Addictive Behaviors: A Result of a Lack of Sense of Self?
The human race is surprisingly prone to addiction. Granted, some people are more susceptible to it than others and what kind of addiction usually determines whether it is good or bad for you.
Some addictive habits start out as fun or useful, for example exercise, attention to outward appearance, shopping, gambling, sex, playing computer games, or browsing the Internet. Our behavior is easily justified:
- “I need to exercise regularly to stay in shape.”
- “Looking good is important to me.”
- “I enjoy spending time on the Internet. I always learn something new.”
However, there is a fine line between dedication and compulsion. When it comes to exercising, training, and practicing for example, it isn’t always clear how much is enough and how much is too much. When something is done to the extreme we are not talking about dedication anymore but about compulsion and it is the drive behind our action or activity that is responsible for either one or the other.
Did you know there is an underlying addiction at the root of all these other addictions that is never addressed? It is the addiction to approval! Some of us haven’t been so fortunate as to receive from our caregivers the input necessary to develop a healthy Sense of Self. That leaves a void in us where there should have been the inner resource of unshakable knowing that we are our own person and that we do not have to do anything to “earn” our right to exist and be treated as a “real” person. Addiction is nothing more than the ongoing need to fill in that inner void that has grown into a compulsive habit.
How and why that happens is extensively explained in the SoS Theory.
If we do not have a clear Sense of ourselves, we turn to approval from our primary caregiver as a beacon in the ocean of living. Gaining their approval functions as a substitute for our (lacking) Sense of Self; obtaining that approval is a matter of life and death that we do everything for, including things that are not serving our own well-being. But we are not aware of this because we are not in touch with who we really are. You could say that “there is nobody home in our being.”
In the Sense of Self (SoS) Theory the addiction to drugs and alcohol is explained as follows:
- Living your daily life based on the need for approval is sad and exhausting: one is not living one’s own life but spending one’s time searching for something that will never be found—one’s Self. That leads to frustration and exhaustion and we use “a drink or more” to comfort ourselves.
- Not being at home in one’s Self often leads to a great need to “belong” and drinking and/or smoking lowers the threshold of social awkwardness.
- Drinking and smoking can be a place holder for the anticipated “reward” (the approval) after an “achievement” or a job well done by a person who is dependent on approval for her Sense of Self.
In the course of my life I had to witness my brother’s struggle with his alcohol addiction, which he ultimately lost. At fifty-four he passed away, a diabetic alcoholic.
In hindsight I realize that both of us were in desperate need of acknowledgment. Time after time I witnessed how our parents had not recognized the moments when they needed to do just that. It also occurred to me that at age fifty-four, we, as humans, needed to be self-sufficient, be at peace with life, and feel at home in our Self. All of these beneficial characteristics were lacking in both of us, so I finally recognized this belated need for acknowledgment as something we both quested for. Ultimately this insight is what resulted in the SoS Theory.
The Sense of Self Theory believes that people who are themSelves will not develop or continue self-destructive dependencies.
Only when “nobody is home” in your body is there room for addiction and self-destruction. In other words, to stand a better chance of freeing yourself successfully from addiction you need to “be aware of your body” and “BE your body” at the same time and not only think of yourself as your mind. On top of that you need to actively know that your life is your own and that you can live it the way YOU chose to.
The SoS Method aims to be of benefit to people in various kinds of situations, and would be extremely beneficial for those of us with (Self-) destructive addictions like smoking tobacco, alcoholism, and substance abuse—whether it’s illicit drug abuse or abuse of medications.
The Sense of Self Method offers the opportunity to find your way (back) to your Self, to get re-acquainted with your Self, and to eventually feel at home in your “being.”
Discovering your Self will bring new meaning and interest to your life. Once you have recognized “your Self” and you are on the road to gaining a Restored Sense of Self™, the risk of relapse becomes increasingly smaller. Next to your job, your home, and your family, you now have something to lose that was never before at risk because you didn’t have it in the first place: your Self!
