Whad Ya Mean… Self-Seeking?

power plug

Self-seeking, as it’s used in recovery, takes a bit of defining for those new to the 1930s language of the 12 Step programs. The photo above is the plug that hooks my running lights of my fifth wheel to the truck. Without plugging it in… no lights. It would be a danger to others if I were on the road without any turn signals or brake lights.

While self-seeking initially makes us feel good, it works a bit like traveling without any warning lights. We look functional, roll along from day-to-day and keep on trucking… until we don’t. We crash.

What often causes the crash is an abundance of self-seeking. This is why it’s one of the 4 major categories of weaknesses that we look for during our rigorous 4th Step Inventory. (See Not So Scary Resentments Worksheet  below any post.)

Self-seeking is having or showing an exclusive preoccupation with one’s own profit or interest. In an attempt to recreate the magic of ‘feeling good’ we indulge obsessively in behaviors that elicited those feelings in the past: alcohol, substances of any kind including food, sex, gambling, shopping, accolades, organizing, accomplishments, busy-ness…etc. The list differs with each of us, but essentially, we’re looking to feel good again or numb again or escape. Pretty simple.

Sometimes it’s simply acting out or gaining a sense of control. In my own life I have seen that examples include taking over, manipulation, coercion, haggling, debating, argument and tirades. Do we see a pattern? ha. It’s not limited to this ugly list, however, I often find that trying to control people, situations or authorities is a big part of my self-seeking behavior. I often go that extra mile to get what I want or to be convincing because I’m afraid and insecure and I just want to feel like “I know!”. Of course, an integral part of that is recognition for “knowing” and the kudos that accompany that.


  • shrinking world of the mirror
  • denial of reality
  • disinterest in relationships in favor of selfish interests or goals

In the post Dying for Recognition,  self-seeking becomes a shrinking world. The more we indulge in that narrowing behavior, the smaller our focus gets. Pretty soon we’re hardly aware of anyone else or anything else…just our ourselves. Just our selfish aims. Self-seeking behavior can have elements of narcissism when combined with grandiosity, lack of empathy or consideration of others and an insatiable appetite for admiration. Pretty ugly.

I know I’ve met a self-seeking individual when everything I say is boomeranged into a topic about them. Conversation and any form of personal relationship or intimacy is of no value to them unless it’s self-feeding. So sad. So true.