A striking and paradoxical feature shared by many people struggling with addiction is sometimes described in twelve-step recovery as “being an egomaniac with an inferiority complex.” Internally, deep down, we feel inadequate, damaged, broken, “not good enough” (or simply “not enough”) or “less than.” These feelings and the beliefs they are based on usually have their origins in the messages received from others starting early in life. How we react in the present is strongly influenced by childhood experiences and internalized beliefs. The wreckage that active addiction leaves in its wake serves to reinforce and deepen the self-perception that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. These beliefs and the resultant feelings are often so distressing that addicts protect themselves by keeping them unconscious. Occasionally, there may be some awareness of their existence, but due to the discomfort they create they tend to remain hidden—from oneself, as well as from everyone else. They also affect (or perhaps infect) most all ongoing relationships. One way in which beliefs and feelings of inferiority can be disguised or kept at a distance is through the defense mechanism of reaction-formation. Reaction-formation protects against painful thoughts and feelings by turning them into their opposites—for example, presenting an attitude of arrogance—that I’m not “less than” others because I am “better than” others! However, this form of self-protection takes considerable energy to maintain since it constantly requires having to demonstrate that superiority to everyone, including oneself. This often manifests in the need to be in control; the need to “be right,” and effectively lifting oneself up by putting others down. This occurs whenever I judge people in a negative way—I am implicitly putting them down, making them inferior, and elevating the way I see myself by making myself “superior” to them. A common feature of such an attitude of superiority is believing and acting as if one knows what’s best regardless of the situation. Prior to recovery, it can be standard procedure for a person to try to control people and situations based on what they think is best, and the need to be right convinces them of the correctness of their approach. The need to be right involves being intolerant of and rejecting others’ viewpoints. When someone is emotionally attached to the need to be right; when the ideas or suggestions of others differ from his or hers, then those other perspectives must be “wrong.” This blog post is an excerpt from Some Assembly Required – A Balanced Approach to Recovery from Addiction and Chronic Pain by By Dan Mager, MSW; Published by Central Recovery Press (CRP).