AMBIVALENCE TOWARDS ADDICTION

kuca

We are all more or less addicted to a variety of things. These addictions can be obvious, or they can appear in more subtle form. In any case, they play a significant role regarding many problems in all areas of our lives. When we notice we are addicted to something, and that it is related to a lower quality of life, it makes sense to think that it would be a good idea to quit. If we stick with this thought, and even partially accept it as thruthful and significant, ambivalence is born.
Ambivalence is a kind of inner conflict. Inner conflict exists when we define reality in two different, opposing ways at the same time. This opposition of two conflicting perspectives on life may be explained as us viewing one mental object as positive and negative, useful and harmful at the same time.
Those mental objects, as the source of our ambivalence, are often different types of addiction.
Ambivalence towards addiction arises when we decide that it would be a good idea to quit. We then view our addiction as negative and harmful. We may even have different reasons for viewing our addiction this way, from it being socially unacceptable behavior, its negative effect on the way we look and our financial situation, our mood, to harmful effects on our mental and physical states, as well as different emotional reasons.
On the other hand, we still define the object of our addiction as something positive, for the same reasons that got us „hooked“ on it. Those reasons are somewhat more homogenic in nature and are related to unresolved psychological problems and avoiding unpleasant feelings. In any case, when we decide that it would be a good idea to quit, we create inner conflict. Inner conflicts are basically useful because their resolution is tied to personal growth and development. This goes for ambivalence towards addictions too. The resolution of this ambivalence is possible when we grow.
We typically view ourselves through our activities that are socially understandable and that we can talk about with others. Activities and life perspectives that are difficult to explain to others mostly remain in our subconscious. Reasons for quitting are more or less socially understandable, unlike the reasons which drew us towards addiction. Society holds certain concepts regarding how and why we become addicted, but these concepts mainly shine the light on only a small part of this troublesome area. That’s why it’s safe to say that the reasons for becoming addicted are not socially understandable. This has a significant influence on the starting position of our conscious mind in it’s effort to overcome ambivalence towards addiction. Our conscious mind will, most probably, be biased. We will view ourselves the same as the part that wants to quit does, because it’s reasons are socially understandable. On the other hand, it is hard for us to understand the part of us which defines our addiction as something positive. Therefore we first don’t accept it as a part of ourselves, we view it as “it”, “it” is something that stops us from quitting. We then form an attitude towards “it”, as if it were separate from us. We view this part as an enemy, an opponent, or a means for attaining “it’s” goals (goals of the socially understandable part). From other people we get, if not support, then understanding regarding the unfriendly or oppositional attitude towards “it”. When we talk in front of others about what stops us from quitting and present it as an opponent or enemy, we get more understanding. We then see the difference between more conservative circles which support viewing the addiction as an enemy, and the liberal circles, which show view it as something they are just opposed to. In any case, we are most likely going to feel encouraged to try and quit in spite of “it”. We therefore prove our will power, determination and the courage and strength we have to fight the problem. However, since we are in fact fighting against ourselves, which is absurd, sooner or later we must fail. If the problem is significant enough, that will motivate us to seek alternative ways of resolving this ambivalence towards addiction. The difficulties we face, which are linked to the addiction, can be so great that we are motivated to put aside the desire to present ourselves as a strong and brave person who can deal with difficulties and quit the addiction in spite of “what” is stopping him/her to do so. When we don’t really care about this image any more, we start looking for support or at least understanding from those circles we once found not so interesting. Which circles we will find depends on the path we choose in order to grow and develop as a person. They can also be circles that have unfriendly or opponent attitudes towards “it”.
However, if we are ready for it, we may seek understanding from those social circles that have a slightly different attitude towards “it”. In certain social groups, which are often formed so that people can work on “it”, what stops us from quitting is not viewed as unfriendly or opponent, it is viewed as a means. Something susceptible to manipulation in order to cooperate in the quitting process. This kind of approach is, of course, more constructive and gives significantly greater long term results. “It” realizes that it can actively participate in life.
While we were fighting against it, it projected our unfriendly attitude towards it onto other people and circumstances. It held them responsible for not being able to express itself. When our attitude towards “it” changes, “it” changes it’s (our unconscious) view of the world. Which leads to greater and permanent long term results than fighting against yourself.
However, since manipulating yourself is also absurd in a way, this also can not go on forever. After a while this motivational system becomes inefficient. If the problem is big enough, it motivates us to continue with research. We start to wonder why “it” is stopping us from quitting. This type of psychological growth requires a special kind of social support. We turn to psychotherapy. This, of course, can provide even more long term results. This situation also contains a little absurdity – to understand oneself, as if there were two selves, one self trying to understand, and “it” self trying to be understood.
The most long term results are acquired with an unbiased attitude towards psychological contents, towards the conflicted parts. Viewing that part of ourselves which is not socially understandable as ours just as much the other, socially understandable part, is key. It is of great value to work with our body, since those parts of our personality which we are not aware of most often manifest as physical sensations which we experience as “that” which doesn’t feel good in our body, which hurts, etc.
Such a holistic, unbiased attitude towards parts of our personality is actually an idea closest to that which is self-love. Love always refers to a whole, so a holistic attitude is closest to love.
Love towards self in situations of inner conflict means loving both conflicted sides, loving the conflict itself as well as the whole process of it’s resolution. This may seem odd to us, because so many of us have a negative attitude towards conflict, in our relationship with others, as well as regarding inner dynamics. Conflict and attempting to resolve it is often viewed as a negation of love. Even if we don’t view it as a negation of love, in any case, it is uncomfortable, and disrupts our everyday life and can be exhausting.
Love towards self appears as exactly this awareness that long term conflict resolution is possible only if we love this conflict and if we have patience and love for this whole process of its resolution. This patience is based on self-trust, and being aware of the fact that we are worth it.

Danijela Stojanović, clinical psychologist and therapist