Ideology Addiction: Part 2 (Typology)

Continuing the discussion of my blog post Ideology Addiction: Part One, where I provided a brief overview of a psychodynamic perspective of ideology addition (it must be noted that this one of many potential perspectives of this disorder), I will now explore ideology addiction from a typological perspective. Simply put, from a psychodynamic perspective ideology addiction can be understood as a pathological relationship to an ideology that provides a misguided solution to narcissistic injury and shame.

There are many typological perspectives that can be applied in the context of addiction. One example is that of feminine and masculine types. “When we speak of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ we are not necessarily speaking of biological ‘male’ or ‘female’. Rather we are referring to a spectrum of attitudes, behaviors, cognitive styles, and emotional energies” (Dupuy & Morelli, 2007, p. 37).

Psychoactive substances can be classified according to a masculine or feminine typology. Depressants or ‘downers’ such as tranquilizers, and heroin can be classified as feminine psychoactive substances. And stimulants or ‘uppers’ such as cocaine and methamphetamine can be classified as masculine psychoactive substances (Du Plessis, 2010, 2012a).

Ideologies can also be classified according to a similar typological continuum. On the one side of the continuum we have collectivistic ideologies where the group/state is prioritized over the freedom/rights of the individual, for example socialism/communism. On the other side we have individualistic ideologies where the freedom/rights of the individual are prioritized over the group/state, for example libertarianism. I will classify collectivistic ideologies as ‘feminine ideologies’ and individualistic ideologies as ‘masculine ideologies’. (It is beyond the scope of this blog to go into a detailed discussion for the reason for the above classification, but it should be fairly obvious to the perceptive reader).

To elucidate a typology perspective of substance use disorders and ideology addition I will apply the bioself-psychological typology of addiction of Ulman and Paul (2006), which is a synthesis of the self-psychological and biological-psychiatric versions of bipolarity. Kohut, (as cited in Ulman and Paul, 2006) whose concept of the bipolar self represents the foundation for Ulman and Paul’s model, stated: “The self should be conceptualized as a lifelong arc linking two polar sets of experiences: on one side, a pole of ambitions related to the original grandiosity [feminine] as it was affirmed by the mirroring self-object, more often the mother; on the other side, a pole of idealizations [masculine], the person’s realized goals, which, particularly in the boy though not always, are laid down from the original relationship to the self-object that is represented by the father and his greatness” (p. 30).

In Ulman and Paul’s bioself-psychological typology, addiction is understood as a psychological end result of developmental arrest in the bipolarity of the formation of the self. Biological psychiatrists, in their conception of bipolar spectrum disorder, devote considerable attention to depression and mania as they manifest in this disorder. These mood disorders correlate with disorders of the bipolar self as understood by Kohut. He stated, “In general, a disturbance in the pole of grandiosity [feminine] may find expression in either an empty, depleted depression or, in contrast, in over-expansive and over-exuberant mania or hypomania; whereas a disturbance in the pole of omnipotence [masculine] may appear in either depressive disillusionment and disappointment in the idealized or, in contrast, in manic (or hypomanic) delusions of superhuman physical and/or mental powers. We maintain that an individual maybe subject to specific outcomes resulting from a disturbance in either or both of these poles of the self” (in Ulman & Paul, pp. 395–396).

Owing to the specific accompanying mood disorder of each of the possible disturbances of the poles of the self, individuals will be attracted to certain psychoactive substances and ideologies, which can be understood as an unconscious attempt at rectifying a specific deficit in self and coping style (Ulman & Paul, 2006).

Therefore, by using the masculine and feminine typology, we can see how the psychopharmacological properties of certain classes of psychoactive substances and the psychoactive effect of ideologies correlate with masculine and feminine typologies (i.e., depressant psychoactive substances and collectivistic ideologies with the feminine, and stimulant psychoactive substances and individualistic ideologies with the masculine), and how Kohut’s (1977) poles of the self can also be classified within a masculine and feminine typology (pole of grandiosity/feminine and pole of omnipotence/masculine).

We can, therefore, see how certain masculine/feminine psychoactive substances and masculine/feminine ideologies act as a structural prosthesis in an attempt to rectify dysfunctional masculine and/or feminine poles of the self and coping styles. Furthermore, I have observed that there seems to be a significant correlation between the quality of an individual’s early relationships with their father and mother and their drug(s) of choice (see Kernberg, 1975; Kohut, 1977), and the same should be true for choice of ideology.

