By Scott Kiloby
Manipulation, shame, trauma, guilt, hiding, dishonesty/deception, denial, rationalization and minimization.
These are some of the most powerful contributors to ongoing addiction and relapse. Many of the current approaches to addiction treatment haven’t even begun to scratch the surface with regard to helping people release the powerful hold of these contributors to addiction.
How do we know that our treatment systems have failed in this regard? We know because of the overall low success rate for addiction treatment/recovery – between 5% and 20%. We know because treatment centers and recovery programs have identified these powerful contributors but people continue to be addicted. Many never kick their drug or alcohol addiction precisely because these powerful contributors are never released from the system. These behaviors at the core of our experience are never truly dissolved. Even if people get off drugs or alcohol, often they begin substituting with other substances like sugar, tobacco or caffeine or other activities like gaming, gambling, sex/porn, shopping and/or Internet surfing. And these contributors are often just as present with these secondary addictions. In fact, these contributors drive those addictions in the same way they drive addiction to drugs and alcohol. Substitution is just a continuation of the same disease but in a different form. Until these powerful contributors are truly dealt with and released from the body and mind, people are set up to relapse back on drugs and alcohol or continue in addiction through these forms of substitution.
How do we begin truly dissolving these powerful contributors? We have to rethink our approach. We are engaged in this rethinking at the Kiloby Center. Our treatment systems seem to be failing with regard to these underlying contributors for two reasons: 1) they often focus only on the cognitive aspect (the mind) and ignore the somatic (body) and 2) even if these systems recognize that the body plays an important role, they have not yet developed a way to clear the body of these things.
Often fear lies at the core of these contributors. Fear is a somatic experience mostly. Sure, thinking is involved when we experience fear, but it is only when we feel the fear or anxiety in the body (or try to avoid it) that fear has a way of running our lives. And fear lies not only at the core of addiction, but at the core of our human experience generally.
How do we know that fear lies at the core of these contributors? One has to take a deeper dive into these contributors to see that fear is the driving force. Let’s take each contributor one by one and break it down to its central component – fear.
Why do people suffering from addiction manipulate other people? They do it to get what they want. And what happens when they don’t get what they want? Fear. Manipulation is a behavior that keeps this fear from surfacing. If I can get what I want, I never have to face the fear that I might feel if I don’t get what I want. So manipulation is a way to avoid fear. And fear is held in the body, deep within the body. This visceral, primal fear drives all of these behaviors.
How is shame related to fear? If a client at the Kiloby Center says they are experiencing shame with regard to anything, a simple question we ask him or her is this: “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” The answer is usually something like this: “I’d then have to feel that shame, face it and deal with it” or “I’m afraid that others will find out who I am and what I’ve really done” or “I’m afraid that I will continue doing the same things and experience even more shame.” Bottom line: It’s fear. And, again, fear is held in the body. It’s a primal force connected to our very survival. It isn’t just a cognitive function. As humans we are holding onto, repressing, failing to feel and deal with fear at a very basic level. Release the fear, and the shame can be felt and released.
It isn’t difficult to understand how trauma is related to fear. Trauma is fear. It is a response to life circumstances that comes from prior event(s) that were too scary to truly process. And like all fear, it is held mostly in the body. Sure, the mind is involved. But if our bodies are not cleared of all the fear held within them, we are missing a key component of recovery from trauma. There is also often fear around even dealing with the trauma. This creates a flight response in many people seeking treatment. They would rather run than face the issue. But if we treat trauma at the somatic level, the running begins to stop. The fear begins to release. And the addiction tied to that trauma begins to dissolve.
How is guilt related to fear? Our one simple question at the Kiloby Center brings the answer to light: “What is the worst thing that can happen around this guilt?” The answer might be that “I’d have to feel it and that’s scary.” Or the answer might be “I might be found out by others which would make me feel even more guilt.” Bottom line: It’s fear. And until the fear held deep in the body is released, the guilt stays there. We simply cannot reach guilt fully by working only with the mind.
