Are you addicted to praise?

Download Are you addicted to praise?

Post on 06-Apr-2018




0 download

Embed Size (px)


<ul><li><p>8/2/2019 Are you addicted to praise?</p><p> 1/5</p><p></p><p>Are you addicted to praise?</p><p>By Martha Beck, Oprah.comMarch 5, 2012 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)</p><p>Flattering sidekicks may be aiding your addiction to praise.STORY HIGHLIGHTS</p><p> Identify symptoms to separate malignant narcissistic supply from healthy human</p><p>interaction</p><p> Reacting to praise by feeling paralyzed with shame can signal a "dry drunk" praise</p><p>addiction</p><p> Praise addiction is complex because it's impossible to simply eliminate your drug of</p><p>choice</p><p>( -- You'd have admired Sarah if you'd met her when I did. She was beautiful,</p><p>brilliant, charming, the CEO of her company, the life of the party. She thrived on all that</p><p>admiration; you could feel it in the razzle-dazzle energy that drew people to her like flame-</p><p>bound moths.</p><p>You'd never have suspected that Sarah was an addict, unless you'd seen her a few hours after</p><p>she'd glowingly received an award or ovation, when she was curled up in bed, anxious, needy,</p><p>already jonesing for a fix.</p><p>Sarah was abusing something more powerful, insidious, and accessible than any street drug: the</p><p>adoration and esteem of others that some psychologists call narcissistic supply. Simply put, she</p><p>was addicted to praise.</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Are you addicted to praise?</p><p> 2/5</p><p>Her entire life revolved around eliciting positive attention from others, and she succeeded</p><p>magnificently -- but always insufficiently. Being praised launched her briefly into manic</p><p>giddiness, then dropped her into troughs of depression that made King Lear look like Howdy</p><p>Doody. You may have some experience with this particular addiction. And your background</p><p>may have put you at risk.</p><p>If your parents linked their acceptance to your achievements, if you were educated in a</p><p>competitive system, if you ever participated in sports, theater, a job, motherhood -- in short, if</p><p>you live in this world -- then you've been set up to get hooked on praise.</p><p>Now, you may be the unusual individual who's untouched by praise addiction. You may savor</p><p>compliments without wanting them, enjoy performing well even if no one notices, love</p><p>working whether or not you're succeeding. If so, you have my deepest respect (and you don't</p><p>really care).</p><p>But if you ever walk in Sarah's fashionable, excruciating shoes -- seeking approval obsessively,</p><p>riding increasingly painful waves of hollow elation and overwhelming despair -- it's time tosober up.</p><p> How to find your emotional balance</p><p>Appraise the praise: Are you an addict?</p><p>Separating malignant narcissistic supply from healthy human interaction is an uncertain</p><p>business, but if you have the following symptoms, pay attention.</p><p>Sign #1: Infinite praise tolerance. Everyone likes praise, up to a point. "The normal person,"writes Sam Vaknin, PhD, in his book "Malignant Self Love: Narcissism Revisited", "is likely to</p><p>welcome a moderate amount of attention -- verbal and nonverbal -- in the form of affirmation,</p><p>approval, or admiration. Too much attention, though, is perceived as onerous and is avoided."</p><p>I feel this way when kindly strangers introduce me as a public speaker; they cite jobs I held 20</p><p>years ago, quote complimentary bloggers who've confused me with Martha Stewart, throw out</p><p>wild ad libs to disguise the fact that no one present has ever heard of me. This evokes in me the</p><p>weird blend of pleasure, gratitude, and revulsion I'd feel if the emcee publicly fondled my toes.</p><p>If you feel this way when someone really pours on the praise, you're probably not a true praise</p><p>addict. A worst-case user has absolutely no upper limit on praise tolerance; such a person, asVaknin puts it, "is insatiable.</p><p>He directs his whole behavior, in fact his life, to obtaining pleasurable tidbits of attention." I've</p><p>seen this with many clients like Sarah. They can absorb astonishing amounts of praise,</p><p>quantities that would make most people deeply suspicious and slightly nauseous.</p><p>They often have friends who feed them narcissistic supply when they run out; such</p><p>relationships are another symptom of praise addiction.</p><p>Sign #2: A flattering sidekick. Sarah, for example, had a best friend named Mona who, in</p><p>exchange for reflected glory, continually reminded Sarah of her every conquest, achievement,and victory.</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Are you addicted to praise?</p><p> 3/5</p><p>"You know," Mona would say during one of Sarah's low periods, "with your good looks and</p><p>the connections from your sorority, you could have gone right from college to Hollywood.</p><p>You're just too self-sacrificing. When I think what you gave up to be a perfect wife -- you</p><p>should write a book about it. Really. The world needs to know."</p><p>I never actually met Mona, but Sarah repeated her words to me. Often. She wanted me toreaffirm them, but at the same time, I could tell she knew there was something off about</p><p>Mona's praise-a-thons.</p><p>Like all addicts -- including you, if the shoe fits -- Sarah was aware on some level that her</p><p>obsession wasn't healthy. If you've got a Mona, or a stable of Monas, you've got a problem.</p><p> How to think your way free</p><p>Sign #3: Extreme praise avoidance. Are you breathing a sigh of relief, knowing you've never</p><p>in your life sought narcissistic supply? Not so fast. Some praise addictions (my own comes to</p><p>mind) raise their ugly heads by making the addict want to jump off a bridge rather than accept acompliment.</p><p>Reacting to praise by feeling paralyzed with shame, like the wallflower caught in the spotlight</p><p>at the prom, can signal a "dry drunk" praise addiction.