What are Secondary Gains?

secondary gainsSecondary Gains are a common feature of the underlying and not always obvious benefits a person gets from having a particular behavior. Mosby’s Medical Dictionary defines secondary gain as “an indirect benefit, usually obtained through an illness or debility”.

The concept of secondary gain goes back to the 19th Century and was re-popularized by Dr. Sigmund Freud, who talked about patients “clinging to their disease” as a way to hold on to the benefits their illness provides them.

An example of secondary gains

An example might be an agoraphobic – someone who is afraid to leave the confines of their home. Their family understands this and enables the condition to continue by offering sympathy and support, and doing all the errands outside the home. This frees the person from having to deal with the outside world, thus protecting them from any potential threat or anxiety that having to go outside would present to them.

This is only uncovered by persistently asking oneself the questions discussed below. Since one simple question can lead to another, this form of therapy can provide great insight to the inner workings of your mind.

How do I identify my Secondary Gains? 

Not every issue comes with a secondary gain, but if you suspect yours might be hiding one, then these can be identified in the same way as you identify self-limiting beliefs. Get a pen and notebook. Start listening to your internal dialogue. And take it one step further by asking yourself two simple questions: ‘What do I get out of this?’ and ‘What are the benefits to me?’ Drill down to the core. You might get the answer ‘I’m afraid’. Then ask yourself ‘What am I afraid of? What do I fear?’ If nothing obvious comes up, keep asking yourself these same questions and the answers will come. Persevere. You will probably be surprised by your own insight in a short space of time.

 Owning your Secondary Gains 

It is important to fully understand that all of your secondary gains, just as your self-limiting beliefs, stem from your subconscious mind’s fierce desire to protect you from harm, so acknowledging this is the first step to eliminating and rebuilding a better set of beliefs. They are your beliefs, no matter how, why or when they were formed, no matter that they are no longer serving your best interests. You do that by simply saying ‘Thank you!’ to your inner self. ‘Thank you for trying to always protect me.’ And mean it when you say it.