What is addiction and how to beat it
Vast numbers of us do things to excess, or have the feeling that it might be difficult to stop doing something, or sometimes wonder why on earth we have just done something that seemed attractive before we did it.
Over 25% of all Britons smoke, for example, a behaviour that costs tens of thousands of pounds in the course of an average lifetime, and not only shortens that life but makes it unpleasant for others and often dreadful for the smoker. However, a proper understanding of the givens of human nature could change all that.
Addiction spreads to every kind of pleasurable behaviour: drinking, surfing (wave and internet), sex, food, and so on. Some activities or substances can generate a feeling that is so powerful that life without that feeling may never seem worthwhile again. For example, many gamblers have a big win early in their career and then spend the rest of their life chasing that buzz.
Why do addictions seem so hard to beat?
So what is it that makes addictions so easy to acquire and so difficult for most people to shake off? The answer lies in the chemical reward mechanisms that the human brain uses to motivate itself to act and learn.
The excitement we get when we are keen to do something is produced by dopamine, a natural brain chemical, very like cocaine in its effect, that raises our emotional level so we want to take action. And the warm feelings of satisfaction we get after doing something — eating, laughing, having sex, or achieving some new understanding or skill — are produced by endorphin, another natural substance (which is similar to heroin). Working together these chemicals keep us interested in doing the biological functions that preserve the species, and stretch each one of us to learn and achieve.
In a well-balanced life, a reasonable amount of natural reward is felt by the human every day, but in a life where essential emotional needs are not met and abilities are not stretched, the rewards do not come and life feels flat and meaningless.
This kind of life is rich territory for addictions to target, as every addictive substance or behaviour either stimulates a reward mechanism or provides a chemical reward directly. Dangerous activities stimulate production of dopamine, generating a feeling of exhilaration; injecting heroin gives a warm, cosy feeling like the natural feelings of satisfaction you might get after fulfilling any biologically necessary function.
Addiction can be beaten
Addiction can be beaten by many people without necessarily becoming dependent on a recovery group and without having to consider yourself as an 'addict' for the rest of your life.
To get away from addictive behaviour it is necessary to understand two things: the way these reward mechanisms work, and the way life should be constructed in order to receive the natural rewards that make addictive activities less attractive.
A human givens therapist will work with people who have compulsive behaviours to help them get their real emotional needs met and acquire the strategies and understanding that will enable them to walk away from danger and embrace a whole life.
If you or someone you know suffers from addiction, there are many things that people can do to help themselves. Useful information can be found in the best-selling book Freedom from Addiction, by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell.
Find out more
'Tackling Addiction: Understanding and treating all kinds of compulsive behaviour' online course - Discover why we are all vulnerable to addictions, what causes and drives addictive and compulsive behaviours – and the best ways to overcome them
Brief therapy for stopping addictions – a practical skills-based day run at a variety of venues around the UK and Ireland, and available as inhouse training.
Both of the above courses count towards the Human Givens Diploma.
Explore our articles and interviews
Listen to Brian Greene’s interview with Sue Saunders (Human Givens College tutor and Educational Director) as they discuss the HG approach to treating mental illness, human givens counselling and our training events.
James Tapper suggests that Charles Dickens’s famous seasonal novel contains much that reflects the human givens approach to therapy.
People who are vulnerable to depression tend to generate interpretations of stressful life events and low moods that have negative implications for their future and for their self-worth.
Ivan Tyrrell warns that hypnosis is a powerful tool that must be used with care, understanding and integrity.
A young Russian woman, Nina, describes how just three sessions of human givens therapy lifted out of her suicidal depression and turned her life around.
USE of illicit drugs is common in schizophrenia, with a recent meta-analysis showing that as many as one in four patients had ‘cannabis use disorder’.
Lorraine Debnam describes how she used her chance to bring psychological help to Rwandan street children.
Emily Gajewski describes how the human givens approach has provided a practical focus for working with women struggling to cope with everyday life
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Volume 25, No 1, 2018, the latest edition of the Human Givens Journal is now available.
Date posted: 11/06/2018
Brian Greene and Jennifer Broadley discuss how to apply the human givens approach in couples therapy.
Date posted: 30/05/2018