Secondary Gain: the secret hindrance to success


What is Your Secondary Gain?

Sometimes, we just can’t get out of certain uncomfortable or distressing situations or conditions. These situations can question our self-esteem, steal our energy, and prevent us from obtaining our goals.

We all know that at the bottom of many issues lies something hidden; this hidden cause is known as secondary gain.

Secondary gain hides deep inside our subconscious mind, preventing us from getting the life we seem to want. It is a kind of indirect advantage which is often morbid, bizarre, and hard to see as the part of situation. Moreover, it is commonly illogical and unbelievable because it is hard to accept that one might have advantages with illness, staying in bad relationship, being abused, not finishing education, not changing career, etc.

secondary gain

secondary gain (photo by Intographics)


A hidden obstacle to change

Secondary gain is a hidden obstacle to a change because it keeps us from solving problems. It is a subconscious reason that keeps us staying in a relationship with heavy drunk, gambler, or drug addict, and which prevents us from escaping from abuse and violence.

The thing with secondary gain is that it doesn’t necessarily negate our wish to solve a problem and get out from certain situation. What it does do is that it works silently in the background, like a Trojan Horse in our subconscious mind which keeps stealing our strength.


Some examples of Secondary Gain

One very simple example of secondary gain is losing weight.

Sometimes, it looks like that we just can’t lose that extra weight (and we really want to). The simple fact of life (primary gain) is that one isn’t ready to give up their lifestyle in order to follow a certain regime and stick to necessary restrictions. But what about those who follow dietary regimes all the time and who really want to slim?

The reason why their efforts don’t deliver results can be found in secondary gains; the advantages they have with not losing weight. And once we find out the secondary gains, we might find them being surprisingly bizarre! For example, if one loses weight they can become more attractive, which may result in becoming promiscuous and/or leaving their partner. Our secondary gains may reveal yet another fantasy; an attractive body can put us in danger and one can get attacked and raped. Also, if a person dates more, which is very likely with an attractive body, then they might become more vulnerable and hence the suffering comes. Of course, the deeper one explores the subconscious mind, the more secondary gains can be found. An example is that being overweight also makes one unique and special!

The other illustration is regarding one’s inability to set boundaries.

There are people who find it hard to say no or to detract their help when asked. No matter how tired they are, no matter how distressing the moment may be, regardless even of what they think is the right thing to do – they will still go that one step beyond their comfort zone to do something for others. There are a lot of possible secondary gains about not setting boundaries. For example, if you set boundaries then people can look at you differently. They can get scared of you, they can like you less, and you can end up having fewer friends (quite possible). Also, there is the savior complex; the urge to ‘’save’’ others because ‘’saving’’ others can also improve one’s self-esteem and make the picture one has about himself much prettier.

When it comes to health issues, secondary gains just go wild.

Quite contradictory to our conscious beliefs, it may turn out that secondary gain of having constant minor health issues can get us attention, support, time for ourselves, inner peace, and some kind of freedom to do what we want, eat what we want, etc.


Exploring the Secondary Gain

If you want to play with secondary gain, here is some food for thought.

  1. Make a list with worst case scenarios: if you slim/divorce/move/solve that problem… what is the worst that can happen?
  2. What feelings/situations might you be avoiding by having a certain issue?
  3. Write 10 sentences based on the template ‘’I have to … because’’ (I have to stay in relationship with that person, because…)
  4. When you’re done with 3., take another sheet of paper and rewrite the same sentences by replacing only ‘’I have to’’ with ‘’I want to”. Read one by one, first and second version. Hopefully, you will get some insights!

All these are very simplified explanations of the secondary gain. Find more info on the web.



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