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Psychodynamic Theory and Gambling


Hence, the gambler routinely goes about controlling his inner world by devaluing ... excuses for driving home through neighborhoods where there were streetwalkers. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Psychodynamic Theory and Gambling

Psychodynamic Theory and Gambling
  • Todays Agenda
  • Psychoanalytical Theory PPT / Discussion
  • Break
  • Inquiry 2

Basic Assumptions of Psychoanalytical Theory
  • A great deal of human behavior happens at an
    unconscious level.
  • Humans are driven by instinctual drive states
  • Human development unravels through a predictable
    series of stages, hence a trauma or block of such
    maturation can affect the development of a viable
    ego / sense of self.
  • The self is first and foremost and energy system.

Basic Assumptions of Psychodynamic Theory
  • 5) A fifth assumption of psychodynamic theory
    speaks to the process of sublimation, whereby an
    individual substitutes a desired behavior for a
    more socially acceptable behavior.
  • Ultimately, pathological gambling in one form or
    another can be looked upon as a regression of
    sorts whereby the gambler essentially returns to
    a former developmental stage so as to complete
    its development.
  • Such gratifications are considered to reflect
    past impingements of ego development and may be
    viewed as escapes, affect regulators, ego
    inflators, self love actions, etc.

Hans Von Hattingberg
  • Tenets
  • Gambling is pleasurable, but also fraught with
    tension, anxiety, and fear.
  • Gambling in adulthood becomes a means to control
    anger and guilt associated with the failure to
    understand parental socialization (which was not
    worked through in childhood).

Hans Von Hattingberg Earliest Known
Psychoanalytical Gambling Theorist
  • 3) Thus, gambling can be understood as return of
    the repressed, because as an adult one uses
    gambling to control their inner and outer world.
  • And yet, this act of gaining control through
    gambling also brings about states of guilt
    especially when losing, as the gambler
    re-experiences such guilt as being delivered by
    parental imago's.

Ernst Simmel
  • A controversial character, held that gambling was
    a sublimated expression of an unresolved
  • Whereby money is symbolic, in the sense that
    winning is orgasmic, and losing represents
    castration (withdrawing of parental love).
  • Essentially the gambler has a developmental block
    (age 2 3 years), and through gambling the
    individual seeks to work through his attachments
    to his parents and gain independence.
  • An independence that he was not afforded as a

William Stekel
  • In comparison to other psychoanalytic theorists,
    Stekels ideas on gambling were applicable to
    treatment and helped to better understand the
    gamblers mind.
  • For instance, he distinguished the real gambler
    from the from the professional.
  • The professional gambler plays because gambling
    is his livelihood, whereas the real gambler plays
    because he wants to escape from his current
  • For Stekel, gambling was a regression in time (to
    childhood) where their were no worries or cares.

Stekels contributions to theory
  • First to suggest that gambling produced alternate
    states. Thus, at the heart of gambling was a
    need for tension and release.
  • He also was the first clinician to point out that
    gambling was highly tied to superstition and
  • Stekel also saw the symbolism behind gambling and
    held that winning enabled the gambler to seize
    and hold onto to love.
  • Hence, one could say that such love may have not
    been introjected into the psyche at an early age
    or in the gamblers current life, the energy
    brought about by gambling helped to sooth inner

Otto Fenichel
  • One of the first theoreticians to point out the
    narcissistic qualities of the gambler.
  • For instance, the gambler who continues to think
    they are going to win, does so because he/she
    holds that their omnipotence is greater than fate
    or for that matter, more powerful than the odds

Edmund Bergler
  • Bergler (1958), like Freud, invested much
    interest into the unconscious mind of the
    gambler, yet, he, unlike Freud, differentiated
    the non- clinical from the pathological
  • Hence, Bergler was the forerunner of diagnostics
    in consideration to delineating the specific
    qualities held by the pathological gambler.

Berglers contributions
  • Systematically identified
  • The gamblers habitual risk-taking.
  • Preoccupation with gambling.
  • The irrational persistence to quit despite
    reoccurring defeat.
  • The inability to stop when losing or winning.
  • The wagering of too much money.
  • The intoxicating and euphoric effects that
    gambling has on the gambler and,
  • The pleasure-painful tension that a gambler
    experiences between the time a bet is placed and
    its outcome.

