Are you love or approval addicted? Many people are. If you frequently feel alone and empty inside, and you often seek to get love, attention, and approval from others, you might be love-addicted. The good news is that you can heal from love and approval addiction.
Do you think you might be love or approval addicted? Answering yes to some or most of these questions can indicate love addiction.
- Do you often feel empty inside if you are not in a relationship?
- Do you often feel empty inside even if you are in a relationship, but your partner is not paying attention to you?
- Do you get anxious when a person you are dating does not contact you when you expect them to?
- Do you get anxious when your partner goes out of town?
- Do you tend to ruminate and obsess about what your partner or someone you are dating is thinking or doing?
- Do you get angry when someone is not saying or doing what you believe they would say or do if they cared about you?
- Do you often feel jealous?
People turn to addictions when they are not taking responsibility for filling themselves with the love they need. Love and approval addiction is like any other addiction: you are using something external – in this case another’s attention to you – to fill the emptiness that is the result of your own self-abandonment.
Most of us learned to abandon ourselves, with various addictions, as we were growing up because:
- We had no role models of how to take loving care of ourselves, and
- We could not handle the big feelings of loneliness and heartbreak that are often a part of childhood, and
- We did not receive the nurturing we needed to handle the heartache, heartbreak, and loneliness of childhood.
When your parents or other caregivers were upset or unhappy, what did they do? Did you see them doing an inner process to discover the inner source of their upset and shift their thinking and behavior to make themselves happy? Did you see them comforting themselves with deep caring and compassion when life’s challenges were causing them loneliness and heartbreak?
- Or, did you see them ignoring their feelings and numbing out with substances such as food, alcohol, or drugs?
- Or ignoring their feelings and numbing out with processes such as work, TV, gambling, or sex?
- Or getting angry at someone, blaming someone for their feelings?
- Or falling apart, becoming very needy?
- Or turning to you to fill them up – being emotionally incestuous?
- Or getting sick?
The chances are that your parents or other caregivers did not role model personal responsibility for their own feelings, and they may not have compassionately been there for your feelings, so you may never have learned to do this for yourself. If you don’t know how to manage your own feelings of loneliness, heartache, heartbreak, sadness, sorrow, grief, and helplessness over others, then you have learned to turn to various addictions to manage these feelings, including the addiction to others’ love, attention, and approval.
Our culture seems to promote love addiction to such an extent that it seems like a healthy way to relate. While it is very common, it is anything but healthy. Because it is so prevalent, many people don’t realize they are love addicted. so what exactly does it mean to be love addicted?
My client Henry asked me:
“Is love addiction like when I see a friendly woman a couple times in public, and I start obsessing about her, how wonderful she is (even though I don’t know her), and thinking how great it would be to be with her?”
Fantasizing about a woman you don’t know is one form that love addiction can take. So let’s explore what Henry is describing to see how it is a love addiction.
Henry is obsessing about how great it would be to be with this woman that he doesn’t know and is making up. In making her responsible for him feeling great, he is avoiding taking responsibility for his own feelings. What feelings is Henry avoiding by obsessing about this woman? Perhaps he is feeling anxious or empty or alone and he doesn’t know how to learn from and manage these feelings, so he turns to fantasies of being with this woman to avoid the difficult feelings.
The problem is that when Henry does finally meet a woman he wants to date, he will be needy – wanting her to make him feel great because he is not making himself feel great. That’s what a love addiction is all about – getting someone else’s love to fill up your emptiness, take away your aloneness, and define your worth. He may latch on to this woman, pulling on her to give him what he is not giving to himself. He may want to spend all his time with her, and he might feel angry or jealous if she wants to spend time with her friends.
Since people are attracted at their common level of self-abandonment, a woman who is attracted to Henry will likely be a person who is also needy for his love. She might be a caretaker who is willing to give herself up to try to have control over getting his love, or she might be fairly narcissistic and demanding, while he might give himself up to get her love. In either case, they will establish a codependent relationship that has little chance of working well.
Love addiction is like any other addiction in that the purpose is to avoid responsibility for your own feelings. Just as someone becomes addicted to food to take away emptiness and aloneness, people become addicted to another’s attention and approval to take away these painful feelings.
It’s a vicious cycle. The feelings of aloneness and emptiness are being caused by the lack of self-love that results from various forms of self-abandonment. As long as Henry is abandoning himself by not lovingly attending to his feelings and by not learning to love himself, he will continue to feel empty and alone – no matter how much attention a woman gives to him. While her attention might feel good in the moment, as long as Henry is treating himself badly by ignoring his feelings, judging himself, and turning to addictions to avoid his feelings, he will feel empty and alone. The emptiness and aloneness are the inevitable results of self-abandonment.
