How I Understand Out of Control Behaviors

Michael Crocker


According to affect and attachment theorists, psychotherapy is essentially teaching self-observation while keeping self-loathing at bay and instead, helping the client to develop a liberated sense of free floating awareness and consciousness. In many ways psychotherapeutic work is to help our clients to trust their minds by fine-tuning the connection between affect, feelings, moods, thoughts, bodily responses and behaviors. When feelings are experienced in the body without a conscious awareness and labeling of the feeling, individuals will turn to bodily means to address the unknown feeling. This is when behaviors can get out of control.

As a certified individual and group psychotherapist I work with individuals who struggle with behaviors that they feel have gotten out of control. These behaviors can include sex, eating, substance use as well as gambling and other money-related difficulties. I believe that behaviors that feel out of control are related to feelings that are often unidentified and then turned into actions, often outside of our awareness. I believe that the affect of shame is highly related to many out of control behaviors. Shame can be conscious and/or unconscious. I help my clients to develop an awareness of their shame, as well as other feelings, in order for them to use the feeling states in the service of directing their actions consciously and purposefully.

Many feeling states that are turned into action are blends of feelings such as shame mixed with fear and/or anger. I help my clients to understand the complexity of these emotional states. I purposely collaborate with my clients to study their behaviors and decode what underlies these actions. In doing so, we are able to create the opportunity for choice and volition. This in turn enhances self-esteem and allows my clients to find for the first time or, in some cases, re-find, their connection to creativity, play and relational connectivity.