The Power of Psychic Pain – 2nd in a Series of 3 Articles – “You Can Never Get Enough of the Wrong Thing”

Many years ago in the mid 1970’s, when I was a fledgling psychotherapist, I attended a weekend workshop at deBenneville Pines, a lovely retreat center in the San Bernardino mountains. In the workshop the leader mentioned a phrase that I have never forgotten. It so impacted me that now, more than 35 years later, I am writing an article about it on my website. It is a profoundly important phrase, one which I have carried in my heart since long before the word “cyber-space”.

One might wonder why the phrase “You Can Never Get Enough of the Wrong Thing”  struck me so deeply. Even back then I was an over-eater, trying to get a handle on my compulsion to eat when I wasn’t hungry. Food was my substance and still is. It will always be so, for, as most of us are aware, addiction can be managed, but never cured. Anyone familiar with the 12 Step Program knows that we are always in recovery; we are never recovered.

In my life-long endeavor to manage my healthy(?) appetite for food, to understand the triggers behind compulsive eating, and to integrate the relationship between early developmental needs and longings and compulsive eating which distracts me from those needs, the phrase makes perfect sense to me. Whatever we are longing for in the moment may very well be connected to something that can not be satisfied by the substance or by food or by other people.

In the many years of practicing my profession it has become increasingly clear to me that the words in the 12-Step “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous are true. The ‘disease of addiction’ (alcohol, food, drugs) is “cunning and baffling”. It plays with our minds. Whether or not we subscribe to the term ‘disease’ to explain the condition that we grapple with on a regular basis, the fact remains that it is insidious, and for many people it is the center of their lives.

So, it doesn’t seem to matter how much one gets of the substance. It is a distraction from whatever lurks underneath, whatever is too painful to embrace, to explore, or to surrender to. Many times in working with couples I have heard each wanting something from the other that the other is unable to provide. Even if the significant other could understand his or her partner’s need and was willing to gratify that need, whatever is delivered is probably the wrong thing.

For instance, even an abundance of affection from the partner, every time it is demanded or needed can not address with exquisite attunement that which was missing and ‘hungered for’ in his/her early life, so long ago. Like the fruitless endeavors continuously pursued from substances, the early deficits can only be healed by one’s own willingness to look inside and accept was or is still missing, and grieve that loss

The Power Of Psychic Pain – The 3rd in a Series of 3 Articles – “The Irony is This – If You Don’t Go in, You Can’t Find Out”

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Mim Collins Licensed Marriage and Family Therapy serves the San Fernando Valley Communities of Valley Village, Studio City, North Hollywood, Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, Burbank, Pasadena, Encino, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Sun Valley, Panorama City, Tarzana, and Lake Balboa.


Mim Collins, Psy.D., M.F.T.
Office in Valley Village
Phone: (818) 763-8222
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