Gary S. Fisher, Psy. D., C.A.D.C.

healing, integration, authenticity

Necessary Versus Unnecessary Pain

There is no such thing as a pain free life and the attempt to find one leads to an awful lot of unnecessary pain. The addicted individual in an attempt to avoid the untenable possibility that they are unloveable seeks to avoid ever facing that fear and finding out whether it is true, and in doing so, creates an enormous amount of unnecessary pain and/or suffering.

Traditionally men avoid their feelings by being intellectual and women do it by being emotional, and because emotions look, sound, and feel like feelings, women are thought to be more connected to their feelings, which is not necessarily true. It is an accepted belief that emotions are the result of thought patterns which I agree with, and I view them as being generally self-centered and self-serving in nature (this is not necessarily negative in and of itself) and for the most part come from the head, and while there may be an incredible amount of emotion present (e.g., rage over abuse), they are actually fairly shallow.

Feelings, on the other hand, are generated from the spirit, and we think about them, attempt to understand and explain them as best as we

can, after experiencing them. In other words, emotions can be portrayed as originating on a thought-emotion continuum, whereas feelings originate from a feeling-thought continuum. Feelings in this context, are primary, occurring without thoughts. They do not necessarily serve the selfish needs or wants of the individual who is feeling them, and they have a broader and deeper sense to them (e.g., love, courage).

Necessary pain is pain that is already there and simply needs to be connected with and felt, and is imperative for emotional development and maturity, which is why when one avoids it, they stay emotionally immature, a cardinal sign of all addictive individuals. Eventually through the grief process of crying and moving through the pain, the individual is able to connect with their true self and start to operate out of that center in their daily life. (See Figure of the Recovered Psyche in Grief Process) The evidence of this process is healthier and more mature decision making, reduced impulsivity, ability to tolerate a wide range of appropriate emotions and feelings in a variety of situations (also referred to as emotional flexibility, a cardinal sign of mental and emotional health), and for the individual, a greater sense of internal peace and wellness.

Recovery from Addiction

Recovery refers to the restoration of the connection with their true self through the grief process, but in order to even begin to address any of the initial trauma(s), it is absolutely imperative to stop the addictive behaviors since they are designed to avoid the core pain (and are extremely effective at it). For the purposes of my work with addictions, I separate the term abstinence, which refers to the cessation of the addictive behavior (e.g., stopping drinking/drugging, binge eating, sexually acting out) and recovery, which refers to a restoration to a relatively normal st ate of existence. Along the recovery continuum there are a variety of set points which are very difficult to identify discretely, including recovering at one end and recovered at the other.

There is a very clear difference between even the fully recovered individual and someone being cured, and in terms of chemical addictions, the difference is that the cured person could drink or use drugs with virtual impunity. In other words, they would be able to have an occasional drink or smoke a joint, etc., without any untoward events happening out of the ordinary and with no need to repeat the behaviors again anytime in the future.

In dealing with the behavioral addictions involving eating disorders and sexual activities, the idea of abstinence versus recovery has different implications in that one has to eat and if involved in a healthy relationship with another, sex will most likely be a welcome part of that relationship. Therefore recovered would take on the meaning of having a normal healthy relationship with food or sex, as well as positive body image (for people with eating disorders) and a generally positive self-image and esteem.