Living as a love or approval addict, according to Dr. Paul, is a very hard way to live. You have to constantly make sure you look right, say the right thing and do the right thing to get the needed love and approval. And who's developed the grading scale?
Those addicted to approval have feelings that seem like they're on a roller coaster - from getting the wonderful feelings that come from getting your love "fix" to feeling the despair that comes when your "supply," the source of your love and approval, goes away.
When you are love/approval addicted, it's as if you've given yourself up for adoption. Instead of learning to take responsibility for your own happiness by loving and approving of yourself, you have handed yourself over to others for love and approval, making them responsible for your feelings.
This inner self-abandonment will always cause the deep pain of low self-esteem, making you dependent on others to validate your own sense of worth. The sad thing is that love is the most abundant thing in the universe. It is always within us and around us - if we can recognize it.
As long as you make others your source, you will not find the love, peace and joy that you seek. It's really an inside job. But where do you start, especially if this is a longstanding pattern in your life?
Those suffering from an approval addiction often live their lives on autopilot not consciously aware they're giving their power away. Here are some clues that you're exhibiting this behavior:
If this sounds familiar, you may want to acknowledge that you have an approval addiction. Because an addiction is something that controls our behaviors, it's no wonder you act in certain ways. Until we accept and approve of ourselves, no amount of approval from others will keep us permanently secure. Easier said than done, though.
Baby steps can help make changes in such longstanding patterns. Since we teach people how to treat us, some retraining may need to take place. Every time you break the pattern, the pain and discomfort you feel will lessen. But it takes lots of repetition for a new pattern to form.
Rather than fight with an addiction, you can starve it to death by simply not feeding it. Approval addicts attempt to avoid or relieve the pain of disapproval by doing whatever people want them to do. Here's an example illustrated by Dr. Joyce Meyer in the book "Approval Addiction":
Jenny is addicted to approval. She's fallen into the trap of "people pleasing" in her relationship with her mother, who is a very controlling person. Her mother expects Jenny to drop whatever she's doing to cater to her every whim. She gets angry if Jenny has already made plans and is unavailable.
To have the freedom and to be able to enjoy her life and her mother, Jenny will have to choose to do what she knows is right for her, even if her mother disapproves. She must be willing to endure the pain of rejection. Every time she relieves her pain by giving in to her mother, she feeds her addiction - and her mother's. Yikes!
The decision not to give in will be hard for Jenny emotionally, because she has always caved and let her mother have her way. It won't be easy for Jenny's mother, either, because she is addicted to getting what she wants. She needs to be in control to feel good about herself.
Jenny will have to endure some difficulty for a period of time. At times her difficulty will seem to be more than she can stand. If she refuses to go back to being controlled by her mother, however, she will eventually be free.
Jenny and her mother could have a chance to develop a new and healthy relationship if they're willing to stop playing old tapes from the past because the present is the only place where change can take place.
The past is history. The future's a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.
Linda Arnold, MBA, is a certified wellness instructor and chairwoman and CEO of The Arnold Agency, a marketing communications firm in Charleston. Reader comments may be directed to Linda Arnold, The Arnold Agency, 117 Summers St., Charleston, WV 25301, or e-mailed to livinglifefu...@arnoldagency.com.