“Obsessive, compulsive, out of control behavior done in spite of negative consequences to self and others” is the simple definition of addiction. At its heart, addictive behavior is driven by the need to feel good about oneself and to overcome those messages from early childhood which we have internalized – “I’m not good enough,” “I’m worthless,” “I’m a failure,” and “I’m not important” to name a few. When parents are critical, when we are compared to our siblings and found lacking, or when we are simply ignored, we take in these messages and carry them into adulthood and all subsequent events are filtered through them.
While quite a few public servants enter the political ring from a genuine desire to help people, others are seeking external validation to salve internal wounds and often think and behave addictively, as defined in my book Addict America: The Lost Connection.
So it’s no wonder that sons (mostly) of powerful men continually need more and more external validation to prove their worth. They reach their positions of authority because of their continual striving for self-worth, but nothing is ever enough, because they are trying to fill an internal emptiness with external gratification. Therein lies the addiction. Women who are trying to gain validation in a man’s world also fall prey to the addictive cycle.
When we see a governor, senator, or other high-ranking politician who is wealthy and powerful and could do an enormous amount of good and yet sucks up to big businesses that are trying to swell their own coffers (companies run by addicts) while destroying the environment and harming people, we ask, “What is that all about? How does this make sense?” In terms of addiction, though, it makes perfect sense, because these politicians are trying to make the world see that they are important, good enough, worthwhile, and successful enough to finally earn Daddy’s approval. The problem is, it doesn’t work. No amount of money or power will ever be enough to fill that hole in the soul that characterizes addiction, and so the negative consequences are that these people still carry their pain and shame and everyone around them and under them suffers.
We have had some heroes in the political world – Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt quickly come to mind. These are men who entered politics by doing something they enjoy and at which they naturally excel, not from a compulsion to beat everyone else and prove their own worth. The Prime Minister from Australia, John Howard, risked his career to stand up for gun legislation after a mass shooting 20 years ago because he believed it would help his country. (There have been no mass shootings since). These men wanted to make the world a better place, and they did. We have politicians today – men and women - who have that motivation for service and we watch them struggle valiantly against those who are as irrational and selfish as any drunk in the street fighting for his car keys.
We need to personally define success as it relates to our own quality of life, which is an internal value, rather than success as defined by what we think others admire. When we enjoy what we are doing and we are being creative or helping others, we will not be focused on what we don’t have. We can be in recovery, be in the moment, and feel fulfilled.
Let’s pray for that light to come into those political souls and shine on everyone whose lives they effect.
Be In Light