People suffering from addiction often hide their addictive behaviors from others. Why? The answer is simple: fear. Fear of being found out. Fear that people will see them for who they really are and what they are truly doing behind closed doors. Deal with the fear and the hiding behavior can finally begin to fall away. When the hiding falls away, the addiction can begin to fall away because the hiding behavior is fueling the addiction. Again, the deepest roots of this fear are held in the body, not just the mind.
Why do people lie to others about their addictive behaviors? This isn’t rocket science. They are afraid. They have to lie to get what they want – to get the next fix, to experience avoidance of pain, etc. Until that fear at the bodily level is released, it continues to run the show. And fear continues to drive the addiction as long as dishonesty is still a part of one’s behavior. Sure, telling the truth in a group support meeting can be helpful. But there is even fear around being that honest. Many people in group support meetings simply do not share their deepest secrets – again out of fear. Fear lies at the root of it all. Uproot the fear in the body and the behavior of lying can finally begin to dissolve, along with the addiction that is its constant companion.
Denial is a hallmark of addiction. What drives denial? Fear. To face one’s situation fully and honesty (e.g., addiction) and to no longer lie to oneself about what is really going on is scary. When we work only with the mind, we are missing the very roots of this fear that lie at the core of denial. Fear lies in the body. Therefore, somatic work on fear is critical to working with denial.
Rationalization and Minimization
Rationalization involves “explaining away” to oneself and others self destructive behaviors. For example, “I only drink to feel more comfortable with others.” This may seem rational until one digs deeper to see that there is no ability to actually stop drinking. The inability to stop drinking is addiction. So the real reason people drink once addiction is present has nothing to do with feeling more comfortable. It has gone beyond that reason once addiction is present. The real reason the person drinks is because they can’t stop. The addiction is there, but the mind has explained it away. Why do we rationalize? Fear. We are afraid to truly face the truth of our behavior and its consequences. We are also afraid to face the fear of any discomfort we feel around other people. It’s always fear, fear, fear.
Minimization involves downplaying our addiction. For example, “I don’t really have a problem.” People will often say this even when everyone around them knows there is a problem. Why do we minimize? You guessed it – fear. We downplay the behavior to ourselves and others because to truly face the fact that there is a problem seems too scary.
The Problem with Current Approaches
Many current approaches to addiction haven’t even figured out yet that fear lies at the core of all these behaviors. They haven’t taken a deep enough dive into human behavior to find that fear is the culprit in all these issues. And even if they have figured that out, they are still working with people mainly on the level of the mind, ignoring that fear is held tightly in the body (the stomach quite often). Even when they do figure that out, they often have no way of releasing fear at the somatic level.
The Kiloby Center’s Somatic Approach
At the Kiloby Center, we have figured it out. We know that fear lies at the root of all of this. We know that fear is held mostly in the body. We have developed a somatic mindfulness approached designed to uproot and dissolve this fear at the bodily level. When fear at the bodily level is cleared away, the mind naturally falls in line. At the Center, we undo the Velcro Effect, which is the experience of thoughts (mind) being stuck to bodily emotions and sensations (fear). When the body is cleared of fear and the Velcro Effect is undone with regard to all of these contributing forces listed above, the person’s behavior can naturally begin to change and improve. Fear is no longer running the show. Behaviors such as manipulation, shame, trauma, guilt, hiding, dishonesty/deception, denial, rationalization and minimization can naturally begin fall away when the somatic fear that underlies and drives these behaviors is cleared away from the body.
This is one of the many ways in which the Kiloby Center is raising the success rate for addiction. But clients need to stay for an extended period of time to truly deal with fear that is so deeply embedded in their experience and that has accumulated over a lifetime. When considering a treatment center, ask yourself this one question: Do I want to attend a place for 30 days and just stay clean and sober or do I want to invest in a longer time in treatment at a place like the Kiloby Center which will help me with the real underlying issues so that I can live in peace for the rest of my life, not just stay clean and sober. The answer should be obvious.
If you are interested in working with the root causes of addiction, contact the Kiloby Center at firstname.lastname@example.org.