A certain amount of self-absorption is normal. It is natural for all people to see the world through their own experience and perspective, and care about their own good.
In fact, totally abandoning your own needs and thoughts can make life very difficult, building hidden resentments and a feeling of being stuck and out-of-control. However, healthy self-actualization must be tempered with awareness that other people exist and have their own problems and needs as well.
Self-obsession is thinking about your self so much that you fail to have awareness of the outside world, so caught up in your own thoughts and feelings that you do not take the time to appreciate or listen to anyone else. Self-obsession and addiction are often deeply tied together, to the point that it is difficult to tell which causes which.
Here are some of the ways self-obsession and an addictive lifestyle feed off each other, and how letting go of self-obsession is an important part of your recovery.
How substance use creates self-obsession
Substance abuse alters your ability to perceive the world around you. Alcohol and many types of drugs affect the brain in ways that it to be less capable of perceiving the outside world, including the needs of other people.
Use often causes a user to disappear into a fog, so caught up in his or her own experience of being "high" that awareness of the outside world simply disappears. Inhibitions may be released, so that people act more spontaneously, acting in an irresponsible or dangerous way, rather then pausing to consider the consequences their actions may have on others.
When substance abuse becomes habitual, these partners can influence the brain in more permanent ways, reducing the brain's ability to consider and evaluate the other people around.
How addiction creates self-obsession
Not only does substance abuse often radically change a person by limiting his or her ability to think and perceive, but also, as a user develops dependency and addiction, he or she becomes even less likely to recognize the impact his or her behavior has on others. By definition, addiction is an all-encompassing obsession characterized by an inability to consider anything or anyone except getting another "fix."
A person struggling with addiction is truly caught up in his or her own perceived needs, and may act in ways deeply hurtful to others, all in the name of quenching a powerful thirst. Because of this, the addict can become a very difficult person to be around, behaving in untrustworthy ways, or not being able to truly communicate or connect with anyone else.
As a result, addiction breeds isolation, which can make a person further entrenched in self-obsessive ways. Thus, a very harmful interpersonal cycle is created, in which isolation and self-obsession contribute to each other, both driving a person further into their destructive substance abuse.
The problems with self-obsession
A spirit of self-obsession can get in the way of true recovery. While some times of self-reflection and self-awareness are essential, is it equally important that an addicted and self-obsessed individual learn how to appreciate, listen, and consider the needs of other people as well.
Being overly focused on your own needs will make it impossible to form the genuine relationships that are an important part of your healing. Too much focusing on your own problems will only increase your own unhappiness, while being able to give and receive help from other people will make those problems seem lighter.
That is why a full recovery means learning how to move beyond self-obsession, into a more balanced thought patterns of self-care and thinking about other people.