</p><p>Some dry drunks lust for tributes as insanely as Sarah but fear negative attention so much they</p><p>obsessively avoid getting attention at all. Others actually get praise by avoiding praise, seeing</p><p>humility as a virtue, and making damn sure everyone knows how humble they really are.</p><p>By now I assume you're hopelessly confused about whether or not you're a praise addict. Youcan take the "Are You a Praise Addict?" quiz to find out.</p><p>In the meantime, if you think you might not be walking the safe Middle Way between</p><p>excessive approval seeking and total approval rejection, the recovery advice below can help</p><p>you achieve sobriety.</p><p> Secret stressors that are affecting you more than you know</p><p>The path to recovery</p><p>This program has only four steps, but think of it this way: If they had 12-step programs forpraise addicts, people at the meetings would undoubtedly praise one another for avoiding</p><p>praise. Madness! I believe the truncated program below is a wiser course of action.</p><p>Step #1: Admit that you have a praise problem. The first time Sarah consulted me, I asked</p><p>her to describe herself in one word. I was shocked when she coolly replied, "Dead." The</p><p>vibrancy she radiated was part of her accolade-seeking act, fueled by the brief highs she got</p><p>from her binges.</p><p>To change her pattern, Sarah had to admit that praise had never helped her feel whole or</p><p>content, only giddy. This was the step that allowed her recovery to begin. If you're a praise</p><p>addict, take it.</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Are you addicted to praise?</p><p> 4/5</p><p>Step #2: Don't feed the need. Like food addiction, praise addiction is complex because it's</p><p>impossible to simply eliminate your drug of choice. Some amount of narcissistic supply is</p><p>normal and healthy (and people probably won't stop giving compliments).</p><p>In order to break a praise addiction, however, it's useful to "fast" for a few days. Ditch your</p><p>Monas and avoid other chronic praisers until you begin to long for a compliment. Craving is agood thing, because learning to feel the need without acting on it is crucial for recovery.</p><p>Most praise addicts who fast go through severe withdrawal pangs, including intense anxiety,</p><p>inexplicable rage, and terrible weariness. If you ride these out, the emotions will begin to</p><p>change; if you give in and call your Mona for a hit, the pain will go back to lurking just beneath</p><p>the surface of your consciousness.</p><p> 11 ways to lift your moon (or someone else's)</p><p>Step #3: Let your hungry soul find its real food. Withdrawal pangs usually increase until the</p><p>addict reaches a seemingly bottomless abyss of longing. When you get there, you'll recognize itas the state you've been avoiding all along.</p><p>In it, you'll feel an unendurable sense of being absolutely alone, forever cut off from the one</p><p>thing you really need, the thing for which praise is a shoddy substitute. You know the word:</p><p>love. Of course, if you're a praise addict, you don't know what that word means. It's probably</p><p>alien to your experience. Fortunately, it is not alien to your nature.</p><p>"Your ego has all these wants," said spiritual teacher Ram Dass in a 2000 lecture. "Your soul</p><p>has only one want. It wants to get to merge with the Lover. Merge with the One." He wasn't</p><p>just mouthing platitudes; after a lifetime of physical and intellectual vigor, Ram Dass suffered astroke that left him in a wheelchair and slow of speech.</p><p>People continued to attend his lectures not to admire glibness or agility but because Ram Dass</p><p>actually seemed to know what "merging with the One" felt like. He knew that this mystical-</p><p>sounding process is simply what the soul -- or true self, if you prefer -- does when we stop</p><p>interfering.</p><p>Sarah repeatedly tried to fast from compulsive, joyless praise-seeking. She always caved and</p><p>called Mona, until she developed bronchitis at a conference where no one knew her. She</p><p>couldn't be her usual splashy, chatty, false self, even on the phone.</p><p>When she returned home after a virtually praise-free week, her cat, Dandelion, greeted her at</p><p>the door. Sarah crouched down, arms open, hoping for a hero's welcome. Dandelion simply sat</p><p>and looked at her, like a cat.</p><p>"But instead of trying to pull her in," Sarah told me later, "my heart sort of...went over to her. I</p><p>felt something between us. She didn't need me at all, but she accepted me absolutely."</p><p>This was Sarah's first conscious experience of actual love -- not the unctuous, machinating, toe-</p><p>fondling liaisons of the ego but simple awareness of connection to another being. Sarah sat</p><p>down on the floor beside Dandelion and wept with relief.</p></li><li><p>8/2/2019 Are you addicted to praise?</p><p> 5/5</p><p>Step #4: Practice love -- and practice, and practice... Recovery wasn't easy for Sarah. For</p><p>many months, she'd slip into praise-seeking when she felt pressured or nervous. Genuine love</p><p>felt tenuous, unfamiliar.</p><p>But as she focused on it, she felt herself healing like a broken bone that had finally been</p><p>properly set. She spent more and more time with Dandelion, less and less with Mona.</p><p>Slowly, her praise-based relationships, including her marriage, fizzled and died. She learned to</p><p>be with people as Dandelion was with her, accepting them without needing them. Her heart</p><p>often "went over" to create something between people, without anyone saying a word.</p><p>I ran into Sarah recently at a party, and she looked more radiant than ever, though quieter and</p><p>calmer than I remembered her -- five years clean, sober, and openhearted, rather than</p><p>overwhelmingly impressive. Oh, yes, you'd have admired Sarah if you'd met her when I did.</p><p>But if you meet her now, you'll love her.</p><p> A 4-step guide to discovering who you're meant to be</p><p>Martha Beck is the author of six books; her most recent is "Steering by Starlight" (Rodale).</p></li></ul>