the psychoanalytic view
Lance M. Dodes, M.D.
working intensively with people suffering with
alcoholism, psychoanalysts have learned about many
psychological factors that contribute to compulsive
drinking. Some people use drinking as a way to "treat"
or lessen feelings that seem overwhelming at the time,
such as sadness, anger or shame. These feelings seem
less intolerable when they are drinking.
People also sometimes drink to be free of self-critical
feelings. They find that they can be gentler with
themselves when they drink.
For others, a drink substitutes for a loved
person whom they have lost. They make, in effect, a new
relationship with the bottle, a relationship that they
never have to lose.
In other instances, people use
drinking to repair a feeling of deep disappointment with
others, or with their image of themselves. Drinking
serves to create a sense that the world is as it should
be, or that they are as valuable as they feel they
Finally, in a view that I have
proposed, drinking may be a way to restore a sense of
power when a person feels helpless. The drinking
expresses the great anger people feel at being made
powerless, and at the same time the act of drinking
itself restores a sense that they can control their own
feelings through their own actions.
In general, psychoanalysts understand
that the behavior of alcoholism, like any behavior,
arises within a person and can be potentially understood
by investigating the emotional factors that drive it.
Once these emotional factors are conscious, people are
better able to master them and, as a result, have a far
better chance to change their lives.