Besharat (2007) reported that there is significant difference in attachment styles between Iranian drug addicts and non-addicts. There were also significant negative and significant positive
correlations between the severity of drug dependency with secure and insecure attachment styles, respectively. Consequently, attachment styles can influence dependency on drugs through the
processes of familial interactions, social control, emotional regulation and self-efficacy.

 

 

References

1.  Mortazavi, Zeinab, Faramarz Sohrabi, and Hamid Reza Hatami. “Comparison of attachment styles and emotional maturity between opiate addicts and non-addicts.” 

 

Are Alcoholics Emotionally Immature?

Concerted attempts have been made to relate personality factors to alcohol dependence.

In fact, for many years, research attempted to define the so-called alcoholic personality. Attempts to do so have dwindled in recent years.

Potential alcoholics tend to be emotionally immature, expect a great deal of the world, require an inordinate amount of praise and appreciation, react to failure with marked feelings of hurt and inferiority, have a low frustration tolerance, and feel inadequate and unsure of their abilities to fulfil expected male or female roles.1

Although the obvious emotional immaturity often seen in alcoholics seems to cover a number of the more recent findings on bio-psychologcal aspects a alcoholism.

For example, if we partly defined emotional immaturity as containing some of the following, then we appear to be covering a number of much researched and demonstrated aspects of alcoholism. Do these then not come under an umbrella term of emotional immaturity? This list was complied by Psych Central

Dimensions of Emotional maturity

  1. The ability to modulate emotional responses.  Addicts tend to have an all or nothing emotional response.  When they respond they become overly emotional and take a longer time to return to baseline.  They are easily flooded with emotion to the point of impairing functioning.
  1. The ability to tolerate frustration.  Addicts tend to respond to frustrating situations as disasters rather than having any perspective.
  1. The ability to delay gratification.  Emotionally immature people have trouble planning and working toward goals.  The ability to give up immediate gratification is necessary for anyone to go about life in a successful way.
  1. The ability to control impulses.  The mature self has the ability to see that feeling the urge to do something is not the same as doing it.  The recovering addict has a level of control over his or her behavior and can put boundaries around what is inappropriate to say or do.
  1. The ability to be reliable and accountable.  Addicts are often self centered and not good at dealing with the everyday requirements of life like being on time, fulfilling obligations and telling the truth.  As they gain emotional maturity they gain the ability to get out of themselves and think about the impact of their actions on others and on their own lives as well.

 

 photo-for-emotional-maturity

 

According to a list drawn up by alcoholrehab.com

If people are emotionally immature, they may exhibit some of the following symptoms:

* Such individuals will often find it hard to deal with the normal challenges of life. When they are faced with problems they feel unable to cope. They may have developed a psychological state known as learned helplessness.

They struggle to develop meaningful relationships with other people. They may appear too needy or a bit overbearing.
* Those people who are emotionally immature will tend to have a pessimistic outlook on life. They may see the future as a threatening and hostile place.
* This type of person will usually have low self-esteem. This means that they do not value themselves highly so will be willing to accept very little in life as being all they deserve.
* They find it almost impossible to live in the present moment. They are either reliving the past or worrying about the future.
* They can easily lose their temper at the slightest provocation. When they are dealing with uncomfortable emotions they will tend to take things out on other people.

* People who are emotionally immature can have unrealistically high expectations. This means that they are frequently disappointed. Such and individual can have impossibly high expectations for other people yet low expectations for themselves.
* Such individuals can suffer from severe mood swings. This instability of mood can make life a bit uncomfortable.
* If people are emotionally immature, they find it much harder to control their own behavior.

Recognize any of these symptoms?

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We were completely like this before doing the 12 steps.

We, however, do not think that anyone, alcoholics or otherwise choose to behave in this emotional immature way.

We have already looked at the emotional distress accompanies alcoholism and addiction, and will be examining more in the months ahead and it is difficult not to see the above emotional immaturity as all being products of a distress state.

In the course of addiction the alcoholic in particular grows in emotional distress as the stress and emotional dysregulation associated with addiction increases.

This means the brain “collapses” from more cortical, goal-directed (and emotionally regulated) areas of the brain to more sub-cortical areas which are more automatic, unthinking and compulsive.

Emotional distress activates these areas of habit-like compulsive behaviour, acting as a stimulus response, distress the stimulus and compulsive (unthinking)  responding as the response.

This is like a distress based or “fight or flight” reality or a heightened emotional state or “emergency” state. It seems to us that alcoholics live in this region more than cortical regions. They are primed to go off!

They then have a tendency to either run away from situations or to fight “everybody and everything”, to be intolerant of uncertainty, to catastrophize, to be fear-based people to be over reactive, hypervigilant, perfectionist etc These are all distress based states.

Are aspects of the  apparent emotional immaturity mentioned above not also not  a surface manifestation of these deep subcortical processes?

It is this state of heightened uncertainty and fear that whittles away at the alcoholic psyche. This amount of stress/distress promotes implicit, do, memory, over explicit, reflective, evaluative, memory. Distress makes one act without much thought of consequence, it makes one choose short term over greater long term gain, it makes one want to act impulsively or compulsively to alleviate distress. It is this distress that is in charge of action and emotional behaviour. It calls the shots.  A state of emergency has been called in the brain of the alcoholic.