Simply put, individuals are often attracted to a specific ideology because of their mommy and/or daddy issues, not necessarily for the utilitarian aims or logical and factual coherence of their ideology of choice, and ideological possession or ideology addiction is a misguided attempt to resolve these issues.

All of the citations in this post can be found in the reference section of my book, An Integral Foundation for Addiction: Beyond the Biopsychosocial Model.

Ideology Addiction: Part 1


In my soon to be published book, An Integral Foundation for Addiction Treatment: Beyond the Biopsychosocial Model, I propose that ideologies are psychoactive and potentially addictive. I suggest that ideology addiction can be understood as a type of ideological possession and zealotry, with deleterious consequences for the individual and society. An individual in the grips of an ideology addiction exhibits psychological and behavioral patterns common to all addicted populations.

From a psychodynamic perspective, ideology addiction can be understood as the result of a narcissistic disturbance of self experience and deficits in self capabilities. Consequently, the activism of an ideology addict is fundamentally a narcissistic project. A misguided attempt at self repair and satisfaction of archaic narcissistic needs, and seldom motivated by the ideals of the ideology.

Richard Ulman and Harry Paul, in their book The Self Psychology of Addiction and its Treatment: Narcissus in Wonderland, points out that at the core of addiction dynamics there is a megalomaniacal fantasy of control. “In the case of addiction, such a narcissistic fantasy centers on a narcissistic illusion of a megalomaniacal being that possesses magical control over psychoactive agents (things and activities). These latter entities allow for the artificial alteration of the subjective reality of one’s sense of one’s self and one’s personal world. Under the influence of these intoxicating fantasies, an addict imagines being like a sorcerer or wizard who controls a magic wand capable of manipulating the forces of nature—and particularly the forces of human nature. Eventually, a person becomes a captive of these addictive fantasies and then becomes an addict, lost in a wonderland” (2006, p. 6).

From a self psychology perspective, narcissistic injury can lead to porous or scant psychic structure that is in constant threat of psychic fragmentation or annihilation. The individual with narcissistic injury often seeks self-objects that provide psychic scaffolding (Kohut, 1977). Ideology can be understood as self-object that provides much needed psychic structure for such individuals, and transports them in a transmogrified fantasy world. The individual who is ideologically possessed is a “narcissist in wonderland” under the influence of “intoxicating fantasies” (Ulman & Paul, 2000) that presents a danger to him or herself and society.

This is the first in a series of blog posts where I will discuss the etiology and dynamics of ideology addiction.


Ulman, R. B., & Paul, H. (2006) The self psychology of addiction and its treatment: Narcissus in wonderland. New York, NY: Routledge.

Du Plessis, G. P. (2017) An Integral Foundation of Addiction and its Treatment: Beyond the biopsychosocial model. Integral Publishers: AZ, Tuscan.

Kohut, H. (1977). The restoration of self. New York, NY: International University Press.

Addiction: A multiple object as a continuum of ontological complexity


Integral Enactment Theory highlights the phenomenon of addiction as a multiple and dynamic object arising along a continuum of ontological complexity. Integral Enactment Theory adeptly points out how etiological models “co-arise” in relation to methodology (methodological pluralism) and enacts a particular reality of addiction (ontological pluralism), while being mediated by the world view of the subject applying the method (epistemological pluralism).
Esbjörn-Hargens (2010) explains that at the core of Integral Enactment Theory is the triadic notion of Integral Pluralism. He identifies three pluralisms that should be explicit within Integral Theory, namely epistemological, methodological, and ontological. Esbjörn-Hargens and Zimmerman (2009) developed a framework for this triadic structure where “epistemology is connected to ontology via methodologies. So, if we are going to have epistemological pluralism (the Who) and methodological pluralism (the How), then we ought logically (or integrally) to have ontological pluralism (the What)” (p. 146). Esbjörn-Hargens call this triadic arrangement Integral Pluralism.

Integral Pluralism is composed of Integral Epistemological Pluralism (IEP), Integral Methodological Pluralism (IMP), and Integral Ontological Pluralism (IOP) (Esbjörn-Hargens & Zimmerman, 2009; Esbjörn-Hargens, 2010).
Before exploring the three facets of Integral Pluralism, there will be a brief focus on the relevance of the concept of “enactment”, an essential feature of Integral Theory’s post-metaphysical position (Wilber, 2003a, 2003b, 2006; Esbjörn-Hargens & Zimmerman, 2009; Esbjörn-Hargens, 2010).

