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There are four basic emotions that get triggered in the inner world of an addict.

Fear. It could be said that the only real character defect for an addict is fear. It can (and usually does trigger all other emotions. If limbic trauma is triggered it generates fear and results in fight, flight or freeze. Many addicts can identify with being frightened or anxious as being present for most of their lives before recovery.

Three acronyms for fear that apply;

False Evidence Appearing Real

F— Everything And Run

Face Everything And Recover

Shame. When it’s healthy it reminds us of our humanity and inherent moral sense as a human. However when learned from others (what we call carried) it can be crippling and prevent us from experiencing appropriate self-worth. For instance as children we are very vulnerable, if we are made to feel ashamed about things we do (not achieve good results at school, witness inappropriate sexual behaviour from adults, have an accident on the way to the bathroom etc.) it can get locked into our limbic brain and result in a permanent state of worthlessness.

Anger. whilst this is very necessary part of our human make up (to protect us when in danger) it can be triggered repeatedly by fear and shame and used to deal with the distress. It can then become addictive in its own right and is first response to any interaction where there is a chance of fear and shame.

Pain. Whilst emotional in origin and generated by fear, anger and shame it can take on extreme manifestations of responses: panic attacks, flight, withdrawal, etc. and the most obvious being to use. There is a little ditty in recovery that goes “no pain, no gain”. While a little flippant this does highlight that recovery does take some emotional effort and this can be painful.

January 15, 2016


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