‚ÄčFeeling -State Addiction Theory and Treatment 


Feeling-State Theory has been previously described in articles published in the Journal Traumatology and the Journal of EMDR by Dr Robert Miller. The protocol for eliminating addiction described in those articles is called the Feeling State Addiction Protocol. (FSAP). The FSAP utilizes a modified form of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to process the feeling-states.


Origin of Feeling States-

The seeking of pleasurable feelings is an essential part of a healthy life. People seek feelings such as excitement, bonding, power and adventure. Normally, these feelings do not become fixated in the brain with a linkage to a particular behavior. Excitement and power, for example, can be experienced in many different ways. The difference between a positive event that is just pleasurable and a positive event that creates a feeling-state is the result of the person's emotional history. The more deprived of a feeling someone is, the more intensely that person wants to experience that particular feeling. The more intensely that person wants to experience a particular feeling, the stronger the reaction will be when the hunger is finally satisfied. This strong reaction linking the behavior creates the feeling-state that causes the compulsive behavior. This connection happens in the brain.


Feeling-states are created when intense positive feelings are experienced when doing some behavior, any behavior.  The behavior could be gambling, shopping, driving, sex, smoking, or any other behavior. The specific behavior is not important. The only importance of the behavior is that, when doing the behavior, the person experiences a feeling that he/she has an intense desire to feel. So, for example, if a person feels important while smoking, shopping, or working, the behavior acts as a trigger for the feeling. The smoker, the shopaholic, or the workaholic are really interested in the feeling, not the behavior so much. That is why there are so many different kinds of addictions. A person can become addictive to any behavior if the behavior occurs during an intensely experienced positive event. Once the feeling has become fixated with a behavior, no matter what negative evens occur later, the feeling remains fixated with the behavior. An example of this would be, even though a compulsive gambler lost much money over the years and faced financial difficuty, the feeling-state remains exactly the same as when the first memory was created. The goal of Feeling-state process of treatment is to de-link the embedded feeling from the behavior. Then the person is released from the compulsion of doing that behavior.  Once the Feeling-State is broken, the person will begin to seek more appropriate ways to obtain the desired feeling. The FSAP utilizes a modified form of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to process the feeling-states by de-linking them as mentioned above.


Here is an example:

Sarah had a shopping problem. She bought clothes she neither needed nor could afford. She often did not even wear the clothes she bought with the money she needed for basic necessities. The feeling that Sarah associated with shopping was excitement. When Sarah needed to feel excitement, the feeling-state pattern that linked excitement to shopping was activated and she felt compelled to shop. Instead of being able to find other activities that would satisfy her need for excitement (and save her money), this feeling-state pattern appeared to be automatically triggered, and Sarah would feel the urge to buy something without regard to her budget. 


Copied from Robert Miller, Ph.D training workbook. 

For more information on Feeling-State Theory go to www.FSAProtocol.com


Kimberlee Daughtry, MA, LPC-S, EMDR Certified has been trained in this protocol and found success using it in her practice to reduce or eliminate compulsive behaviors.




Breath of Hope Professional counseling