Edmund Bergler (contd).
  • Clinically Bergler, was also the first real
    treatment specialist and created a practice
    around treating problem / pathological gamblers.
  • His main tenet was that the gambler had an
    unconscious wish to lose.
  • This was based on the fact that because the
    infant/child lost their omnipotent power (between
    0 -2) they tried to reinstate or seize it through

Bergler (contd).
  • And yet, gambling too, is a withholding and
    essentially a losing game.
  • Thus, at an unconscious level (gambling) offers a
    return to the omnipotent state that was taken
    away during infancy/childhood.
  • However, as an adult, the game despite it
    bringing frustration, the gambler at least
    controls their frustration.
  • Essentially, allowing them to deriving pleasure
    from pain (masochism).

Breaking With Tradition Later Psychoanalytic
  • Bolen and Boyd
  • Although holding allegiance to some early
    theories on gambling Bolen and Boyd set
    themselves apart from their predecessors
    distinctively. . .

Bolen and Boyds Theoretical Contributions
  • Found gambling to function socially, religiously,
    and spiritually.
  • Were the first to suggest that a great deal of
    problem gamblers had parents that gambled and
    held that this may provide a propensity to gamble
    in the future.
  • Found that gambling served to counteract feelings
    of nothingness or emptiness replacing these
    emotions with a euphoric sense of importance,
    power (power seeking), and control.
  • Thus, laying the earlier foundation which holds
    that addiction is a self-medicating habit to deal
    with hidden psychiatric problems.

Bolen and Boyds Breaking With Tradition
  • Eventually, Bolen and Boyd challenged earlier
    psychoanalytical thought, claiming that their
    experience with gamblers led to claim that
    sexuality, masturbation, anality, had nothing to
    with gambling pathology.
  • For them, gambling was a defensive psychodynamic
    function, but both intrapsychic and interpsychic.
  • Having in roots in childhood, but also throughout
    the lifespan, more object related psychodynamics.

Richard Rosenthal
  • Modern day psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, has been
    treating gamblers for twenty-years.
  • Greatly responsible for the DSM criteria of the
    pathological gambler.
  • Although trained in psychoanalysis, largely
    studies the process by which gambling continues
    and how to go about treating it.

Rosenthal and the Gamblers Defenses
  • For Rosenthal, treatment of the pathological
    gambler lies in the understanding, of how these
    five defense mechanisms
  • Omnipotence
  • Splitting
  • Idealization/devaluation
  • Projection, and
  • Denial
  • Interact and help the gambler control his/her
    inner and outerworld(s), although eventually
    leading to their demise.

  • Refers to feeling of being all powerful, which is
    a direct defense against feelings of
  • This is a quality found in a great deal of
    gamblers and is exempflied in their wishful
  • I will win because I have to win or I can will
    myself to win (despite the house odds).

  • Is a defense mechanism whereby the gambler thinks
    himself/herself to be two separate people.
  • One is all good the winner, and the other, all
    bad the loser. Hence, the gambler oscillates
    between these two personalities types.
  • One hand, they can act all powerful whereby they
    seek to try to control others, thus, repressing
    the loser into the background.

Idealization and Devaluing
  • Essentially, the idea of controlling others is
    seen in either, I idealize you, or I devalue you.
  • Thus, as much research points out, we see why
    gamblers appear to have problems with intimacy,
    because the relationship is based on. . .

  • Process of casting your feelings, thoughts,
    judgments onto somebody else.
  • Hence, the gambler routinely goes about
    controlling his inner world by devaluing/idealizin
    g others.
  • He or she can then deal with the division with
    themselves (splitting, good or bad), but never
    really perceiving that it is them who are bad and
    good. DENIAL
  • Or that people themselves can be bad or good, a
    milestone that the self usually negotiates
    between the age of 0 6.

Rosenthal and Treatment
  • Ultimately, Rosenthal suggest that successful
    therapy hinges on helping the client realize that
    they are employing the latter defense mechanisms.
  • Not to mention how they are related to current
    gambling binges, and possibly how and why such
    defenses originated in the first place.

