Addiction can present as problems at the ‘tip of an iceberg’, manifesting as someone’s visible or hidden relationship to alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, compulsive eating, exercise, gambling, shopping, sex, pornography and masturbation - to name just a few
But when do any of these behaviours become an actual addiction? Usually, when someone is no longer able to control them, and their use begins to harm their life and the lives of others around them. Promises to give up are sincerely made, but broken over and over, fuelling a sense of shame and failure. Admitting the problem is the first step towards recovery and out of a rock-bottom. But what causes addiction? And how exactly can dramatherapy help recover from it? The answer lies underneath the surface, deep at the core of the iceberg.
For some people, feeling their feelings is overwhelming. They experience intense emotions and feel ‘too much’. Others feel nothing at all and feel ‘dead inside’. Perhaps they create excitement or drama just to feel alive. Perhaps in childhood, they developed strategies to numb out or intensify their feelings to survive or dissociate from the world around them. Their environment might have been dangerous, abusive, dysfunctional or unsafe. As adults, they don’t seem equipped to deal with life, so make their own rules. They search for meaningful connection, but struggle to form intimate relationships. Instead, they form an attachment or dependency to a substance or behaviour to help self-sooth unresolved or unconscious wounds.
Addiction is a coping mechanism and a reaction to this rupture. The rupture has been traumatic, and trauma shatters the human psyche into many fragmented parts. Addiction is a way to anaesthetise the pain that won’t seem to go away. Fragments and parts of the psyche are sent down to the unconscious shadow, where they are less painful to manage. This is what lies at the core of the iceberg, where a very frightened and wounded child is usually hiding.
A dramatherapist can help people find recovery, heal these wounds, reconnect to that lost child and discover a healthier relationship with themselves and others. Dramatherapy works directly with the unconscious through stories, character development, play and embodiment. Less thinking takes place, and more process. The process allows a connection to hidden and buried parts, deep within the iceberg and becomes healthier way to safely ‘act-out’ feelings with creativity and playfulness.
Simon Marks, A Change Of Scene, The Practice, Mount Carmel Rehab, Gay Men’s Group Therapy