The attention value of using such techniques as drinking smoking, and taking drugs to defy authority and their value as a means of inflating the ego lead some people to reply upon them to ease the psychological pain that comes from self-dissatisfaction and self-rejection. People discover, often by trial and error, that psychological pain can be eased by any technique that helps them to forget their troubles temporarily. This they may discover very early, even before they recognize the attention value of defying authority.
As psychological pains increase, may people follow the same path that they use easing physical pain; they increase the frequency of use and the intensity of the pain-killer. Just as some people become addicted to the use of aspirin or codeine, so some become addicted to the use of psychological pain-killers.
Today it is recognized that a person who has become addicted to any technique to deaden the psychological pain of self-rejection is suffering from personality sickness. Instead of condemning him for weakness of will power, as was formerly done, most people approve the new trend, which involves finding out what is responsible for the personality sickness so that its cause can be eliminated and the use of pain-killers made unnecessary.
In many cases, the infrequent and moderate use of psychological pain-killers cannot correctly be regarded as a danger signal of personality sickness. The motivation for their use may be social doing what everyone dose or merely the desire to attract attention.
On the other hand, their user may be regarded as a danger signal under three conditions: first, if they are used more often in solitude than in social settings; second, if they are used so frequently and with such intensity that they attract negative attention only pity or contempt; and third, if they are used much more often by those who are not well liked or who are socially inadequate than by those who are popular and who make good social adjustments. “Addictions,” write Stewart and Liv-son, “are not isolated habits but expressions of pervasive personality tendencies”.
Studies of people of different ages who are addicted to psychological pain-killers reveal that certain personality traits are characteristic among them. They are usually less popular and more rebellious, withdrawn, irresponsible, and easily dominated by parents or spouses than non-addicts. In describing the personality characteristics of the young male narcotic addict, Gilbert and Lombardi write.
He appears to be the kind of irresponsible, undependable, egocentric individual who has a disregard for social mores, acts on impulse, and demands immediate gratification of his wants. He is impatient and will act out aggressively against authority or others who thwart his desires. This acting out may then be followed by feelings of guilt and depression which can only be alleviated by more drugs..... Thus, the use of drugs may seem to him to be the only realistic solution to his problems at least it offers him a temporary relief from the pain of living.