Lampshading in Recovery as a Defense Mechanism
Conversations are a large part of the recovery process. Whether someone is addressing others in their support group or are speaking one-on-one with a professional, observing the language that is used is critical in identifying underlying factors that may inhibit a person’s recovery. However, even the most committed people in recovery may still have barriers surrounding uncomfortable topics. Avoiding these questions or retreating inward with body language are some ways to identify these conversation points. One lesser-known way that someone may choose to navigate an undesirable topic is to lampshade that part of the conversation. Not only is this technique difficult to identify, but it can lead to a situation where someone is able to successfully talk about a subject without ever actually confronting the underlying issues that it presents.
What Is Lampshading?
Lampshading originated as a literary technique, commonly used in fiction to point out to the audience how improbable or cliched a certain plot point may be. By the author themselves making an effort to call attention to this detail, they can then invite the reader to continue their suspension of disbelief in order for the plot to continue. This technique can be used for comedic reasons, but also serves as a way for authors to be able to move forward with the plot in mind without addressing any number of illogical actions that may otherwise compromise the intended progression of the story. However, lampshading is growing to expand this definition outside of literary works and can be seen being practiced even in everyday speech in a slightly modified way.
In recovery, lampshading will operate a little differently. It isn’t intended to suspend disbelief of any kind. However, it gets its power from the speaker being able to call attention to certain aspects of their own recovery outright. Utilizing a comedic tone, people may be able to spotlight certain aspects of their recovery in order to create the illusion that either they are not as impactful as they may have really been, or that someone has control over the situation when it may not be the case. By drawing attention to these factors, people are allowing themselves to take control over the conversation, and then using that to subsequently dismiss the issue when delving into it may be more important for one’s continued therapy.
What It Looks Like in Practice
Someone who is lampshading may intentionally draw attention to a time when they were struggling with their drug use. For example, intentionally bringing up one of their darkest times or when they thought the least of themselves, and then use this acknowledgment of the truth to instill confidence in the conversation. However, even as someone brings attention to a certain event, such as losing their job due to a failed drug test, they may then use this control to try to move past the subject quickly through comedic means or refocus on another part of their recovery story that is more easily palatable for them to talk about. In the end, it gives the illusion that someone has addressed a topic, even when no real deep dive into the underlying factors or continued effects that such an event may have truly had even takes place.
Make Use of Specific, Directed Questions
Recognizing that someone may be trying to use this technique to avoid confronting a more difficult aspect of their recovery is just the first step, and it is still important to find a way for someone to open up about the major hurdles in their recovery. Using specific, directed questions when addressing a topic that someone may have been trying to skirt around can push someone to genuinely address the topic and make confronting the difficulties therein an intentional practice. While some people may still have reservations or employ other defensive techniques, addressing these responses on an individualized basis rather than forcing the conversation at all times may be necessary.
The Challenge of Recovery
Every aspect of recovery is challenging. However, there are two parts of “challenge” in recovery that need to be addressed. There are both the challenges that someone may face every day in a variety of forms, such as various stressors, constructing a healthy daily schedule, or learning to be comfortable in one’s own skin and self-worth. But recovery is also about challenging each person to push themselves in their own recovery, and this is something that someone lampshading a particular topic may be trying to avoid. Asking directed questions is just one way in which someone can challenge a client to genuinely explore a certain event or topic in themselves. Using other means of expression, such as art therapy or music therapy, may also provide other modes of communication that can allow someone to face these times in their lives without having to worry about the nuance of their language. Challenging someone who is lampshading is to push them to get through the toughest aspects of their recovery. Comforting and supporting the vulnerabilities that such topics may produce can translate to an effective cornerstone of a person’s recovery, leading to a healthier outlook on themselves and a deepening trust between professionals and clients.
Lampshading is just one defensive technique that someone may employ to avoid difficult topics about addiction and mental health issues. However, working through even the most difficult times in recovery can lead to a healthier, sober life. At Alta Centers, we can personalize your plan with us to address your unique needs in order to address your personal underlying stresses and anxieties surrounding your recovery, all while providing a robust and supportive network of professionals and peers. Not only can your unique plan be curated to highlight your strengths and goals, but also can be used to support you through your vulnerabilities. Recovery is a challenge and learning to address your personal stresses through the process is a foundation on which to build an entire culture of recovery pertinent to you. For more information on how we can personalize your program, or speak to a trained staff member about your unique circumstances, call us today at (888) 202-2583.