Rosenthal and Treatment
  • The question maybe asked then, How does the
    therapist go about bringing these defenses to the
    clients awareness . . .
  • The answer is simple, the patient will try to
    deceive the therapist, idealize him or her, or
    devalue him/ her, thus projecting their good and
    bad onto to him or her.
  • Hence, learning to hold such projections, while
    equally learning when to help the client peel
    away their defenses, is key to assessing the role
    that gambling plays in the clients life, and why
    there is a need to feel omnipotent in the first

Rosenthal and Further Insights Staying in the
  • Most recently, Rosenthal has brought attention to
    the issue of dry drunk syndrome and this operates
    in the gambler a terms he calls staying in the
  • While it is know that most substance abusers have
    to remain abstinent, it is a near impossibility
    for gamblers to not indulge in the use of
    money, similar to eating disorders.
  • Thus, this poses a risk for the gambler as they
    are somewhat still involved in the action (at
    least when it comes to money).

Staying in the Action Im Not Talking about
  • And yet, using money is not the only way in which
    the gambler stays in the action.
  • As Rosenthals clinical research makes clear, and
    suggests, that there are many ways for the
    gambler to take risks, or remain in a gambling
    mind-set, without making a bet.
  • Examples of staying in the action
  • Mind Bets
  • Success
  • Playing with Reality
  • Covert gambling
  • Lying, cheating and stealing, and
  • Switching addictions

Staying in the Action Through the Guise of
Switching to another Addiction.
  • The concept of dual addiction is not knew, but
    Rosenthal suggests that a new addiction might not
    be so new for the gambler.
  • Essentially, their new addiction, may actually
    represent gambling phenomena or an unconscious or
    covert way of staying in the action.

Switching Addictions One gambler stated,
  • After a period of individual therapy and regular
    attendance at Gamblers Anonymous, Mr. A appeared
    to have turned his life around. He abstained from
    gambling, which no longer seemed attractive, and
    his old debts were being paid off. He had
    remarried (his first wife divorced him because of
    his gambling), and claimed he and his wife were
    happy. His career had gone in a new direction and
    he was doing even better than before. He worked
    hard, but got satisfaction from his work. His
    employer and clients praised his accomplishments,
    and he was rewarded with frequent bonuses. By all
    accounts he would be considered successful.
  • What was wrong? With a great deal of
    embarrassment, he confided that he had begun
    frequenting prostitutes. He attempted to
    rationalize his behavior by telling the therapist
    that his sex drive was stronger than his wife's,
    and that she had been less available for him
    recently because of their different work
    schedules, and because of her involvement with
    her ailing mother. His turning to prostitutes, he
    said, was "quick and easy."

  • As he continued talking, the self-deception
    became obvious. If all he wanted was sexual
    gratification, he knew a number of women willing
    to accommodate him. He was a good looking, rather
    charming and outwardly confident young man, and
    women were sometimes quite forward in indicating
    interest. They did not even seem to mind that he
    was married. However, he rejected any and all
    such opportunities, preferring instead to seek
    out prostitutes on the street.
  • Such assignations were anything but "quick and
    easy." He experienced enormous anxiety that the
    prostitute would give him AIDS or some other
    disease which he would then pass on to his wife,
    or that the prostitute would turn out to be a
    policewoman and he would be arrested. In
    addition, he was certain that if his behavior
    became known, his wife would leave him and his
    career would be ruined. It dawned on him that he
    was gambling, and that the more he engaged in
    this behavior, the more certain he was to lose.
  • Why, he then asked, when he found a prostitute
    who appeared "safe," would he not go back to her,
    but would insist on trying someone different each

  • Obviously he either wanted to lose, or was
    excited by the risk of jeopardizing everything
    and escaping unharmed.
  • Mr. A then recognized that the feelings he had
    while looking for prostitutes were identical to
    the feelings previously experienced gambling. He
    not only had the same "rush," but the compulsive
    aspects were the same. He would find himself
    preoccupied by it while at work, inventing
    excuses for driving home through neighborhoods
    where there were streetwalkers. The anticipation,
    and the guilt afterwards, and the need to lie
    about where he spent his time and money, all
    reminded him of his previous gambling.

Opinions Please?
  • What do folks think about this case?
  • Is it gambling or is it a sex addiction?

Switching Addiction and Treatment
  • For Rosenthal, gambling and his sexual compulsion
    were fused, which is not an uncommon occurrence.
  • However, when looking at addiction this way, the
    therapist needs to be sure that the phenomena
    he/she is hearing is actually what is happening.
  • Thus, making treatment easier, despite the
    complexity in treating an addiction switcher.

Switching Addiction and Treatment
  • Essentially, at the core of the behavior was
    risk-taking, and more pertinently, past gambling
  • As such, these behaviors needed to be pointed
    out, investigated, and brought to light, whereby
    staying in the action is understood fully by both
    client and therapist alike.