* The SoS Method is intended to be used as a complement to established addiction treatment programs, not as a replacement for them. More information on the topic of substance abuse can be found at the many proficient treatment centers and interactive healing programs such as AA, OA, CODA, and GA. To learn about the effect of the use of alcohol on your body, visit the Higher Education Center. The Alcohol/Drug Helpline at is available for immediate assistance.
** I, Antoinetta Vogels, author of Healthy Sense of Self and creator of the Sense of Self Method, am neither a medical doctor, nor a psychologist, but I share my SoS Method with you as it has helped me to greatly improve my own life and that of my family; it can do the same for you.
- Is Perfectionism Feeding Your Addiction to Approval?Striving to be perfect is a learned behavior based on an addiction to approval. Perfectionism is all about analyzing what you contribute or achieve and believing it isn’t good enough. Perfectionism is a strategy to feed the addiction to approval. Why is that? Not because it really is not good enough, but because of your addiction to ...
- What Happens When Nobody Talks About Mental Illness?How many more self-inflicted deaths will it take to finally destigmatize mental illness in this country? As illustrated in a popular Ted-Ed Talk, 10 percent of American adults struggle with depression. Focusing our attention exclusively on outward manifestations of depression and mental illness, one of the most extreme examples being suicide, means we’re missing the point. Why ...
- This Is What Happens When You Move from Addiction to Self-awarenessA Sense of Self-awareness Is Key to Overcoming Addiction Before we get into what Sense of Self-awareness is all about. Let’s talk statistics. Did you know that more than 10 percent of U.S. children live with a parent with alcohol problems? The numbers are real. Global ramifications on families are severe as alcohol misuse is the ...
- The Valuable Art of Healthy Self-forgivenessThe Art of Self-forgiveness The self-healing process often begins with self-forgiveness and will only be possible if you’re able to fill yourself up with a stronger Sense of Self. And over the years, we’ve noticed there’s definitely an art to self-forgiveness. It all starts with becoming aware of who you are and why you behave the ...
- How to Align Your Vision for Personal Success with Your ValuesWhat does your vision for personal success look like? The definition of personal success is different for everyone, right? So to define yours, imagine that you’re on your deathbed. You have lived to old age, and your exhausted body is succumbing, breath by breath, to the decisive blow. In your final interval of clarity, you take the ...
- Does Social Media Determine Your Self-worth?Why do you use social media? Is social media only a place to connect with friends from the past, promote our new brands, or go on political rants? Do we use it to determine our self-worth, too? Have you ever caught yourself allowing Facebook or Instagram to be your source of fulfillment when you needed a ...
- How to Learn and Embrace Your True PurposeYou’ll find your true purpose when you discover your true Self. Has anyone seen the new Wonder Woman movie yet? I loved it. It boasted a well-paced story, fun stunts, and a welcome multidimensional female lead. Reviewers have described the film as buoyant, inspiring, and empowering. But even though I enjoyed the movie, I didn’t leave ...
- Are You Ready to Release Your Addiction to Approval?How do you know if you are struggling with approval-seeking behavior? If you feel stuck in your personal and/or professional life, it may partially be due to approval-seeking behavior or an “addiction to approval.” Are you reliable? Flexible? What about caring, confident, and assertive? Do you play well with others? Whether the approval of others is coming ...
- Here Is Your Ultimate Guide to Self-MotivationHave you ever thought about the role self-motivation plays in your everyday life? Self-motivation is the ultimate driving force behind your behavior. And the science of motivation has taught us it’s possible to influence your level of motivation. Most often, adults are more motivated by internal influences. When you have a healthy and natural sense of Self, ...
- What Is the Brain Science of Addiction and Habits?The science of addiction all starts in the brain. Often a behavior that we refer to as an addiction is just an unfavorable habit that hasn’t been addressed. However, there are behaviors that become so ingrained in our brain that they are indistinguishable from addiction. Here’s what you need to know about the science of addiction. To ...