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.