I know it is widely shared at AA meetings that we got stuck in the emotional age of our first drink, in the early teens and never developed our emotional selves or capacity to regulate and process emotions. We are not sure this is completely true as the stress that accompanies alcoholism, as alcohol is literally classified as a pharmacological stressor,  not only causes chronic stress dysregulation but also the emotional dysregulation which accompanies this. It is emotional parts of the brain and the cortical areas that are supposed to keep them in check that are most impaired via chronic alcoholism.

Dr. Stephanie Brown (2) has explored these developmental changes in cognition, which lead to “alcoholic thinking.” She states that these changes refer “not only to rationalization, denial and frame of mind, but also to character traits that frequently accompany drinking. These include grandiosity, omnipotence and low frustration tolerance.” (3) These traits appear to be directly associated with the addictive process rather than with the individual’s personality prior to establishing this abusive cycle.

As alcohol becomes more dominant, the need to deny these changes becomes greater. It appears that there is an interaction between physiological changes and psychological defenses which creates emotional immaturity, self-centeredness and irresponsibility. Alcoholism becomes a thought disorder as well as an addiction to alcohol.

This is the consequence we believe of prefrontal atrophy and subcortical hypertrophy caused by chronic alcohol consumption, a constant injection a pharmacological stressor into the brain, wrecking the ability to maturely deliberate and instead rely on “I want it now!”  type of thinking.

We firmly believe this progression is to a state of constant distress signal in the brain and a cortical hyperarousal.

The alcoholic may not be emotionally distressed all the time but his brain is never satisfied, it constantly needs more, it finds only transient balance, via allostasis, it never finds true balance, i.e. homeostasis. it is always seeking, never reaching satiety, never completely at rest. This is emotionally exhausting.

It may represent, on superficial observation to some, the “emotional immaturity, self-centeredness and irresponsibility” (4) but is it really this simple, seeing these as the primary defenses and interpersonal style typical of normal development in the first three years of life or to characterize the addictive part of self as a “two-year-old child”?

Isn’t it more apt to say instead of  a “two-year-old wounded part of self begins to “drive the bus” and create havoc for all concerned” to say chronic stress manifest  as emotional distress “driving the bus”?

Thus a valid question remains for us and we ask it to our normies or earthling friends (i.e. non-alcoholics), wouldn’t you act in a childish if you were this distressed most of the time, having to rely on impaired emotional regulation and processing parts of the brain?

 

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In fact, to all those normies or earthlings who are reading this blog, how well do you think or consider others when in a state of persistent and daily distress? In this heightened anxiety how good is your action outcome memory, goal-directed planning and awareness of future consequence?

Are you ever moody, emotionally volatile and over reactive in this state of high anxiety? Hyper sensitive? Ever strike out unthinkingly at others although you had not intended to? Leading to guilt and shame, and remorse and self pity which can in the fullest of time lead to depression? This is called a transient emotional dysregulation, distress leading to an emotional cascade. This is the brain of an alcoholic all the time. It can lead to dejection and relapse.

In this sate of nauseating anxiety, how well do you consider the consequence, negative or otherwise, or your fear-based decision making?  Do you choose the short term answer in these anxiety-filled moments just to simply relieve this distress this unpleasant feeling of doom? So do alcoholics!

It is not enough to call the alcoholic emotional immature or stuck in the “terrible twos”, although let’s face it the evidence for it is compelling at times!! Let’s instead understand the reasons for it. Would you like to be in a state of distress most of the time? It’s not a whole lot of fun!

The 12 steps help solve these issues, there is a solution to emotional immaturity – it leads to emotional maturity or emotional sobriety which is blogged about here also.

The next time the alcoholic is your life acts in an immature way don’t ask them why they are acting that way, ask them how they feel. instead. Get them to identify, label and process their feelings  by verbalizing them.

When the anxious amgydala has quelled and  it’s feverish responding quietened,  get them to an AA meeting where many tens of thousands of alcoholics are doing the same, “sharing”, processing their emotions by talking about them and how they really feel.

 

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Not running away from them or intellectualizing about them, not fighting them. Simply saying in words how they feel.

It is a miracle awakening for us in recovery, the emotional regulation normies and earthlings take for granted.

The age of miracles is amongst us and it starts by opening your mouth, asking for help, getting help and getting real about what you are really feeling.

It is through sharing our deepest feelings that we start to mature and grow up.

 

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References

1. Chaudhury, S.K. Das, B. Ukil,  Psychological assessment of alcoholism in males Indian J Psychiatry. 2006 Apr-Jun; 48(2): 114–117. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.31602

2. Brown S. (1985). Treating the Alcoholic: A Developmental Model of Recovery. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Spring.

3. Brown, S. (1988). Treating Adult Children of Alcoholics: A Developmental Perspective. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

4. http://www.cairforyou.com/alchoholdrugs/alcoholcharacter.htm