Understanding The Subdictions That Can Lead to Addictions

DR JOHN DEMARTINI   -   Updated 1 year ago

Dr John Demartini tackles the subject of addiction, it’s likely cause, and what you can do to live a life of priority and fulfilment so you are less likely to experience addictions and subdictions.

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DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 1 year ago

You’re likely familiar with the term “addiction”, but you may not be familiar with what I call “subdiction”. This is a term I coined for the counterbalancing avoidance responses that underlie many of the seeking responses called addiction.

Let’s begin by taking a look inside the brain to further understand the likely origins of addition and subdiction.

In the subcortical area of your brain, you have the amygdala, which is a portion of limbic brain that deals with emotions, impulses and instincts. It is sometimes called the area for Systems 1 thinking, which is a fast survival mentality processing area, compared to Systems 2 thinking, which is a more governed, balanced and objective processing area.

In other words, in Systems 1, you emotionally react before thinking, and in Systems 2, you think before reacting.

The amygdala is also referred to as the desire center. Your desire center essentially and impulsively seeks that which it perceives supports survival and instinctively avoids that which it perceives challenges survival.

It may be helpful to think of this in terms of prey vs. predator in the wild. It’s a primitive response to life – rest and digest and fight and flight and acetylcholine and adrenaline-fueled responses, as opposed to objective, neutral, governed and balanced thinking.

On a physical endocrine level, the amygdala or desire center is also a primary dopamine driver.

You may already know the powerful relationship between dopamine and addictive behaviors. There are other transmitters involved in addiction but that dopamine relationship is integral.


Click below for the video of this article.





The value of what you value most in addiction and subdiction.


Every human being, including yourself, has a set of priorities, a set of values - things that are most important to least important in their life.

  • Things that are highest on your unique hierarchy of values are what you are most likely to pursue, and what you are intrinsically driven from within to do; and
  • Things that are lower on your values are what you likely avoid, procrastinate, hesitate and frustrate on, and what you likely you need extrinsic motivation to do.

Anything you perceive as overall supporting of your unique set of values, you tend to see as “good”, “food” and “prey” and have a seeking impulse or addiction towards.

Anything you perceive as overall challenging of your unique set of values, you tend to see as “bad”, “predator” or something that can eat you, and have a avoiding instinct subdiction away from.

There is a law of duality that exists from the infinite micro to the infinite macro domains and that includes how we perceive the world. All perceptions occur in simultaneous polarized opposites or contrasts. The more extreme your infatuation towards that which you seek; the more extreme your resentment of its opposite, which you will try to avoid.

For example, if you infatuate with someone intelligent, you’ll also equally avoid someone you perceive to be ignorant. The more you infatuate with someone you perceive to be physically fit, toned and healthy, the more you’ll equally avoid and likely be repulsed by someone you perceive as being overweight and unfit.

The same applies to your own internal perceptions of yourself. The more you infatuate with one half of yourself, the more you’ll compensate by equally resenting another complementary opposite part of yourself

You’ll not have one perception consciously without the equal and opposite perception unconsciously in your mind.

In other words, whatever it is that you seek, you tend to repel its opposite.

That, at its basic level, is the addiction and subdiction in life.

You may have experienced or seen an example of this in people who are frequently shopping and spending money. They shop or “consume” the things they want, and avoid or repel the bills.

The addiction is the act of shopping while the subdiction is the debt that accompanies the purchase.

You may also have seen or experienced becoming somewhat addicted to another individual.

Perhaps you were infatuated with somebody and, as a result, feared their loss and being without them. You may even have developed a juvenile dependency on them because you didn’t want to lose them.

You may also recall individuals that you resented and looked down on because you were too proud to admit what you saw in them inside you, and so wanted to avoid them. As a result, you probably wanted not to rely on them and instead stand on your own two feet, and became precociously independent.

You tend to become dependent on that which you perceive supports your unique hierarchy of values, and independent of that which you perceive challenges them.

This is the addiction and subdiction, seeking and avoidance, impulse and instinct, attraction and repulsion aspect of the amygdala or Systems 1 thinking of the brain.

The more advanced area of the brain or Systems 2 thinking that takes place in the executive center of your forebrain, results not in a rest and digest or fight or flight, addiction and subdiction response, but instead in thinking and behavior that is more objective, neutral, balanced, resilient, and adaptable where the polarities are not as extreme or strong. As such, it’s a THRIVAL and not SURVIVAL center.

In fact, when you activate primarily your amygdala and you’re in survival mode, you wake up your more animalistic survival behavior.

As such, anytime you see something that you perceive to be prey, you accelerate your acetylcholine and adrenaline in order to run and capture it.

If you see what you perceive to be a predator, you accelerate your adrenaline to avoid it.

So, anytime you’re in survival, you tend to accelerate or create what is called a “subjective confirmation bias and disconfirmation bias”.

As a result, you have a false attribution bias of credit towards something you perceive is prey and a false attribution bias of blame away from something that you perceive is predator.