If Henry learns and practices Inner Bonding, he can heal his love addiction and eventually create a loving relationship, where he is sharing his love rather than trying to get love.
In my experience in working with clients for many years, I have found that love addiction and approval addiction are far more prevalent than any other substance or process addictions. We live in a love-addicted, approval-addicted society.
I’m going to list some beliefs and believing any of these may indicate that you are love or approval addicted.
- Do you believe that your happiness and wellbeing are dependent upon getting love from another person?
- Do you believe that your adequacy, lovability, and feelings of self-worth and self-esteem come from others liking you and approving of you?
- Do others’ disapproval or rejection mean that you’re not good enough?
- Do you believe that you can’t make yourself happy?
- Do you believe that you can’t make yourself as happy as someone else can?
- Do you believe that your best feelings come from outside yourself, from how other people or a particular other person sees you and treats you?
- Do you believe that others are responsible for your feelings so if someone cares about you, he or she will never do anything that hurts or upsets you?
- Do you believe that you can’t be alone – that you feel like you’re going to die if you’re alone, or that you will die of you’re not connected with someone?
- Do you believe that when you’re upset, it’s someone else’s fault?
- Do you believe it’s up to other people to make you feel good about yourself by approving of you?
- Do you believe that you’re not responsible for your feelings – that other people make you feel happy, sad, angry, frustrated, shut down, guilty, shamed, or depressed, and they are responsible for fixing your feelings?
- Do you believe you’re not responsible for your behavior – that other people make you yell, act crazy, get sick, laugh, cry, get violent, leave or fail?
- Do you believe that others are selfish if they do what they want instead of what you want or need?Do you believe that you can’t handle the pain of disapproval, rejection, abandonment, or being shut out – the pain of loneliness and heartbreak?
You might want to read the transcript and see how many of these beliefs you relate to. Many people have some or all of these beliefs in their wounded self.
Living as a love or approval addict is a very hard way to live. You have to constantly make sure you say the right thing, do the right, and look right, in order to get the needed love and approval. Your feelings are on a roller coaster – from feeling the wonderful feelings that come from getting your love or approval “fix,” to feeling the despair that comes when your “supply” – which is the source of your love and approval – shuts down, gets angry or judgmental, or goes away.
I hope it’s obvious to you now that the underlying cause of love and approval addiction is rooted in self-abandonment. Imagine the feeling part of you as a child – your inner child. When you are love or approval addicted, you have given your inner child away for adoption. Instead of learning to take responsibility for your own sense of worth and wellbeing by loving and approving of yourself, you have handed your inner child away to others for love and approval – making others responsible for your feelings. This inner self-abandonment will always cause the deep pain of low self-worth because you are rejecting yourself, which makes you dependent upon others for your self-worth. And because you are rejecting yourself, you always fear the rejection of others.
Imagine that you have a little child – a son or daughter, but that you are only 15 years old. How are you going to feel about this child? There is a good possibility that you will feel that this child is a burden, limiting your freedom. You will likely feel that the child is too demanding, needing too much from you. You may want to go out and have fun and not be tied down to this child.
Is this how you feel about your own inner child – your own feelings and needs? Does it feel burdensome to take loving care of yourself? Do you feel like your own feelings and needs are just too much to have to take care of? Do you feel like taking care of yourself is just too hard? Do you believe it is selfish to take loving care of yourself? Do you wish someone else would come along and meet your emotional needs to feel loved, valued, and worthy?
If this is how you feel, it is because you have not yet done the Inner Bonding work of developing the loving adult part of you – the part of you that is connected with your spiritual source of love, wisdom, strength, guidance and comfort. It is your adolescent self who is charge, and this part of you not only does not want the job of taking care of you, it’s not adequate to handle the job.
Our inner child – our feeling self – needs lots of love, attention, comfort, valuing, validating, connection, and compassion. When you have no desire to give this to yourself because you feel it is too hard, or you feel too inadequate, or you think it is selfish, or you believe that it is someone else’s job to meet these needs, then you are abandoning yourself. If you believe that your best feelings come from someone else loving you instead of you loving you, then you are abandoning yourself. And when you abandon yourself, that little child in you is left to get the love he or she needs elsewhere.
When you abandon yourself because you have not learned how to take loving care of yourself, or because you don’t want the responsibility of your own feelings and needs, that is when you become needy of others love and attention, which is what love and approval addiction is. You learn many ways of trying to get the love, attention, and approval you need.
