Is it possible to find the root cause of a coping mechanism such as smoking or drinking too much coffee?

A client asked me this yesterday and here's my contemplated answer.

Is it possible to find the root cause/fix a coping mechanism such as smoking or drinking too much coffee, by resisting it and feeling into the sensations that arise? Correct me if I am wrong, I believe your hypothesis is that any addiction is a coping mechanism for trauma?

Yes, it is possible, with some caveats. Jean Jenson used this as a main doorway with her clients. It's also used in #primaltherapy, through isolating someone from all their pleasure-defenses in order to bring up the feelings.

By resist I mean to not engage in the behavior but observe the feelings that arise. Have you tried this with smoking?

I have, and it has improved things. The emotional dependency on it is gone. I no longer get depressed or emotionally vulnerable when I quit, which is big.

What I have to admit that I underestimated was physical dependency and withdrawal. That is still a mechanism operating independently from the emotional dependency. So even though I don't get cranky without coffee anymore for example, I can still habituate myself to it by using it for days or weeks in a row, and there will still be physical side effects with quitting. Same with smoking.

It's a lot easier to suffer the withdrawals though, because I'm emotionally still fine while my body is going through it. So it's not "all trauma", yes trauma is the driving force for coping, but then one still has to do a bit of breaking the habit and suffering the withdrawals.

Also I'm not fully primalled-through, I've read that people who have integrated all trauma become too physically sensitive to even tolerate coffee or smoking and things like that. I'm not there yet. After Ayahuasca I deceived myself that I was now beyond habituation and dependency, which was a mistake :)

I now believe that someone's favourite coping mechanisms are somewhat fixed, and when they start to Primal they now have a choice to deal with feelings in a different way (feeling and integrating them) instead of coping. But if they don't, they will have the drive towards their old coping behaviors when the next wave of feelings arises.

Until they reach bottom, which means they've felt all their unfelt childhood and birth stuff, they don't really get triggered anymore and instead there is an acute awareness of how situations remind them of their old feelings, without them becoming unbalanced, because everything is conscious. I now see ego backlash as simply a wave of the next trauma to integrate.

The model of "old identity feels threatened by new identity" is correct, but not helpful in the deepest way, because an integrated person actually doesn't need so much identity! Or rather: they don't need a new, healthier fiction to be created in order to include healthy habits or whatever, they simply feel their deepest authentic self all the time, and wanting to take care of themselves flows naturally from that.

Which also explains why psychedelics nudge people towards doing more meditation, yoga, healthy eating etc without the person doing any "identity shifting work". The desire to do healthy things arises naturally, only distorted by neurosis, and consciously crafting a new identity in order to be more hardworking or healthy is a neurotic way to go about things. Although it does help in the short term.

Janov speculated in his book Imprints that people's favourite substances are congruent with their early experiences or the needs they lacked, so babies that came out of the womb struggling and fighting to survive, will always be high-strung ambitious strugglers with increased testosterone and propensity for heart attacks (until they do primal), and they will crave sedatives such as alcohol. I came out of the womb "not ready", not fully awake and ready to go, and somewhat surrendered, so I don't like alcohol and can't get addicted to it, but I like stimulants that wake me up and make me feel ready, such as caffeine and nicotine. And people who lacked love, nurture, touch (serotonin and oxytocin) will take to opiates when given the opportunity.

Of course these are just my speculations and his loose observation. But it's interesting to think about.

Published by Erik Jongbloed on Apr 15, 2023
1 Conversation

Hey Erik, I'm scared of feeling what I feel without using the coping mechanisms(watching a tv show is one rn). Whats your advice?

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