Your body responds by accelerating and really accentuating the levels of acetylcholine and adrenaline. You then become dependent on something and also avoidant of something on an extreme level.

This extreme dependency is what is often labeled an “addiction”. The extreme independency is called “subdiction”.

Anytime you perceive more support than challenge, more positives than negatives, more similarities than differences, more advantages than disadvantages, you tend to wake up that addictive or seeking side.

Anytime you perceive more drawbacks than benefits, more negatives than positives, more loss than gain, more differences than similarities, more disadvantages than advantages, you tend to create a subdiction.

It’s been my observation working with hundreds of individuals with so-called "addictive personalities" that the degree that you seek something, perceive that you have to have it, and are dependent on it, the opposite is also there.

An example of this is a gentleman I met in Denver, Colorado, who had been diagnosed with an alcohol addiction, a label that had been given to him and something he truly believed that he was.

We traced his addiction way back to when he was a child who lived with a father who drank. His mother had left, and his father had forced him to fulfil all the roles his mother had previously handled around the house – grocery shopping, cleaning and cooking, which is not the norm for a child that age.

Anytime he rebelled against his father, he would get beaten. In the process, he developed an avoidance reaction away from his father and the parts of him that he truly hated.

When he was old enough to stand up for himself but still underage in terms of driving, he stole the keys to his father’s truck and went out drinking with his friend. On the way home, he was involved in an accident with another truck, and his friend was killed.

His father was furious and found the hospital where he was being treated and essentially told him to never come home again.

It was then that he became precociously dependent on alcohol, like his father, even though it was a quality that he despised in him.

I explained to him that as he was avoiding and had a subdiction to becoming like his father, he also had an addiction to get its opposite, his autonomy, his freedom, and the idea that his father couldn’t control his alcohol intake. So he ended up becoming "an alcoholic". That was the label.

So I worked with him. I used the Demartini Method, which is a method I developed to help people dissolve emotional baggage and unconscious perceptions by asking specific questions that when answered, help them to balance the mathematical equations of their perceptions which is the source of all their emotions.

I helped him become conscious of the benefits of some of his father’s actions and inactions that he’d previously labelled as only being a drawback to him. He had seen the drawbacks of his father but never the benefits. He had also seen the benefits of alcohol and not the drawbacks. So, he had a skewed subjective bias on both ends.

Together, we looked at the upsides of what his father had done, which he had never done nor been asked to look for. I asked him: How did it serve you? What were the upsides? What were the advantages? And we sat down and balanced it out.

We also found out who was playing the opposite roles to the father at the time, which was a next-door neighbor who protected him and tried to help out with some of his chores and responsibilities when his father wasn’t around. We worked together until two in the morning until he had tears of gratitude for his father.

This may be difficult to comprehend if you've never been to my signature seminar titled the Breakthrough Experience and been taken through the Demartini Method.

In the Breakthrough Experience, I teach you how to take whatever's happened in your life and turn it from being what you perceive as “in the way” to something you perceive as “on the way”.

In other words, from something you perceive as obstructing your life to something you perceive has value and purpose in your life. When you transform your perception, you transform ingratitude to gratitude.

Together, he and I dissolved the subdiction; we dissolved the thing he was escaping.

We dissolved the guilt associated with the underage drunk driving that resulted in the loss of his friend, and we dissolved the illusion that there was a loss in his friend. It took hours, but working step by step though the Demartini Method allowed him to see unconscious information so that it no longer ran him through an avoidance response.

The result is that the moment the subdiction was gone, his anger, resentment, grief and shame were also dissolved because all of those are lopsided perceptions.

For example, shame is an assumption that you and your behavior have caused more pain than pleasure, more loss than gain, and more negatives than positives.

Resentment is an assumption that somebody else has caused you more pain than pleasure, more loss than gain, and more negatives than positives.

These lopsided perceptions are ones you can transform by asking new questions that allow you to see things you didn't see before, and become fully conscious instead of only conscious of half of the equation.

Once we neutralized the subdiction and his reason for escaping and dissociating from that experience, his desire for alcohol disappeared.

As he described to me a few years later at another presentation of mine, the instant he dissolved his issues with his dad, his previous lopsided story about his life just disappeared.

He was able to feel love for his father and appreciate that the lessons he learned during that time in his life that allowed him to become an entrepreneur who worked for himself instead of being dependent on someone else.

In my almost five decades of research and over four decades working with addiction, I have found that every decision an individual makes whether consciously or unconsciously, is one they believe will give them the most advantage over disadvantage at any moment.

If an individual is drinking or taking drugs, as an example, they unconsciously or consciously perceive there to be more advantage than disadvantage. Even though it may be destroying their liver, affecting their health, damaging their relationships or creating financial instability, in their mind there's still (in their perception) more advantage than disadvantage to continue the action that some label their ‘addiction’.

