Why has our society morphed into a society of addicts? You may balk at that question, thinking, “I’m not an addict,” but if that is your response, then you need to redefine your understanding of what qualifies as an addiction. In addition to substances, addictions include attitudes and actions. Addictions are, in effect, a choice to remain unconscious in an age rapidly moving toward a new paradigm of consciousness. This approach to addictions is wide enough to encompass a spectrum of human behaviors that should rightly be thought of as addictive: The need to control; The need for vengeance; The addiction to procrastination and excuses; and The need to blame others, present or past, for one’s personal actions. These are all forms of addictions, behavioral patterns we automatically fall into and indeed rely upon on a daily basis to get us through our stressful moments. That’s exactly what the more obvious addictions such as drugs and alcohol or over-eating do, only these addictive patterns are far less costly, at least so far as the dollar is concerned.
To be clear, addiction and the addict have always been part of the human experience. History is replete with stories of great excesses in many societies. Ancient Rome stands out as almost the template of the excessive society, with endless everything – from sexual slaves to any type of entertainment the ruling class wanted, to endless banquets of endless goodies. Ancient Rome knew how to have a good time, no doubt about it – until the good times ran out.
Throughout history, the mainstream culprit was alcohol, which could be found anywhere, at anytime. Alcohol was not limited to a particular social class. During the Middle Ages and later centuries in Western Europe, wine and beer were the drinks of choice because the water within towns and cities was toxic due to human waste. Alcohol was no different from water – imagine that. But then water systems were purified and the custom of drinking tea was introduced into society, giving people alternatives to wine and beer. Coffee made its way into Western Europe, though not so successfully into Britain as it did continental Europe. But tea and coffee would hardly reduce the social appetite for wine and beer, rum and gin, and other such delights, now well ingrained into the human DNA.
Fast forward to serious drugs: Later centuries saw the rise of opium dens in Asia, thanks to the British, and then throughout aristocratic Russia and the rest of Europe and the 19th Century world. Opium and its derivatives changed the social and financial fabric of the world and these drugs continue to have a hold on it. But in the early days, such drugs were the delicacies of the elite, who viewed them as high-risk pleasures and the dark side of society. They had not penetrated into the mainstream public and they would not until after World War II, the war that changed the world. In other words, though drug addiction existed, it was contained.
So, what makes us naturally inclined toward addictions? Whether alcohol, drugs, sex, technology, Internet communication/emails, gossiping, power, cruelty, exercise, or food, the fact is we are by nature addicts. We are always seeking some way, some method, some means through which we can escape our ordinary state of consciousness, if only for thirty minutes of distraction or a temporary physical buzz brought on by a glass of wine or a candy bar no one sees us eat, or drugs that make us feel good. We can’t stop ourselves – and that is a fact.
I recently parked my car in a small parking lot near my home because I needed to take my dog to the groomer. I glanced over at the car next to me. I didn’t want to stare but I couldn’t help it. A woman suffering from morbid obesity was jamming a Burger King Whopper into her mouth with her left hand while holding a handful of fries in her right. On the dashboard was positioned a second burger, ready to be striped of its wrapping in a nano-second and consumed in two minutes. I wondered what excuse she had told her co-workers for having to step out of the office at 10:00 AM? Did she tell them she had a doctor’s appointment or that she forgot something at home? Did her coworkers actually know she was charging off for a midmorning snack? Would she even remember, come lunchtime, that she had just consumed enough calories for two days? Who knows? But is this woman any different from the politician addicted to power? Or the Wall Street banker addicted to money? Or Rupert Murdoch, addicted to control of the media and political influence? Addictions are, in the end, all the same.
Today addictive consciousness thrives. It is an epidemic out of control. And it is a paradox in that we live at a time when “consciousness” – which is to say, becoming “conscious” – is a much sought after goal within the very societies in which addiction is most prevalent. The addicted consciousness is the antithesis of the “consciousness” of someone on a path of liberating oneself of the very anchors of illusions that weigh one into the illusions of physical matter. From the perspective of this turning point of the times we are living in, however, nothing makes more sense than this paradox – the two polarities of consciousness pulling against each other like the opposite sides of a stretched out rubber band. But isn’t that typical of the nature of change? Just as war arises, so does a peace movement? Just as awareness of our need to care for an environment in crisis emerges, so do politicians claiming climate change is nonsense. Oppositional forces are the agents of change – they always have been.
In our society, the popular belief is that addiction is an illness that needs to be treated. Going into a treatment center and proceeding through the now very familiar 12-Step program is thought to be one of the most effective methods of helping a person withdraw from their addiction. It is effective for many people. For others, the addiction is so powerful that a 24-Step program would not be enough to break the hold. That type of hold is more than just an addiction; it is a possession. A person’s consciousness is absent and the replacement is a type of artificial intelligence that is madly driven by the appetites of the five-sensory world. It is virtually impossible, if not totally impossible, to communicate with a person whose consciousness has entered into the “realm of cravings.” Those of you who have lost people to addiction know exactly what I am talking about.
In this workshop, I will introduce a model that examines addiction as a journey through Ten Worlds of Consciousness, one of which is the “realm of cravings,” There are nine other realms, all of which speak of the depths and complexity of human nature. Addiction is a stage of consciousness that every single human being progresses through – make no mistake about that.
I hope you’ll consider joining me and for those who cannot attend, I welcome your questions on Facebook.
© 2011 Myss.com – Caroline Myss is a New York Times best-selling author whose books include Anatomy of the Spirit, Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can, Sacred Contacts, and Entering the Castle. Defy Gravity: Healing Beyond the Bounds of Reason, will be published by Hay House in October 2009.
Listen to Caroline every week on www.HayHouseRadio.com
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