The behavior of people who abuse alcohol and drugs can lead to a great many problems in their life. To those who know them the substance abuser can appear deluded and stubborn. It is obvious that drugs are having a negative impact on this person’s life yet they persist with the behavior. Any attempts to get them to see the error of their ways will be met with resistance – in fact the addict can react to criticisms of their behavior by increasing their usage. One of the reasons why this might happen could be that the individual is demand resistant.
Demand resistance can be defined as an unconscious chronic negative response to demands, real or perceived, internal or external. It means that the individual does not react well to any demands or expectations for how they should behave. If this person feels that any type of authority figure is telling them what to do, their automatic reaction will be to rebel. It can even mean that they will resist their own authority and aspirations.
It is likely that this pattern of behavior develops in childhood and is an early attempt to be assertive. This will often be in reaction to a parent who is overly critical. The child struggles to meet the expectations of their (at least perceived as) demanding parents, and this leads to an increasing sense of resentment. The child may come to believe that by resisting the demands of their parents they will get a reaction.
Perhaps they feel that they can in this way gain power in relation to those who have up until then controlled their life. It makes the child feel more powerful, and they may want to experience this feeling of power. They can then begin to extend this resentment and resistance to all authority figures, and they can then even begin to rebel against their own authority. It may become a habit that can be carried over into adulthood.
This is only one explanation for the advent of demand resistance, and there are likely many others. What is consistent is the behavior exhibited when there are demands upon behavior.
One of the problems with demand resistance is that it is easy for the symptoms to go unnoticed. Other people may view the individual as a bit obstinate or contrary, but they can be completely oblivious to this. The symptoms of demand resistance can include:
* The individual may appear as stubborn to other people.
* They may be highly sensitive to any type of criticism.
* The person may sabotage their own efforts to achieve something.
* If any suggestion is made to the individual that they do should do something, their automatic response will be to say no.
* They will tend to procrastinate when there is work that needs doing.
* The individual will have a tendency to focus on other projects before finishing a project with an imminent deadline.
* They may have physical symptoms when faced by an authority figure. For example, the individual may feel a tightening in their stomach when a superior at work asks them to do something.
* When another person tries to offer advice, the individual may have a tendency to become defensive. They may equate any advice with being told what to do.
* The person may have a tendency to not live up to the expectations of other people. This is because they view expectations as demands, and so resist them.
* The individual intensely dislikes the word no.
* When asked to do something, they will only do it on their own terms.
* The person may regularly create to-do lists, but never manage to get things done.
Rebelling against authority can sometimes be a positive thing. This is particularly true when there is some type of injustice associated with this authority. The problem is that some people begin to resist as an automatic response to all expectations – including their own expectations. This type of habitual response in life can be detrimental for several reasons.
* If a person behaves like this in a work situation it could harm their career. They may develop a reputation for being difficult to work with and unreliable
* The individual may feel frustrated at their own inability to get things done.
* The person may sabotage their own efforts to get things done.
* Some demand resistant people may begin to feel depressed over their failures to meet expectations. The thoughts they have about things they should have done can create a great deal of guilt and regret.
* The individual may regularly fail to achieve their desires. They may even become convinced that they are a failure.
* This type of behavior can be a barrier to success and happiness in life.
* Loved ones may suffer because of this resistance to expectations. The person may automatically resist any plans or action that is suggested to them.
If a substance abuser has a tendency to demand resistance, it can have consequences such as:
* Substance abusers tend to feel resentful about suggestions that they change their behavior. If this person is demand resistant they might even abuse alcohol or drugs more out of a sense of rebellion.
* If this person develops a dependency on alcohol or drugs they will sabotage their own efforts to enter recovery.
* The individual will develop the idea that they should enter recovery rather than actually wanting to get sober. This expectation of what they should do will become something to rebel against.
* If the person does decide to seek help for their substance abuse problem they may resist attempts by other people to help them. It can be difficult for the addicts to overcome their problems without help so this lowers their chances of success.
* Their regular failure to meet expectations can mean that the person has low self efficacy and self esteem. This lack of confidence in their own abilities can mean that their recovery attempts are doomed to failure because they create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
* If the individual enters rehab they might fail to learn the necessary skills they need to survive in sobriety, as they may resist the guidance found in rehab.
The addictive personality is a set of characteristics that substance abusers tend to share. Some of these personality traits are closely linked to the behavior of those who are demand resistant and include:
* These individuals tend to value nonconformity – they like to rebel against authority.
* They will tend to admire other individuals who challenge authority figures.
* Low self esteem.
* A tendency to feel alienated from other people.
In order to break this habit it is important that people believe that changes is possible. If the individual is convinced that change is not possible, and they just are who they are, they will not be unable to overcome this behavior.
* Demand resistance is a learned behavior so it can be unlearned if people are motivated to make the change.
* The simplest way to escape this tendency is to decide to no longer resist demands. Once people are aware of their propensity to act this way they will be able to counter it by letting go.
* The individual needs to make a conscious effort to remove should from their vocabulary and replace this with want.
* It takes a while for behaviors to become habitual and change doesn’t happen overnight. It will take time to overcome the tendency to demand resistance but so long as the individual is serious about change they will make it happen.
* It can be beneficial to see a therapist, as this professional may be able to help uncover the root of the problem, while suggesting tactics for overcoming it.
* In order to be better able to achieve an ambitious goal it is better to break it down into smaller steps so as not to feel overwhelmed. As the person achieves each step it will give them the motivation to move onto the next one.
* Goals should be specific and so should the steps to achieve them. It is harder to achieve the vague goal of I want to be fit than the goal of building up to be able to run for thirty minutes four times a week.
* There are online communities and resources that can help people overcome demand resistance. A good example of this is Procrastinator’s Anonymous.
* Avoid the tendency to automatically say no to any plan suggested by other people. Instead the individual can try to say yes when it is at all possible as a means to overcome this tendency.
* It may be beneficial to reframe resolutions in a more positive way. Instead of giving things up the individual might focus on the adaptation of an improved way of living.