It can be hard to comprehend when you first work with somebody, but I've been doing this for decades now and it’s something of which I feel is important to realize.

A wonderful example of this is a lady who had an addiction to eating. She told me that she had tried every diet, plan and technique over the years and had yet to find anything that lasted for longer than a few days or weeks.

So I asked her, “What benefit do you get out of eating?”

She replied that she couldn’t think of a single benefit and that she desperately needed help because she couldn’t control her eating.

I asked again, “'Hold yourself accountable. What benefit are you getting out of it?”

She finally replied that her whole family was big and that perhaps unconsciously she was afraid that if she wasn’t big, she wouldn’t fit in.

I encouraged her to keep going, and she mentioned how her sister had always been bigger than her and pushed her around as a child, and that she had made a pact with herself that she would never again be smaller than her sister so she could defend herself.

I asked her to find another benefit, and she immediately became tearful as she related a life changing event that had happened earlier in her life.

She had embarked on a fasting plan and had lost 45 pounds. For the first time in her life, men began paying attention to her and flirting with her. One evening, she met a guy who was attracted to her and she to him. She slept with him on that one night. She never saw him again, but later discovered she was pregnant and after much agonizing and deliberating, chose to have an abortion.

This was something completely contrary to her upbringing as a Catholic, and something she felt great guilt and shame about.

As she said, a benefit to continuing to be overweight was that she was less attractive to men and was unconsciously protecting herself from going through a situation like that again.

We kept going, and she came up with another benefit in that she was in the television industry and often on camera from the waist up. Carrying more weight meant that her skin was smoother, as opposed to when she lost weight and her skin sagged and made her appear older.

We ended up with 75 benefits to her overeating. She stared at me with big eyes as the penny dropped. “So I don't really have an intention to lose weight the way it's structured right now in my mind?”

“No you don't,” I replied. “That's why you're doing it. It's not some weakness. It's an unconscious motive that's now conscious.”

We then moved onto the next part of the process, which involved looking at how she could receive the same benefits without the overeating. We identified the common, viable, alternative ways for each of the 75 benefits she had identified.

The final step involved identifying the drawbacks of her original eating path versus the new alternative viable ways we had just identified; identifying her highest values; linking her new behaviors to her highest values; and delinking the original behaviors.

Her life was transformed as she became the master of her destiny instead of a victim of her history.

One of the most important tools in the addiction process is helping individuals live by priority.

If you don’t live congruently with your highest values and live by your highest priorities – the thing that's most meaningful to you that wakes up the executive center in your forebrain and Systems 2 thinking where you think before you react, you’re almost certain to go down into the amygdala where you're more polarized and vulnerable to addictions and subdictions.

It’s wise to fill your day with the very highest priority actions that are deeply meaningful to you.

You’ll likely notice that if you have something very important, inspiring, and meaningful to do, you're less likely to overeat, undereat, overdrink or overspend.

You’ll basically be more moderate in your behavior because the executive center in your forebrain calms down the amygdala and its extreme subjected biases.

As such, you’re highly likely to be more balanced and self-governing in your life.

The executive center is the governance center. It's the executive function that governs the amygdala.

The amygdala runs wild like a wild animal. The executive center is what governs it.

If you fill your day with high priority actions that inspire you, that are deeply meaningful and fulfilling that you love doing, that make a difference in other individuals’ lives, and that you get compensated for, you have less probability of being in the addictive center of the amygdala and are more likely to see things objectively and balanced instead of judging and polarized.

So another component of what I do when taking individuals through dissolving subdictions and addictions is getting them onto priority and giving them some purpose to live, because individuals that have meaning in life and are purposeful in life tend to not have as many polarities and addictive and subdictive behaviors.


To sum up


Anytime you perceive more support than challenge, more positives than negatives, more similarities than differences, more advantages than disadvantages, you tend to wake up that addictive or seeking side.

Anytime you perceive more drawbacks than benefits, more negatives than positives, more loss than gain, more differences than similarities, more disadvantages than advantages, you tend to create a subdiction.

In my over four decades of working with addiction, I have found that every decision an individual makes whether consciously or unconsciously, is one they believe will give them the most advantage over disadvantage at any moment.

One of the most important tools in the addiction process is helping individuals identify their unique hierarchy of values using the Demartini Value Determination Process (which is freely available on my website) and live by priority.

The Demartini Method, which I teach in the Breakthrough Experience program, can help you dissolve a lot of the baggage that may be running behaviors that you feel you can't control. It’s a powerful way to dissolve those impulses and instincts, seeking and avoidant responses, calm them down, and make them more moderate.

If you don't fill your life with things that are meaningful, it's likely to fill up with things that aren't, including food, drugs, gambling, shopping - anything that stimulates dopamine. Many of the reasons why you end up with these addictive behaviors is because you're unfulfilled in what's deeply valuable to you and you have subconsciously stored subdictions.

You don't have to be a victim of history. You can instead be a master of your destiny and live an extraordinary life that inspires you.


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