Saturday, April 2, 2011

Compulsion to always be a winner and its connection with addiction, gambling, ADHD and getting even with father figures

A young man, already father of two, separated from his wife, pessimistic about future, a self described loser, surprised me by declaring that he is a champion pool player.
"I can go to the best pool house in Detroit, and, on a good day, beat every single one there. I am as good as a professional pool player. I could make a living just playing pool."
"Why don't you?"
"Because I can only play at that high level while on Vicodins. Without those narcotics pain pills I have no consistency. But give me a handful of Vicodins and I can play in front of a crowd and not miss a shot."
"And why is that?"
"Because I am an asshole."
Such a frank declaration threw me slightly off guard.
Why such self condemnation? Curious I egged him on, "What is the relationship between winning at pool, narcotics, and being an asshole?"
"I don't know if you will follow me, but I will try. I am an addict. And addicts are folks who are always trying to be a winner even where their defeat is a certainty. They keep going to the same thing, time after time, to come out a winner, even if they lose every time. And assholes do the same. In my book an asshole is someone who wants to prove to himself and others that he is one hell of a winner when anyone can judge by his actions that he is being an asshole - a loser. And doing drugs is being an asshole. When you obtain and do drugs you are acting like a loser while feeling like a winner. Humans have very strong desire to be a winner. It is the killer instinct in us. Normal people work hard to make this desire a reality. Drug addicts satisfy this basic human need by doing drugs. The killer instinct in addicts gets fixated on succeeding in their quest to find and do drugs. Drug addicts are sore losers. They cannot accept defeat in real life. They cannot see the world as inhabited by all kinds of successful people, where everyone is better than oneself in some respect. A drug addict must always win, with everybody and in all spheres. This soon leads him to stop interacting meaningfully in the world of real people. His sphere of real interests shrinks and shrinks while his world of fantasy where he is always the winner expands. His dealing with the real world gets truncated to making just enough efforts to procure drugs. And here you can always feel like a winner. For there is always some other loser out there willing to sell you drugs or extend you a pill for free, even when you are completely down and out, making you feel like you have succeeded in something."
"Are you a sore loser?"
"Am I a sore loser? Are you kidding or what. If I was not a sore loser how would I have become such a great pool player. Whatever I do I must be the best at it or I get extremely bipolar. Just the other day I was playing monopoly with my fiancee and her friend, and 7 times in a row I landed up in the squares where I had to pay rent to them. I got so pissed I took the board, tore it to pieces, and threw the money and pieces all over the room. And they were like what an asshole!.But I could not help it. I must win or else all hell breaks lose."
"Why did you become that way?"
"I guess it has to do with my father. My earliest memory is standing upon a chair and playing pool with him. I was three. My father started me on the game at that tender age, perhaps to groom me into his competitor."
"What is the role of narcotics in all this?"
"They take away the fear of losing. As long as I fear losing and which means punishment at the hands of my father I don't do well. The narcotics must somehow change my brain such that the fear of punishment loses its sting. And once I don't dread pain the fear of losing goes away too. And when I have no fear I play wonderfully well."
"How does lack of fear improves your game?"
"Lack of fear gives you patience. I have ADHD. ADHD is a disorder of fear. Fear makes you look for ways to run away instead of concentrating upon what you are suppose to do. An ADHD dude has no patience to do things piece by piece, and right, because his brain is preoccupied with running away. Narcotics takes away my fear, gives me patience, and winning is all about patience. ADHD person does not have patience and therefore he cannot do things in proper sequence. Children with ADHD, run from one job to another, completing none, because they don't have patience to do one job completely and go to the next one.
Only thing where I can wait patiently without Vicodins is fishing. I can wait long time to catch a big fish. I have not figured that one out. Everywhere else I must win in a hurry. That is the psychology behind gambling at casinos. You can call me a gambler. Gamblers are quite like drug addicts. Behind both pathologies there is intense desire to win. Casino gamblers want to win without much skill. My gambling at pool halls requires winning against real people and real talent. And the guys I beat there, they are like father figures. For I like to challenge the biggest dick in the pool hall and humble him.
Casino gamblers want to win by striking millions with a single turn of the wheel of fortune, and humble all those with whom they have an ax to grind."
This patient's rambling self analysis which was somewhat difficult for me to follow, and which has been reported here with quite a few supplementation by me, giving him voice where he was obscure, I am not sure how much sense it has made to the reader. But let us see if there are some valuable nuggets here.
It is interesting how this patient defines asshole. Someone who wants to win at any cost. Now we know that for normal development the boy must lose against his father in the Oedipal struggle. He must bow to the superiority of the father and give up his mother as the love object. Without acceptance of this defeat, a child cannot give up his parents as his libidinal objects and move on to new ones. . However, the child compensates for this defeat - which is symbolic castration, for the boy must give up his masturbatory activity and incestual fantasies associated with it - by becoming defiant and oppositional. It is this symbolic castration - being turned into a "pussy" and giving up playing with his penis - which language in its infinite wisdom has given us the epithet asshole. The defiant and oppositional behavior that emerges from feeling impotent and castrated is what is acting likean asshole is about. For the child does not quite know the existence of vagina, and considers the anal passage as the passive organ for sexual intercourse.
The patient's describing of ADHD as a disorder of patience is quite intriguing. For behaviorally there is no doubt that ADHD children cannot finish anything because they have no patience do complete anything and are easily distracted by the prospect of doing something else. It appears that in ADHD there is ego immaturity, and the child is burdened with very high instinctual demands, all of which want to emerge simultaneously and demand instant fulfillment. The ego gets overwhelmed and gives into all the demands simultaneously and therefore is unable to do it right with any of them, rushing from one task to another. Only as the ego matures and learns to inhibit instinctual demands such that it can deal with all of them in some rational order does the malady of ADHD begins to subside.

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