Five days ago it was revealed that the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) had reported 47% more cases of emotional abuse to the police and children’s services than in the previous year.
Last week I wrote of the correlation between self harm and gambling addiction. This week once again I am reminded of the ever growing ripples in our society’s pool of social, mental health and addiction problems, which frequently flow one to the other. These problems all too frequently start with abuse in childhood, spreading then to isolation and loneliness, leading to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Then on to addiction; an attempt to self medicate the symptoms that were the result of basic needs childhood needs never being met. The need we all have for love and care, to feel valued. To believe that love is given to us for who we are and not conditional on what we do.
The British government are considering bringing into effect the ‘Cinderella Law’, making it an offence to cause a child to experience – among forms of emotional abuse and neglect – being made to feel inadequate, unloved “or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person”. In my practice with addiction of all kinds often I work with men and women for whom the story of Cinderella reflects a sad truth of their own lives. As children they felt inadequate and unloved, never ‘good’ enough, pretty enough, who worked unbelievably hard to achieve this exam grade, that career to make their parents proud, even if it meant making themselves miserable.
As therapy with their adult self progresses, underneath the surface layer of their addiction – a surface layer of selfishness- is revealed a forceful and relentless drive to ‘Please Others’ in an attempt finally to be rewarded with the love and approval that was so lacking in childhood. Delivering years of service with a smile has left little reward other than exhaustion, being taken for granted and loved only on condition they ‘Please Others’, they find themselves living among the cinders of disappointment, exhaustion, anger and frustration. It is then they have turned to ways of suppressing these feelings with their addiction.
Gambling online for many women might be their only invitation to the ball.
Advertisements for online gambling offer fun, glossy, glamorous images promise excitement, bright lights and even the chance to socialise with some new people. She herself can even pretend to be a new person, online it does not matter whether she is wearing her best ball gown or her rags. She can be her fantasy, fairy tale version of herself. Out of the cinders and to the ball in an instant, problems and frustrations forgotten.
Going to the online gambling ball is an invisible rebellion
She does not need to physically leave her home, so she can still appear to ‘Be Good’ ‘Work Hard’, ‘Please Others’.
We all know the story of Cinderella. When midnight strikes the magic dies and back to the cinders she goes and just the same with the magic of addiction. The magic ends when the spell of gambling, alcohol or drugs cause her to spend too much time, too much money, damaging her mental and physical well-being and adding more damage to her already fragile self esteem.
There is always the hope of a happier ever after. Effective treatment for long term recovery treatment helps:
- To identify the need to please to be rewarded with love
- To recognise we end up pleasing nobody when frustrations lead to addiction
- To work toward choice. The choice to please others when she so wishes, but also to sometimes chose to put herself first, too.
- To find out who she truly is. Who could she be if she did not spend a life time ‘Pleasing Others’ to buy love?
When she feels free to live a life more truly her own, a life of self acceptance, we find that actually she is someone who is quite capable of living a life addiction free.