The Power of Addiction

and the addiction of power is a TEDx talk given by Dr Gabor Mate in 2012.  I heard him speak this week-end as part of the Recovery 2.0 Online Conference and boy is he good!

Here is his TED presentation:

I love his explanation because it resonates with my experience.  I understand his viewpoint.  Completely.

To precis:

Addiction is universal, it is not just about substances, but can be behaviour too.  So shopping, gambling, sex, the internet, exercise.  Or in his case work and classical music CD’s.  All addictions are about a void inside of us that we try to fill externally.

His view is that we need to fill the void internally by feeling things from the past and acknowledging the emptiness that the absence of addiction creates in the present.  It isn’t just about changing our behaviour.  We have to address the underlying issues and find ways of letting go.

He sees the addiction as teaching us and that we have to ask questions, for example:

  • What did it do for me?
  • What does it mean for me?
  • Why was I missing whatever I was looking for in that behaviour?
  • Where might I find it?
  • How do I regain it?
  • What does the void represent?

This mirrors what I am learning about myself in CBT.  I thought I could address the drinking as a stand alone issue but the reality is that it is symptomatic of something much greater and more complex about my way of thinking and relating to the world.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and it generates reflection in you like it did in me.  Let me know what you think 🙂

25 thoughts on “The Power of Addiction

  1. My own experience with CBT was less therapeutic. I was made to question relationships with people I love and trust completely. It was awful, I felt my therapist was a bully. Can’t say it helped my drinking at all, quite the opposite!

    1. Interesting you say that Sarah. As Lucy knows I am considering CBT (it will be a first for me), one of my worries is finding someone who I can trust to explore issues in a gentle way. I’m fairly ignorant about the underlying principles and I would expect that the term CBT is likely to be an umbrella term to cover different methods. I was particularly interested in your comment, as my sister had some form of therapy in the USA, as part of her rehab, and her husband called me to warn me that she was going to be angry with ME as the therapy had uncovered things that had happened when we were kids that had affected her. I couldn’t remember any of them myself by the way. I certainly do not want to go down that avenue, and I guess you can ask someone which type of therapy they are going to use?

      1. Hey Jude 🙂 I can only speak for myself and my experience but the therapist I am seeing is exploring the issues in a gentle way and I trust her. CBT itself is a very specific branch of time limited psychological intervention that is used widely by IAPT ( as a self-help guided intervention for Tier 1 & 2 clients. There are many different types of therapy but the research evidence base for CBT is robust and it is recommended by NICE (as I’m sure you are aware). Accessing it through IAPT or a GP recommendation or referral is the safest bet x

      2. Just another opinion on CBT… I had a CBT therapist a number of years ago and she was wonderful. I had such a positive experience. My therapist was positive, patient, and kind. She had me do a lot of worksheets and a lot of visualization. I can’t say it was easy but I will say that it helped me more than anything else ever has.

    2. Hi Sarah 🙂 I’m so sorry to hear that you had such a negative therapeutic experience of CBT. Not what you needed at all!

      1. Hi Lucy, no, not good, but it doesn’t put me off. I should have looked for someone with a recommendation but I live in a small Middle Eastern state where ironically alcohol abuse is rife but not widely recognised or adressed or talked about! Will take more care in choosing a practitioner next time 🙂

      2. Hi Sarah 🙂 I’m glad it’s not put you off and if you need a practitioner in the future I hope you find one that treats you with respect and kindness.

  2. I haven’t time to watch the video now, but I will later. I loved Gabor’s book ‘In the realm of the hungry ghosts’, all about his experience working with drug addicted clients. It has a lot of key information about the brain and addiction, I’d recommend it!

    1. Hi Addictedtosobriety (nice name!) Thanks for reading and commenting. Thanks too for the book recommendation and have added it to my wishlist 🙂

      1. Sure thing, I’ll pop over now 🙂 Edited to add: it takes me to a link that says it is no longer available as the author has deleted the site??

      2. I’ll try again now. No still no luck. When I click on your name (underneath your gravatar image) it takes me to the same message. Usually when I click on this for someone it takes me to their blog (and have just checked another one to make sure I’m not being a numpty – and it worked). Not sure what to suggest – maybe contact to help you out? 🙂

  3. Loved the video and found it so interesting, particularly the way that he separated out the nature of addiction from the things we get addicted to. He made addiction seem so much more human, so part of the way we are- such a different perspective from the moralistic view that it is some kind of choice, weakness or failure of spirit. Thanks for posting 🙂 xx

    1. It’s good isn’t it? And you’re right he narrows the gap between ‘us’ and ‘them’ as we try to distance ourselves from what we don’t want to acknowledge or see in ourselves. That we are both ‘us’ and ‘them’ 🙂 xx

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