Lying, Cheating, Stealing
  • A second way gamblers stay in the action is
    through, lying, cheating, and stealing.
  • For some pathological gambles, lying, cheating,
    and stealing are the heart of their addictive
  • Even after maintaining abstinence, LCS, may still
    frequent the gamblers mindset.

Confronting Lying, Cheating, Stealing
  • Hence, sometimes the slightest transgressions on
    part of the clients need to be investigated.
  • Because part of the pathological gambler game is
    to have the therapist collude with them.
  • And in this collusion, the gambler wants them to
    accept their dishonesty, as something that cannot
    be changed. (At least I dont gamble, right?)
  • Rosenthal suggests, that by not confronting the
    gambler on such matters, the client is
    unconsciously devaluing the therapist,
    themselves, and the work they have done together.

Case of Magazine theft. . .
  • Mr. D took a magazine from the waiting room and
    brought it into the session with him, and then,
    afterwards, while driving home, realized he still
    had it with him. Actually he had wanted to finish
    reading an article, so his forgetting, although
    not conscious, nevertheless served a purpose. He
    had not thought of asking if he could borrow it,
    because the therapist might say no, and besides
    it would have made him aware of his dependency on
    another person, something he went to great
    lengths to avoid. He did have a momentary thought
    that he should go back and return the magazine,
    but "put it out of (his) mind.
  • The following week he forgot to bring the
    magazine with him for his appointment. He
    intended to mention it but started talking about
    something else, and it was again forgotten. He
    was shocked when the therapist brought it up
    halfway through the session, and referred to it
    as a kind of stealing. Mr. D became very
    defensive, and argued that everybody did things
    like that, but then realized that he had been
    feeling particularly uncomfortable about coming
    for the session, and had not known why.

  • Nevertheless, he persisted in trying to
    trivialize the incident, and could not accept the
    therapist's contention that it was something for
    them to examine in the session. It was only later
    that he could admit to other "omissions"obligatio
    ns that were forgotten, bills he ignored,
    promises he failed to keepa pattern of lying and
    cheating that he had not consciously recognized.
    By stealing the magazine, the patient was
    gambling that he could get away with it.
  • He was also protecting, and trying to keep out of
    the therapy, a part of his personality that
    believed these kinds of activities were all
    right. This included his secrecy and sense of
    entitlement. Only when this was acknowledged and
    dealt with was there any chance of recovery.

Primitive Avoidance and Case of the Magazine
  • According to Rosenthal, this example illustrates
    not only how one little lie or omission can lead
    to another, but the kind of "primitive avoidance"
    so common among pathological gamblers.
  • Hence, uncomfortable realities can be just put
    out of mind, or "shoved under the rug. But, the
    therapist cannot let little things like this go,
    because if they do, they actually are enabling
    covert behaviors to continue possible leading to
    full blown relapse.
  • Thus, Rosenthal suggests that the pathological
    gambler must develop, or reestablish, an
    internalized value system based on honesty and

Guilt and Staying in the Action
  • And the only way to help the gambler deal with
    their staying in the action behaviors, is to
    have the gambler take responsibility for their
  • Hence, as evidenced in a great deal of
    psychoanalytic theories presented, the gambler
    needs to dispel their guilt.
  • Which is done by not decreasing their discomfort
    over their guilty actions and allowing them to
    get away with it, but to actively challenge it
    and get to the bottom of why the guilt is their
    in the first place.

Guilt and Staying in the Action
  • One of the major reasons for intractable or
    unrelenting guilt is the continuation of some
    harmful behavior, however covert, subtle, or
  • The first step toward self-forgiveness is an
    acknowledgment of change. In other words, being
    able to say I used to do such-and-such. I don't
    do that any more.

Critique of Psychoanalytic Theory Con
  • Hard to research unobservable tenets.
  • A great deal of its tenets are based on case
    study phenomena.
  • A great deal of its theoretical tenets have no
    concrete proof of their existence.
  • To highly concerned with developmental arrest and
    sexual libindal theory.
  • Male centered thinking.
  • Ignores social and other environmental factors
    that may influence gambling behaviors.

Opinions on this case please?
  • Is Rosenthal way over the top here?
  • Does this case represent staying in the action?
  • Do you think the therapist was too judgmental in
    the last case?