What do you do to try to get love, connection, attention, approval, or compassion from others?
Do you try to be perfect – looking right, saying the right thing, being a high achiever? Do you try to be cute or funny? Do you try to show others how smart you are? Do you strive to have the best – the best house, the best car, the best wife or husband, the best children, the best clothing? Or do you act helpless, incompetent, in need of rescuing? Do you pull on others with your complaining, your incessant talking, your whining, sulking, silence, or your bragging? Are you overly nice, a people-pleaser? Do you try to convince a partner or potential partner that you are open to learning when all you really want is to get love, attention, approval, or sex? Do you attempt to get the attention you want through intimidation – with anger, threats, blame, or violence?
When you have abandoned yourself and are love-addicted, you will have developed many ways of trying to have control over getting the love and attention you need. That little child in you is desperate to be loved. The emptiness of the self-abandonment and the resulting longing for love leads you to behave in the very ways that end up pushing others away. It is a losing battle. It will never work. You will never get the love you need by trying to get others to give to you what only you can give to yourself.
My client, Matt, called me for phone consultations because his wife, Becky, threatened to leave him if he did not get some help with his neediness.
Matt filled me in on his background. He grew up with a highly judgmental and controlling father. It seemed like no matter how hard Matt worked in helping his father and at school, it was never good enough for his father. As we worked together, it became apparent that Matt had learned his lessons well. His father’s voice was constantly in his head, judging him for not working enough. Matt beat himself up unmercifully if he made a mistake, telling himself with his self-judgments how inadequate he was.
“You certainly messed that up,” his wounded self would say. “You are such a jerk.” “You never do anything right.” “What’s the matter with you?” His wounded self was totally in charge, trying to have control over getting Matt to do everything right to get others’ approval.
This ubiquitous self-judgment meant that his inner child felt constantly abandoned, which created intense aloneness and emptiness within him. This made Matt dependent upon others to fill him up and make him feel good.
As we worked together, Matt became aware of the knot in his stomach, and of the aloneness and emptiness, that he felt whenever he judged himself. And he became aware of the fact that whenever he felt this emptiness, he would pull on his wife for her attention, as well as for sex. He believed that it was her job to fill him up, since she was his wife.
Naturally, this did not lead to Becky feeling loved by him or attracted to him. She told him she was put off by his neediness and was unwilling to just be a source of supply for him.
Matt had not realized that his tension and emptiness were being caused by his own self-judgments. He believed that his stress and emptiness were caused by outside circumstances, such as problems at work or disapproval from other people. As he started to become more aware of his inner system, he saw that each time he judged himself, he felt that knot of stress, and each time he felt this stress, he felt empty and wanted his wife to make him feel better.
As we explored his beliefs about why it was so important to judge himself, he learned that he believed if he didn’t work hard enough or if he made mistakes, he was a bad person. He felt he needed to judge himself to get himself to work hard enough and not make mistakes, in order to be a good person.
As long as Matt believed he was a bad person if he didn’t work hard enough, he would judge himself to get himself to work harder and do things right. Through our work together, Matt learned to embrace his essential goodness – his caring, compassion, gentleness, and tenderness. He was able to see his wonderful qualities in his relationships with his small children, whom he dearly loved. When he learned to define his goodness internally, instead of externally through his work and performance, he was gradually able to let go of his self-judgments.
As a result of his Inner Bonding work, Matt is no longer love and approval addicted. He approaches Becky to share his love rather than to get love and attention.
Love is the most abundant energy in the universe. We live in a sea of love – it is always within us and all around us. It is our Source. When you learn and practice Inner Bonding and learn to open to your higher source of love, you become filled with love, peace, and joy. The empty place within that yearns to be filled becomes so filled with love that it overflows to others. You find yourself desiring to give love rather than always trying to get it.
As long as you make others your source of love, you will not find the love, peace, and joy that you seek. By learning and practicing Inner Bonding, you can learn to fill yourself with love and heal your love and approval addictions.
I hope you join me in my 30-Day at-home Course: “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”
You can learn much about healing all your relationships with my 30-Day online video relationship course:Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.
For an in-depth and inexpensive way of learning to love yourself and heal your relationship, see my books: The Inner Bonding Workbook: Six Steps to Healing Yourself and Connecting With Your Divine Guidance,and Diet for Divine Connection: Beyond Junk Foods and Junk Thoughts to At-Will Spiritual Connection
And, of course, we have much to offer you at our website at https:www.innerbonding.com.
I’m sending you my love and my blessings.