In general, addiction needs three factors for it to develop: an individual’s predisposition to it, something that has addictive potential because it offers relief or pleasure, and stress to set up the desire for relief. An individual becomes predisposed to addiction when their brain is impacted early in childhood by chronic negative experiences, often experiences of isolation and powerlessness. These experiences program the brain to rapidly anticipate harm resulting in a very quick and frequent stress-response. Anything that can reduce this stress-response rapidly has the potential to become addictive for those so predisposed.
Because stress sets an individual up to re-enter the cycle of addiction, it is important to explore what an individual’s stressors might be before attempting to address his underlying predisposition and what brought it about. I will work with you to identify your triggers and set up systems and techniques to support you when stressed. Ultimately, however, an individual’s quick expectation of harm and her initial stress response must be examined to lessen the impact of life’s difficulties as they are experienced. This is done by allowing yourself to experience the emotional impact of past harm with someone who can bear witness to it without judgment and without bringing further harm.
One way to make the pain of life more tolerable is to disconnect. While some disconnection is healthy, when an individual is chronically turning to disconnection as a strategy to survive their internal and external environment, it can lead instead to increasing harm. Together, we can explore the circumstances that led to the development of this strategy for coping and develop awareness of what triggers in your life currently lead to its use in the present. Awareness and understanding are important for breaking out of the habit of turning to dissociation, but ultimately you can learn to engage the pain of living by having an encouraging and supportive witness to what that engagement might mean for you emotionally.