From Addiction to Autonomy
Are we all potencial addicts?... How to overcome an addiction by developing one´s creativity?
What is an addiction and what can one become addicted to?
All the human beings are potencial addicts, for one can be addicted to a substance ( tobacco, food, cocaine ) emotional bond ( a partner, a son/daughter, boss ) or object ( mobile internet devices, work, money ). What determines that it is an addiction is the subject´s lack of freedom. The word addict comes from the Latin word addictus, which means slave. We should wonder why a human being turns into a slave and why he loses his personal autonomy. This happens because the addictive object becomes unique and supreme. It provokes an artificial and an exogenous regulation of the psychobiological rhythms. The tic-tac of one´s biological clock is placed in the suprachiasmatic nucleus, in charge of managing one´s time, space and affections, gets out of control without the person being aware of that, and therefore giving place to a slavery or addiction
What does your therapy to treat addictions consist in?
The challenge of this new therapy is to go through the dependence, the vacuum of identity, once in a lifetime. At the same time that the addict abandons the substance ( emotional bond or addictive object ) that provides him with a false identity, he also constructs little by little an authentic and own identity. It produces a profound transformation that consists in passing from the paradigm of the dependency to the paradigm of personal autonomy. The most important issue is not the goal, but what happens during that transit. As there is not anylonger an exogenous regulator -drug-, the person gets in contact irremediably with his own affections and his creativity, having access in that way to the most profound substrate of himself. The intimate space starts its extension process, gaining ground to the illness. It will not be any longer an all powerful and omnipresent substance that rules the subject´s life. In this manner the switch from being a consumer ( and consumed ) to be an active agent that generates an authentic project of life. In a metaphorical sense we may say that the boat does not drift because now there is a captain -subject- who is the helmsperson with a more clear direction in mind and a well defined course.
Is there any difference between the treatment to addictions to certain substances which produce a physical dependence and the rest of substances, emotional bonds or objects?
Yes and No. Although it is true that there are substances, such as cocaine, that alter organically the dopaminergic receptors functioning once it passes through the neurochemical barrier, the therapeutical device is the same, also there are substances, such as opiates, mophine, and other related substances, such as heroine, which they all are made from poppy ( plants from which opium is extracted ) that have a stronger organical compromising component, requiring medical hospitalization and treatment, and a phamacological substitution that acts as a neurochemical support to be treated effectively.
In the case of cocaine, which I previously was talking about, it is possible to treat and cure the addicts with the therapeutical device in transit managing them without a psychiatric medication and hospitalization.
What about psychiatric drugs?
To construct and reconstruct a solid and consistent identity it is essential to overcome a problem related to vacuum and addictive pathology.
The developement of imagination and of the intimate space entails an hypothalamic self-regulation of the endogenous rhythms. To give medication when it is not necessary is to provide the subject with an overprotection that makes him more difficult his autonomous growth. The medication only must be used in those few cases in which the worsening increases and there are not enough resources to stop the progression of the illness. The trap of hyper- and self-medication is that the medication inhibits the contacts with one´s affections and imagination, making the subject regulated in an exogenous way, abandoning his own endogenous self-regulation, and as a result, abandoning himself.
Self-medication and cosmetic psychopharmacology, far from being a resource, can become another legal addiction but , anyway, an addiction.
What can you tell us about sex addiction?
In addictions it is very important to achieve a profound work with the addict´s identity, to prevent that a vacuum in identity may provoke psychosomatic disorders, if the addiction is not approached with the proper complexity. For example, in the case of the actor Michael Douglas who had a terrible sex addiction a bad approch of his vacuum provoked a somatization that triggered a throat cancer. The actor was trapped in a legal contract when he married Catherine Zeta-Jones for if he was unfaithful, he would lose his wealth. By then, the actor´s son was arrested for drug-trafficking.
This imposition plus his son´s issue , and having no escape mechanism to his anxiety by means of sex, provoked his throat cancer. In this situation of the actor, there was not any consistent work for the construction of a psychobiological identity, which ended up in a thoat cancer. It is very significative that it was in his throat, because of the existing interrelation between the gonads and the throat, and that is why in slang we say "to have someone by the balls". Testicles are related to sexuality and being a father. Probably, if the actor had approached his addiction and vaccum in a responsible way, developing his identity, the illness would not have appeared organically. In actors it is very frequenty that they remain fixed to the characters they interpret in movies and in theatrical plays and so they abandon unconsciously their own identity and are thrown into the vacuum.
This case of sex addiction is a clear example of the importance of putting together the psychosomatic and the addictions, and doing a profound work in identity is a preventive task in the triggering of illnesses, such as cancer. A substance, an object or person can settle down in the vacuum, but also an organic illness.
What about the addictions to the new technologies?
The new technologies are very addictive and their abuse reinforces the affective anaesthesia and the lack of contact. It is very frequent to see children in the restaurants connected to an iPad, like robots, so that they do not make noise or disturb their parents or other clients. This is a case of overadapted parents (robots) who breed overadapted children. The new technologies are modifying the bonds with the children because many parents are alienated, not only by work exigences, but also for the "screen". These "technologic earflaps" narrow the intimate space and the developement of creativity. As a patient of mine once said to me in a session: "that little evil device"- to what I answered: "that little intimate space that you have to feel and to create and that can widen and expand more and more".
Who Andres Martin Joison is?
- Is a specialist (europsy) in psychotherapies;
- In addictions;
- In psychosomatic;
- And in the DMIT (Dynamic and Material Imagination Therapy).
He has been proffesor in the University of Buenos Aires and clinical psychologist on addictions in the Statal Mental Health Centre Arturo Ameghino, in Buenos Aires.
He lives in Seville since 2001 and is a founding partner of the AHAPSA (Psychosomatic Hispanoamerican Association)
Author of the book "From Addiction to Autonomy". He plans to publish his second book in Spain this year and soon his first book will be published in English.