Thursday, 16 March 2017

Yet Another Therapy Totally Misunderstands Addicts and Drunks

I had a good hearty chuckle on the District Line into Hammersmith the other Saturday morning. Quite a sustained chuckle, in fact. Therapists! Dont’cha just luv ‘em? Richard Bandler and John Grinder to be specific, in their book Reframing: Neuro-Linguistic Programming and the Transformation of Meaning.

The claims I am making would be outrageous to anyone in AA, andalso to the belief systems that most therapists have been taught. Theyare not incredible if you approach addiction from an NLP standpoint.From that standpoint, all you need to do is 1) collapse anchors on the dissociation, 2) get communication with the part that makes him drink, 3) find out what secondary gain—camaraderie, relaxation, or whatever—the alcohol gets for him, and 4) find alternative behaviorsthat get the secondary outcomes of alcohol but don't produce the damage that alcohol does. A person will always make the best choiceavailable to him. If you offer him better choices than drinking to get all the positive secondary gains of alcohol, he will make good selections
Why was I chuckling? Because there was no secondary gain. Not for me. I didn’t drink to get relaxed. I never felt camaraderie after a couple of pints. I have no idea what any secondary gain of drinking is. I drank for the buzz: I drank to get slightly drunk, but not because of what being slightly drunk did for me, because it usually didn’t do a thing. I got drunk because it was a good feeling in and of itself. I got drunk because I liked the buzz, but sometimes I would have to get through a couple of drinks before that hit. The first cigarette was usually pretty horrible as well: but the third was just fine. Chocolate and ice cream are good from start to finish, just not very buzzy.

Most therapists are ordinary people and have as much understanding of addicts and drunks as they do of complex one-forms. Addicts do stuff for the high, and it doesn’t matter if the addiction is to drugs, booze, sudoko, chess, programming or gardening. I cook because I need food: but if I cooked because I just love flames and knives and ingredients and utensils and chopping and sample-tasting, because being in the the process made me feel good in that special way, then that would be addiction. It’s just not called that when the process produces something and seems to take a lot of energy and skill. Because capitalism.

But now I have a question. If on the one thing I do know about, they are incredibly wrong, are they also incredibly wrong in the rest of their book? Or did they just step way, way outside their expertise?

I read the book because someone whose blog I follow had it on his “must-read” list. Now, of course, I’m wondering about the others on that list.

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