From the moment we are born we are instanteneously given a job title and propelled into the role of learner. Everything we do subconsciously and consciously is because of everything we have learned from the environment around us. To love, to walk, to talk, to sing, to be angry, to fight. These are all things we actively watched play out in our lives as children.
Like a small recording device our brain somehow manages to soak up everything through the minds eye taking a snapshot picture complete with a story to a company that picture.
Once committed to memory, a part of our brain is able to access the actions and words that have been buried and these can be called upon as guidance to situations, places and with people.
Our environment in the early years can be seen as a key factor for the way we behave as children and indeed as adults. Parents, families, siblings and authority figures all have quite an impact. In particular parents or guardians have a vital role in teaching, nurturing and honing their children’s tools and skills to combat daily life.
It is from these ‘role models’ we gain knowledge and experience of how to deal with a particular situation. So for example if you had parents who always argued, stormed off, ignored each other and didn’t speak to each other for a few days, as a child, growing up you might have hated this but subconsciously your brain would be collecting these memories and actions and processing the behavioural patterns and committing them to memory. Why would the brain do this? It’s true we know very little about this precious structure. However, recent research into Neuro-Science has helped shed light on some of the processes that occur. We have a part of our brain a small nut shaped part called the Amygdala which is responsible for the control of memories, emotions, movement and it is here where the actions are stored. It’s really simple, the amygdalas job is to protect. Ever heard of the fight or flight response? We all have it, an internal warning system of potential threats to the body. Our system kicks in which can cause the body to be on ‘high alert’. It’s the Amygdala’s job to warn of us danger. In the same nature the amygdala is also like a big archive. It files a way a ‘what to do’ in certain situations. When we are faced with a situation, we look for a coping tool. This coping tool/s is usually stored away and is brought up when a situation similar previously had taken place.
The major issue with this is although the Amygdala believes it is trying to be helpful for us by aiding us in situations, sometimes it throws out things that although were committed to memory, may not have been the best course of action for us at the best possible time.
It makes this very difficult when the tools we were given were not appropriate or not necessarily the healthiest or correct way of dealing with things like stress, sadness, pain.
As an adult when we are faced with situations we usually revert to our’handy tool kit’ as it’s served us ‘well’. The problem with this is our Amygdala can’t tell the difference between right or wrong because that’s not its job.
Addiction, doesn’t matter what type of Addiction it is, is just another coping tool, in the box committed to memory. Recent research into the role of Addiction and Co-dependency is now very much centred on Addiction being a behavioural learning pattern just like any other behavioural learning pattern.
At one stage or in many instances we watched someone in our lives pick up a bottle after a fight, or smoke a fag after a stressful day. These are all just learned behaviours.
The good news is, like any behavioural pattern, it can be ‘unlearned’. The bad news is, with Addiction this means basically rewriting a new story with a new set of coping tools and a tool box gleaming with helpful, healthy and practical tools to help with the ups and downs of life. What’s so bad about this? As adults we are reluctant to change, we have already had years of being a certain way and coping a certain way. Secondly, it takes strength of character to want to adopt a new way of life. It can take a while to rewire the brain, but it can be done.
As you can imagine when two people meet each other, they both already come with two separate tool kits for dealing and coping with situations . It is when these tool kits don’t marry up, is when their is relationship trouble. Inevitably unless both people have figured out whether their tool kits serve themselves or each other, any relationships that they have will more than likely end in disaster.
It is vital to be honest with one self with your past and be open to the possibility of changing your tool kit, or be able to tell that other person that their tool kit needs to be addressed. Communication with each other and openness are the best possible factors to helping address any change that needs to take place.
Addiction doesn’t mean your broken, it just means you have learned an unhealthy way of coping with events and situations and like any behavioural pattern, can be ultimately changed when that person is ready to.