The notion of enactment is vital in understanding why different theories of addiction do not have to be in contradiction of each other, as they are often interpreted, but can rather be understood as “true but partial”. Enactment is the bringing forth of certain aspects of reality (ontology) when using a certain lens (methodology) to view it (Esbjörn-Hargens, 2010).

In short, reality is not to be discovered as a “pre-given” truth, but rather we co-create or “co-enact” reality as we use various paradigms to explore it (using paradigm in the Kuhnian sense – which includes the social injunctions associated with a certain worldview). For example, when attempting to understand addiction using objective empirical research methods we enact a different ontological reality than when using a phenomenological approach. By avoiding what Wilber refers to as the “myth of the given” we understand addiction as a multiple object with no existing “pre-given” reality to be discovered (Wilber, 2003a, 2003b, 2006). Yet it must be noted we are not referring here to the conception of immaterialism. Integral Pluralism and its conception of enactment can be seen as an option “between” subjective idealism or immaterialism (Berkley) and positivism or materialism. Wilber (in Esbjörn-Hargens, 2010) says: “This is why I use the word sub-sist. There is a reality or a What that subsists and has intrinsic features but it doesn’t ex-ist without a Who and a How. So that is where Integral Pluralism in general comes into being: it is bringing forth a reality but it is not creating the reality à la subjective idealism” (p. 169)”.

Different research methods in addictionology enact addiction in unique ways, and consequently bring forth different etiological models. Virtually all etiological models (typically based on a positivist foundation, including intrapsychic models founded on psychoanalytic metapsychology) treat addiction as a single object “out there” to be discovered or uncovered, and therefore, eventually run into trouble attempting to explain a feature of addiction outside of its enacted reality. For example, physiological models and their accompanying research (naturalistic scientific) methodologies, enact the biological reality of addiction, and are inherently incapable of showing any truth of addiction outside the realm of biology, i.e. societal, existential, and so forth. In acknowledging the multiplicity of addiction’s ontological existence, the “incompatibility” of the various etiological models disappears, because we can see that each enacts a different reality of addiction – each bringing forth valuable insights in its specific ontological domain. What one considers real depends in part on the means and apparatus one uses, so objects are therefore “enacted” (Murray, 2010).

In discussing the status of the ontology of climate change Esbjörn-Hargens (2010) raises some stimulating points, that is relevant to this topic. In explaining the “inevitability of ontological pluralism” of climate change, he points out a relationship between the various methods that are used to “see” or enact this complex phenomenon, i.e. the relationship of (1) the common professions that encounter the phenomenon (the Who), (2) the associated methodology of each discipline (the How), and (3) the consequent view of climate change (the What). Exactly the same assertion can be made for the “enactment” of addiction models. Applying the above-mentioned triadic relationship to the phenomenon of addiction highlights some fascinating, but seldom acknowledged, issues. When the various professions explore etiological models and apply their respective clinical methodologies, they may not refer to the same ontic phenomenon. We often acknowledge that various researchers and clinicians explore or treat different aspects of addiction, but often this is based on the assumption of a common ontic reality of addiction, and when “puzzled” together we assume it forms a comprehensive picture of addiction (this is the underlying ontological and epistemological assumption of the BPS model and other compound models).

Is the above-mentioned statement a correct ontological assumption (What) to build theories (Why) on? Is the neurobiologist seeing the same addiction as the existential therapist? Is the psychoanalyst talking about the same addiction as the 12 step counsellor? Is the biochemist measuring the same addiction as the social scientist? Yes and no. Yes, in the sense that that they all attempt to view the socially defined and agreed-upon phenomena called addiction; and no, in the sense that they are “bringing-forth-into-the-world” and enacting different realities of the phenomenon of addiction, ranging in ontological complexity (first, second and third orders of ontology) – which can “overlap” ontologically, but are not the same ontic phenomenon.

In short: there are essential structures of addiction that share the “various enactments” of it, but how it “exists-in-the-world” (in a Heideggerian sense) varies, depending on the unique permutation of its integral enactment triad of “Who–How–What”. Esbjörn-Hargens (2010) says: “In fact, there is not a clear, single, independently existing object, nor are there multiple different objects. There is something in-between: a multiple object … This multiple object [addiction] is actually a complex set of phenomena that cannot easily be reduced to a single independent object” (p. 148).

References to this blog post can be found in my articles as indicated on my Publications and Research page of my website