The Meaning of Our Symptoms

THE MEANING OF OUR SYMPTOMS
BY MARY COOK, M.A., R.A.S.

Symptoms for substance abuse addictions typically symbolize numbing of pain, releasing or acting out repressed emotion, and artificially creating external distractions from either internal chaos or feelings of emptiness.  Additionally the chemicals provide false feelings of confidence, energy, power, pleasure and peace.  We want drugs to do for us what we feel we can’t, because our life experiences and role models did not provide a sufficient reflection of these feelings.  So we look outside of ourselves for a solution. 

Eating disorder symptoms commonly attempt to comfort, control, protect and punish self, and can be symbolic re-enactments of prior sexual abuse.  Our need to control what goes into and leaves our body indicates that we couldn’t trust others to comfort, nurture and protect us, and we didn’t experience healthy models of control and punishment.Typically we have a history of violations and failures from others, resulting in distrust.  Our control over our food and body is a substitute for a positive relationship with ourselves, mental and emotional nurturing and healthy boundaries.  Our over-focus on the appearance of our body is to avoid internal pain and suggests a lack of healthy valuing and acceptance of our physical selves. 

Compulsive sex is usually a response to prior sexual abuse, or premature sexual stimulation.  There is an over identification of self with sexual functions, and a sense of power or attractiveness from sex, which is typically missing in other aspects of self.  The focus on needing sex comes from past failures to feel a loving union with family, healthy affection, and a sense of belonging and acceptance.  The feeling of power and adrenalin from sex addiction is meant to distract from feelings of fear, emptiness, loss, depression, vulnerability and past trauma.  Promiscuity and prostitution can be an example of repetition compulsion, where we focus on the differences between past trauma and current circumstances, and deny the similarities of using and abusing bodies as objects disconnected from heart and soul energy, and non-sexual aspects of us.    

Codependents project personal needs, problems and pain onto others, and falsely believe that if others change, they will experience well being.  Codependence occurs because of a lack of a healthy childhood dependent experience, and prematurely adopting the role of a caretaker for others.  We would rather focus on feeling powerful enough to attempt to help or control others, than feeling scared of the absence of healthy, reliable support for ourselves.  This means that until we heal, we will continue to need others to have problems so that we can be distracted from our own pain.  As a child with poor role models for parenting, our caretaking abilities can’t help but be deficient.  Thus our judgment of others is typically a transference from our childhood caretakers, as well as a projection of our own inadequacy.

Workaholism is an attempt to derive self-esteem and positive feelings about life, without risking personal, emotional investment in relationships.  This indicates painful failures and disappointments in past relationships, resulting in fear, and the perception of emotional unworthiness.  We don’t know how to feel comfortable, validate or nurture the emotional, personal aspects of ourselves or others, so we focus on feeling important for external achievements.

Gambling can reflect an attachment to adrenalin charges to compensate for loss, worry and depression.  A defensive sense of entitlement arises to distract from feelings of fear, vulnerability and inadequacy to support ourselves in some way.  This typically originates in feeling a lack of support and internal value, in childhood.  Entitlement also stems from anger toward those who failed to demonstrate adequate support and reliability when it was sorely needed.  We doubt our ability to support ourselves and our life, from inner talents and work, and gamble money on a false hope that something big outside of us will support us.    

In life it is inevitable that we become wounded in some way.  And this can take us onto a battlefield, where we try to feel powerful or just survive and demean, deny, damage and destroy what is vulnerable inside and outside of us, falsely believing that vulnerability is our enemy.  We exert our small minded willfulness in offensive and defensive thoughts, feelings and actions in order to hide the vulnerable, needy, wounded child within us.  And we never can kill this part of us.  That’s why our negative thoughts, feelings & actions continue.  

We can’t get beat up by a parent, go to a park, beat up a kid that’s younger and weaker than us, and say whew, now that energy is out of me, I feel happy, peaceful and free.  Whatever energy we give outwardly, returns to us magnified.  We can’t substitute healthy love, affection, attention and interest for a dozen donuts.  There is no amount of money, sex, shopping, work, etc. that can compensate for wounded child energies.  But we have the opportunity to experience our own “dark night of the soul”, where we realize we haven’t seen clearly and have gone astray.  When willfulness becomes willingness, deceit becomes honesty, and rigid habits become open-mindedness, we can receive what Heaven wants to give us; the memory that we are divinely created miracles surrounded by divinely created miracles.