In short, "secondary gains" are those things - illnesses, conditions, habits, financial disparity, etc. - that provide a hidden benefit(s) to keeping things the way they are. Such benefits are almost always hidden from our conscious awareness. Though the words gain and benefit usually have positive connotations, in this case they are rather negative because they perpetuate something we consciously want to release or change for the better. However the hidden gain is so vital to the unconscious mind that it becomes irrelevant that it conflicts with the conscious longing for improvement.
Secondary gains, at the core, are about survival - it's the underlying belief that is known that is better than the unknown, and therefore safe. However a sense of being safe does not mean it is safe. Even things that are dysfunctional, unhealthy, or even downright dangerous can feel safe. "Better the devil you know than the one you don't" comes to mind.
In terms of an improved a state of health, secondary gains can prevent us from recovering. Just a few of the reasons we might hold on to unfavorable health conditions, albeit unconsciously, include:
- Provides an excuse to not do something we simply might not want to do - i.e., socialize, work, house and yard chores, have sex with your partner, exercise, have children, etc.
- Provides attention or help from others you might not otherwise receive
- Provides a safety net - i.e., underlying fear of being out in the world / in public, financial assistance, and the like
Once such unconscious beliefs are formed, they can remain for life, creating mass havoc at every turn. These hidden beliefs can create all the things you are consciously striving to avoid. Therefore, unearthing the beliefs and eliminating them is vital to any recovery process.