feel to heal

If the words ‘how does that make you feel’ conjure up an on-the-couch session, that’s probably because psychoanalysts have been attempting for years to get to the truth of feelings. While humans may have an innate ability to feel, that doesn’t mean we’re able to effectively assess our feelings.

Mindfulness and other psychological methodologies advocate getting to the root of emotions and truly feeling them. On the subject of addiction, controversial ‘life strategist’ Shari Schreiber says, ‘All addiction is caused by suppression of feelings. If we could learn how to feel our emotions rather than fear them, all addictions and would literally cease to exist.’

‘All addiction is caused by suppression of feelings. If we could learn how to feel our emotions rather than fear them, all addictions and would literally cease to exist.’


According to Schreiber, addiction is addiction, no matter what you’re addicted to. From substances like alcohol and drugs to overeating or work, it’s the same mechanism. And so, too, the same mechanism for recovery applies. She contends that addiction is the ever-present nagging you feel, to fill the hole in your soul.

That, she says, is about being disconnected or disassociated from feelings and sensations that help you discern when you’ve eaten, imbibed, worked, worked out, etc enough, and stopping you before you get hurt, go numb or black out.


So, Schreiber asks addicts to look at conquering their addiction from a different angle – rather than concentrating on the substance or addiction itself, she asks them to look at what’s behind it. Gaining self-acceptance and enough emotional growth to help you feel all your feelings without censure, self-ridicule or self-judgment is the beginning. This is very similar to a mindfulness approach to problems. Acceptance and non-judgementalism.

It’s not a deprivation-based approach, because generally the moment you’re forbidden something, you crave it more. And you end up not being able to resist, which will bring about feelings of guilt and worthlessness, which you then try to dull by diving in to your addiction – and so the cycle begins again.


Schreiber says that addicts are tough on themselves, constantly scanning their inner terrain and beating themselves up for something. Being able to outgrow your addiction means you’ll need to grow your emotional muscles. Addictions can be terminated when there’s no longer a need to numb-out and run from you. If you haven’t grown emotionally, you may not have fully recovered, even if you aren’t participating in your previous addictive behaviours.

Being able to discern the difference between thoughts and feelings is vital, and Schreiber says addicts are usually unable to make that distinction. Many people simply keep themselves busy in order to avoid the thoughts rushing in and affecting their feelings. But the truth is, instead of actually feeling your emotions, you’ve analysed them and given them reasons to be there. Before long, you’re beating yourself up for crimes you probably haven’t even committed and you feel a whole lot worse. You see, emotions reflexively become thoughts and you’ve never learned to separate them. This results in depression, fatigue and anxiety.


People who compulsively run from their feelings are addicted to fixing, helping and rescuing others – when they run out of issues in their own life to keep them busy, they look for victim types who’ll happily supply drama and chaos to fill up their intolerable emptiness.

Self-sabotage in often inherent in addicts, and the core of the issue often begins in infancy and is associated with fear. Anything that’s unfamiliar or foreign is intimidating, so how can you welcome something you’ve never experienced, such as love, joy, success, etc?

But, Schreiber says this is learned behaviour, albeit inadvertently, from our parents. By example, parents teach their children how to hide from some emotions. This is built up in us so that by the time we reach school, we’re pretty good at the emotional hideaway game. When feelings are suppressed in childhood, emotional growth is stunted. We grow up trying to function with a very limited number of emotions, which hampers our capacity to react appropriately to many life circumstances – so, addiction becomes a great escape.