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Exaggerated behaviour results from the supressing of a deeper need

Central to Classical Psychoanalytic theory is the proposal that neurotic symptoms are caused by over-suppression of needs and desires.  However, in ‘Fundamental Principles of this Website’, we also looked at the idea that, if we have an addiction to something, (or an exaggerated desire for something), then this is typically a result of our blocking of some other need.  Psychoanalytic theory proposes that if we block one of our desires or needs on an ongoing basis, we find other ways to express our needs or desires.  Since these alternative avenues are not really fulfilling our underlying suppressed need, but are simply giving us a ‘drop’ of fullfillment, the new behaviour is experienced as though it is ‘water in a desert’.  We have been starved of our underlying need, and the new behaviour is only fulfilling that need in a limited way.

However, this idea can be used to our advantage.  If we are able to observe desires in our lives which appear to be exaggerated, or, to put it another way, find behaviours patterns to which we appear to be somewhat addicted, or we appear to exhibit in a more extreme form than does the general population, this can help us to uncover the underlying need that we are blocking. 

An example of exaggerated behaviour resulting from the supressing of a deeper need

Let us take a simple example.  Certain individuals appear to have an extremely strong sex drive.  Much of their conversation is absorbed with sexual content and these individuals appear preoccupied with sex.  Whilst these people may deny that they are overly absorbed with sex, and may become defensive if confronted about their behaviour, the exaggerated behaviour is usually pretty obvious to most other people who get to know them. 

I would suggest that individuals who are overly preoccupied with sex are really attempting to satisfy, through sex, other needs that have been blocked.  Usually, I suggest, this will be related to ‘attachment’ related issues.  This website has draws on Attachment Theory (more fully outlined in the Romantic Relationships section of this website) which proposes that, fundamentally, all animals are genetically predisposed to seek to ‘attach’ to others.  The attachment system is triggered when an animal feels under threat.  The animal will seek their attachment figures (in the case of infants this is usually a primary carer) and look for comfort and support.  If the animal feels that she receives comfort and support, her attachment system has achieved its goal, and she will experience a strong sense of satisfaction.  I would suggest that individuals who exhibit strong sex addictions typically have experienced some frustration in relation to attachment.  Starved of a sense of mutual intimacy and support in relationships, they have begun to seek a sense of intimacy through sex.  Sex will offer physical contact, an important part of attachment.  However, it will not really fulfil the underlying requirements of the attachment system.  Since the sex addict is starved of intimacy, and since sex (in this instance) is fulfilling the underlying need for intimacy in a rather limited form, it is experienced, as previously stated, as ‘water in a desert’.  And since sex is the closest she can get to intimacy, she becomes addicted to this poor shadow of real intimacy.