Grandiosity and Recovery

Character Flaw Dangers in Recovery

It can fairly be said that becoming sober is the easy part – the real trouble is staying sober. It is suggested that the reason for why people tend to fall into substance abuse in the first place is their personality and their inability to cope with reality. Unless people are able to go about things differently when they become sober they risk more of the same problems in the future. One of the character flaws that can be a real liability to those who have entered recovery is grandiosity. Unless the individual is able to overcome this tendency towards self importance and self obsession they can become stuck and at risk of relapse.

Grandiosity Defined

Grandiosity can be defined as:

having an exaggerated belief in one’s importance, sometimes reaching delusional proportions, and occurring as a common symptom of mental illnesses, as manic disorder.

The individual who is grandiose will tend to behave in a pompous manner and this usually annoys other people.

Grandiosity and Mental Illness

Grandiose behavior is associated with a number of mental illnesses including:

* Narcissistic personality disorder
* Bipolar disorder
* Delusional disorders due to substance abuse
* Psychosis
* Borderline personality
* Dual diagnosis involves addiction combined with another mental health problem.

Symptoms of Grandiosity

The person who is dealing with grandiosity will have an unrealistically high opinion of themselves. They may believe that they have almost superhuman attributes. The symptoms of grandiosity can include:

* The individual may feel invincible. This can mean that they are willing to engage in risk behavior because they don’t believe the normal dangers apply to them.
* This person will tend to feel superior to everyone else.
* They exaggerate their talents and abilities.
* This person will try to dominate conversations.
* If this grandiosity is due to mental illness the individual may believe that they have a special connection with good or some other supernatural entity.
* They are likely to engage in fantasies where they are all powerful.
* This person may engage in magical thinking such as the belief that they can control the future by performing certain rituals.
* Those who are grandiose can feel convinced that they do not need the help of other people. They may even view those who offer to help as trying to get in the way.
* They will believe that they are special and have unique attributes. The individual may believe that they have a special mission in life that is of real significance.
* Grandiose people are convinced that they can achieve anything that they put their mind to.
* This type of individual will tend to be unimpressed by the achievements and talents of other people. They fully believe that they could accomplish similar or better if they wanted to do so.
* They may believe that they have supernatural powers.
* This individual will downgrade the experiences of other people.
* They frequently boast about their abilities and experiences.

Grandiosity and the Addictive Personality

It is common for substance abusers to share certain character traits that are commonly referred to as the addictive personality. It is believed to be these personality quirks that make the individual more susceptible to addictive behaviors. Common among these traits is attention seeking behavior and grandiosity. Such boorish and arrogant conduct is usually adopted in an attempt to cover up their low self esteem. The addict can show all the symptoms of grandiosity but deep down they feel inferior to everyone else and they act in this way as a means to compensate. There are also addicts who have a dual diagnosis. This could mean that they have a mental illness such as narcissistic or bipolar disorder alongside their addiction. In this case the individual would believe in their own self importance.

Dangers of Grandiosity in Recovery

When people give up alcohol or drugs it does not mean that they instantly become well adapted. In fact it is usually for people in recovery to continue to exhibit maladaptive behaviors, and this is why it is so often stated that recovery is a process and not an event. Once people become sober they real work starts because they then have to deal with the character flaws and maladaptive coping mechanisms that led them into addiction in the first place. If people in recovery continue with grandiose behavior it can have serious repercussion for them such as:

* The individual may be convinced that their situation is unique and that this means that they cannot learn from the experiences of other people.
* It can make it difficult for the person to make new friends. Grandiosity is a highly unattractive personality trait.
* It can mean that people overestimate their own abilities and achievements in recovery. They are at risk of developing pink cloud syndrome where they become so happy about their success that they take things for granted and by doing so put themselves at risk of relapse.
* The world of addiction is characterized by living in delusion. In order to find success in sobriety the individual needs to escape all types of deluded thinking including grandiosity.
* Success begins to happen when people recognize their limitations as well as their abilities. So long as the person remains grandiose in their thinking they may refuse to even consider the possibility that they have limitations.
* Humility is a definite asset for those people who want to build a successful life away from addiction. When people are humble it means that they can learn new things more easily, and they will also tend to be more likeable as humans.
* Grandiosity may be a sign that the person is suffering from a dual diagnosis. Until they deal with such symptoms it will be hard for them to make progress in recovery.

Grandiosity and Feelings of Uniqueness in Recovery

Establishing a good life in sobriety by trial and error can be an overwhelming challenge. Luckily it is not necessary for each person to find their own way because sobriety is well a trodden path, and it is possible to learn from those who went before. This means that the newly sober individual is saved the trouble and risk of having to reinvent the wheel. By learning from the mistakes of other people they are able to find their feet in recovery while avoiding the common pitfalls.

If people are grandiose in their thinking they may refuse to acknowledge that they can learn from other people. They may even believe that their own uniqueness means that the normal rules do not apply to them. This is commonly referred to as terminal uniqueness because such thinking can get people killed. If this person insists on only doing things their own way then the path they take may well lead them back to addiction. It is vital that such individuals get over their own self importance and develop the willingness to learn from the experiences of other people.

How to Overcome Grandiosity

Grandiosity and feelings of uniqueness can be a real obstacle to recovery. It is possible to overcome such thinking by:

* If grandiosity is having a serious impact on the individual’s life it may be a sign of mental illness. They will be best advised to seek a professional opinion.
* The individual needs to challenge their own thoughts when they are feeling superior or special. Each individual is special and unique to a large degree, but in the important fundamental ways all humans are the same.
* Learning to empathize with other people allows the individual to see the commonalities between themselves and other people. Empathy is not about feeling sorry about for someone else but about trying to understand what it is like to be them.
* Meditation techniques such as mindfulness can be effective at helping people spot the errors in their own thought processes.
* In 12 Step groups they recommend that members listen to the similarities and not the differences. This helps the individual see beyond their feelings of uniqueness.
* Cultivating a humble attitude and a beginner’s mind are great assets in sobriety.
* Improved self esteem usually develops in recovery as the individual achieves small successes followed later by bigger successes. When people have high self esteem there is less need for them to blow their own trumpet.
* Most spiritual paths will lead to a reduction in ego as part of the process.
* Helping other people can be another effective way to overcome feelings of grandiosity. In order for this work though, the individual must not look down on the person they are trying to help.
* The person needs to realize that they do not need to be extra special in order for them to be valuable as a human.

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