DANIEL A. LINDER, MFT
I’m a natural born relater off the streets of Brooklyn ready to relate to anyone, anytime about anything and I listen too.
For as long as I remember – I’ve been into relating. I had always kept an eye on those people and relationships around me. I was aware of how differently I felt when they were connected and got each other, respected or cared about each other, and when there was disconnection, tension and distance. I saw how good it felt to be around others in synch with each other and how bad it felt when they weren’t.
I was also paying close attention to how I felt when I was relating in my closest relationships. Preserving my sanity and stability when there were so many dysfunctional people and relationships, family and friends, posed creative and spiritual challenges. I seemed to know instinctually that I had to depend on myself, have a relationship with myself to survive, to stay separate, but engaged.
What I did glean from more than three and one half decades of working with individuals, couples and families is that if there was one thing that brought people to therapy, regardless of their symptoms or addictions, it was relationships, past and current that fail to provide adequate nourishment and left a backlog off pain in their wake. And that there was an overwhelming lack of necessary knowhow to create healthy, nourishing and intimate relationships, as they were never taught.
Given the lack of role models or experience in healthy, nourishing relationships, no one seemed to know that there is a method and magic in the creative processes of relating, connecting, intimacy and conversation. As is the case with any art form, basic principles apply and essential skills must be practiced and honed.
My life’s work, purpose, Dharma is,
Changing lives, relationships and the world, one relationship at a time, one encounter at a time.
I want to change how we relate to one another through relationship training. I want to live in a more conscious world where there is more felt warmth, connection and love exchanged in all of our relationships and those we meet for chance encounters.
Daniel Linder is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, Addiction Specialist and Relationship Trainer, practicing in the San Francisco Bay Area, doing individual, couples, family and group therapy since 1981. He describes himself as a “self and relationship-based therapist,” an addiction specialist and relationship trainer who incorporates mindfulness-based principles and practices; cognitive behavioral and systems therapy; existential, positive and self-psychology and communication skills building, into his work with individuals, couples, families or groups. "All the work I do is about bringing you back to your Self."
The Relationship Model of Addiction™
A New Paradigm for Understanding Addiction and Treatment
I spent the better part of the past several years crafting The Relationship Model of Addiction (TRMATM) to breathe some new life into how we view and understand the phenomena of addiction and recovery. The prevailing disease model has become a dinosaur. That is, addiction is not a disease. Addiction is a relationship with a means of relief of pain from unmet emotional needs.
My simplified vision of humanity is the basis for TRMA™. Us human beings have two basic needs, the need for love and the need to relieve pain (physical or emotional). If our need for love gets met, we live richer, fuller lives and our relationships will nourish our overall health and wellbeing. When our need for love does not get met, there is going to be pain, at which time our other basic need kicks in – the need to relieve pain. The greater the pain, the greater the need to relieve that pain will be. The need to relieve pain is the underlying driving force of addiction. Addiction is a way of coping when our need for love does not get met.
An addiction is a relationship just like any other relationship, in which there is emotional involvement, investment, dependency or attachment to the means of relief, or person. A means of relief establishes the function the relationship serves– to relieve pain, provide an escape or make you feel better. Means include mind and mood-altering substances, activities (sex, porn, gambling) and/or people, i.e. love addiction and codependency as well as any other dependency-based relationship.
The cause of addiction are those primary relationship that failed to provide adequate emotional nourishment, both past and present, and the ever-increasing backlog of pain of unmet emotional needs that builds over time. The greater the level of pent-up pain from unmet emotional needs, the more predisposed to becoming addicted one is going to be. We may describe the psychosocial context of addiction as widespread and pervasive emotional deprivation.
Unhealthy, non-nourishing relationships are the spawning ground of addiction. Relationships that fail to provide adequate nourishment and leave a residue of pain are the cause of addiction. When our need for love gets met, the less predisposed and the less relief or high, the less affected one is going to be. The potential for that irresistible extraordinary effect is mitigated. Addiction extinguishes itself when our need for love gets met.
Recovery is a three-stage transitional journey out of unhealthy relationships and into healthy ones that continues over the course of a lifetime. Stage I is Breaking-up (with the means of relief); Stage II is Developing the Relationship with Self (intensive self-work); and Stage III – Creating Emotionally Nourishing Relationships (relationship training in the arts of dating, relating and connecting).
The stages are sequential. Stage I is, Breaking-up. You have to break-up with the means of relief, clear a space for your Self to emerge and a relationship with your Self to birth. An addiction and intimacy are like oil and water. When you’re in pain, you’ll be unconsciously driven and desperate for relief, cut off from your feelings, it’s not intimacy or connection you’ll be looking for.
Stage II is, Developing the Relationship with Self. When you have a relationship with your Self, you have access to your infinitely rich and unique inner world. You’ll be consciously connected and able to represent your experience accurately. You’ll be more authentic when relating, which is what makes it possible to be known, seen, heard, felt understood and loved for who you are; and is what makes you attractive and magnetic.
As you move through Stage II and you’ve begun developing the relationship with your Self, you’ll be primed for Stage III – Creating Nourishing Relationships (relationship training in the arts of relating and connecting). Relating and connecting are creative processes; as is the case with any art form, basic principles apply and essential skills must be practiced, some level of proficiency is required.
Recovery is about empowering the transformation of relationship by developing the relationship with Self.
The Dynamics of Addiction
Addiction can and often does begin at the point of Discovery. The initial high or rush is extraordinarily gratifying, pain-relieving or wish-fulfilling, a free ride, easily accessible.
Addiction implies dependency. An irreversible attachment, (emotional) involvement, or relationship is established.
Emotional withdrawal occurs when reality becomes a “less than” experience. A state of perpetual insatiability begins.
Denial is operating, rendering the experience/relationship ego-syntonic or unconscious, no longer able to distinguish between what is real and what is imagined.
If other people are sharing the discovery experience, consensual agreement makes it real and valid.
Dependency and Denial:
Occur and begin simultaneously.
Never exist one without the other.
Are equal and synergistic.
The relationship becomes primary – your number one relationship, rendering all other relationships secondary.
The relationship is carried on secretly, there is deceit and concealment, no one else knows about it.
Deception, denial and delusion are involved – eliminating all internal and external conflicts of interest, utilizing a sophisticated array of highly effective psychological weaponry.
The state of insatiability is perpetuated. Emotional withdrawal creates a vicious cycle that cause the level of psychic pain to actually increase over time, which only strengthens level of emotional investment. Being sober becomes an increasingly “less than” experience.
As the disease progresses, there a steady decrease in overall functioning over time (not a plateau), sometimes slow and steady and sometimes dramatic and accelerated, deterioration in all facets of life, i.e. health, school/work performance, relationships, legal, exacerbation of pre-existing issues.
Consensual Agreement continues to reinforce denial by redefining the activity and experience as desirable, preferred, normal, healthy, and inconsequential, further insulating the addict from reality and the rest of the world.