There are evidences that any behaviour can become an addiction when it is practised frequent enough over a period of time, to cause homestatic alterations in brain structure and or function. This includes substance abuse, eating disorder, abusing alcohol, gambling, gaming, sex, and love.
The reverse is true. Many people love to cook, play or perform music, meditate, dance, and knit. They say that these activities are healthy, effective, and fun ways to settle down after a long hard day. These activities provide a pleasure, similar to what alcohol, sex, drugs and gaming can bring to some, that other activities may not. These activities when practised frequent enough, will similarly cause homestatic alterations in brain structure and or function.
Dr Glasser term these as “positive addiction” in a book with the same name. He claims that positive addictions “strengthen us and make our lives more satisfying.” They also enable us to “live with more confidence, more creativity, and more happiness, and usually in much better health.” Positive addictions, unlike their negative cousins, enhance life.
Consultation sessions surrounding addictions are guided by Dr Glasser’s six criteria:
- The negative behaviour that does not enhance life, needs to be moved into something non-competitive that individuals can choose to adopt and can devote some time per day regularly, to practice it. An activity may be adopted in the interim to ease the individual into the new behaviour;
- The new behaviour that the individual is moving into or the activity, must be possible for the individual to do it easily and it does not take up too much mental effort to do it well;
- The individual can adopt the new behaviour or needs to be able do the activity alone and does not need to depend upon others to do it;
- The individual needs to believe that the new behaviour provides some value (physical, mental, or spiritual) to himself or herself personally, or the activity value-adding to his or her life progressively;
- The individual believes that if he or she persists at the new behaviour, or the activity, there will be improvement in his or her life — this is subjective. Therefore, the individual needs to be the only one who measures the improvement; and
- The new behaviour or activity must have the quality that the individual can do it without criticising himself or herself. If the individual cannot accept himself or herself during this time, the activity will not be addicting (emphasis original).
A positive addiction does not dominate one’s life; it stays confined within a time frame. The beneficial consequences of the new behaviour or activity can spill over into one’s entire life but the behaviour or activity in itself is limited. One’s attitude toward the new behaviour or activity is crucial. The judgment whether one is improving is delicate; one must not adopt a critical attitude toward himself or herself. The pleasure is diminished if one just hammers on himself or herself for not getting better at a behaviour or an activity, even one she loves in many ways. A negative attitude precludes a positive addiction.
William Glasser, Positive Addiction. New York: Harper Colophon Books, 1985.