A dictionary definition of addiction is simple: “a strong compulsion to have or do something harmful.” Simple, or is it? Who defines what is harmful? And to whom? Addiction throws up barriers to answering those questions about what is harmful.
I encourage you to consider your truth. Are you able to recognize it? Has it become obscured by denial, shrouded in secrecy, deflated by minimization,or inflated by maximization?
The Barrier of Minimizing
Madison alternated between “things are so bad” she didn’t want me to tell her parents and “things aren’t so bad,” so there was no need to tell her parents. We had to wrestle for a while before she could see that the goal in both of those opposites was not to tell her parents. Her life was broken and she wanted to keep the damage from them, through either outright secrecy or obscuring the truth by trying to minimize it.
When the thing you broke as a kid was invariably discovered, you could no longer keep the damage secret. Your only option was to minimize the damage, to make it seem less than it was. “We have plenty of glasses.” “No one will notice the scratch if I turn the lamp this way.” You used any reason you could come up with to try to avoid the consequences, which experience taught you were going to be negative.
Addiction doesn’t travel far from those youthful minimizations. The consequences you’re trying to minimize, however, can be much more severe than a broken glass or a scratched lamp. Unfortunately, as you get older, addiction can cause more destruction, but addicts can become more adept at minimizing the destruction.
Minimizing cannot be allowed to answer what is harmful.
The Barrier of Maximizing
Minimizing is an attempt to make the addiction seem less than it is. Maximizing is an attempt to make the addiction seem more than it is—more powerful, more inevitable. Maximizing is also called catastrophic thinking. From Psychology Today: “Catastrophic thinking can be defined as ruminating about irrational worst-case outcomes. Needless to say, it can increase anxiety and prevent people from taking action in a situation where action is required.”
In the defeatist thinking of maximizing, the addiction is so big that it’s already won and attempting to change is a lost cause. The future becomes defined in failure, with success no longer up for grabs. “This is just the way I am” becomes the rationale for stay- ing trapped within the addiction, which becomes the new normal.
After the power of the addiction has been maximized and deemed inevitable, I’ve seen something odd happen—the maximized is flipped into the minimized. What was so huge and terrible and inevitable becomes “just the way things are” and takes on a sense of normalcy. Normal has a way of seeming less terrible. When terrible becomes normal, the definition of terrible is downgraded. Maximization morphs into minimization.
Maximizing cannot be allowed to answer what is harmful.
If you or someone you know suffers from addiction, it is beneficial to understand the causes of these conditions. Contact The Center • A Place of HOPE today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process. Ron Breazeale, “Catastrophic Thinking,” Psychology Today, March 25, 2011, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-the-face-adversity/201103 /catastrophic-thinking.