“We must never forget that the crooked paths of a neurosis lead to as many obstinate habits, and that, despite any amount of understanding, these do not disappear until they are replaced by other habits. But habits are only won by exercise, and appropriate education is the sole means to this end.”Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search for a Soul
What if we are our addictions? Playing passenger to drives that ultimately direct our lives. As terrifying and helpless as that might sound, I think we retain some control over how those addictions actually manifest. Certainly we have uncontrollable factors in our life that shape our tendencies. By right of birth, some are thrown into horrific living conditions and exposed to endless trauma, and much less are fed from a silver spoon their entire life. These things that lie outside of our control most definitely play a role in forming those initial addictions. The initial drives that initiate our journey. However, I must make the claim that we can maneuver these addictions, or rather, direct the addictions to other physical manifestations. I suggest we dedicate our energy to aiming our addictions rather than trying to remove addiction itself.
One of the most identifiable aspects of consciousness is our understanding of time. We operate on a 24 hour cycle that continually repeats. Therefore a primary task of consciousness may be the need to fill those waking hours with some sort of engagement. We must direct our awareness somewhere. Most of you will be familiar with the way some basic computer programs work. For example, a particular program could take a task that is repeated ad nauseam and streamline the process. Or it could take a set of variables and determine values in order to create a specific optimized output. If we have a goal of filling our waking hours with awareness of something, addictions would easily develop as a tool to help this drive. Addictions could act as a highly powered computer program, running rampant, trying to direct our waking hours to some object or activity. When we are addicted to something, we simply want to spend more time doing whatever that activity may be. So not only do addictions help solve the current problem of what do I do now, they also have this lurking power to populate our futures. As the addiction program runs, it becomes more powerful. It becomes harder and harder to pull away from whatever it is driving your towards. Over time, it has an exponential effect on our awareness and can become all consuming – even increasing the bounds of consciousness by sacrificing sleep.
Sex, drugs, alcohol, money, competition, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, etc. There are endless things to which we can be addicted, and most people would ascribe an overall negative to being addicted to any one of those items. But here is the idea: All of the above listed addictions (plus those not cataloged), are downstream, or on the surface, of the addiction itself. The computer program of addiction is operating behind the scenes. The constant obsession with Instagram is just the surface level output of some impressive evolutionary machinery. I think we are much better equipped to change to output of the machinery rather than to tackle the machinery itself.
I do not want to emphasize a score keeping mentality, or a ‘my addiction is better than yours’ attitude, but I think most people would agree that in today’s society, an addiction to exercise is more productive than an addiction to alcohol. I think we may also agree that a moderate addiction is better than a severe addiction. For instance, an addiction that compels two hours of my awareness per day is less damaging than an addiction that compels ten hours per day. For argument’s sake, we could make a correlation between the strength of the addiction and the amount of time we spend on the activity. Going back to the original premise, if we are our addictions, it would be beneficial for us to have eight different two hour addictions rather than two different eight hour addictions. This would be something like keeping the strength of the addictions at bay. This allows us to retain some level of defense, as the presence of many addictions make it difficult for any one addiction to spiral out of control.
In closing, this is not to make any moral judgements. For instance, on a moral level, I am not convinced an addiction to exercise is any more virtuous than an addiction to alcohol. However, we have to play by the rules of our society. From the perspective of society, an addiction to exercise is much preferred to an addiction to alcohol (not to mention the obvious preference of your body). So in a way, this whole theory is about structuring our addictions to align not only with ourselves, but the society we live in. This theory also implies the ubiquity of addiction. It is something every single one of us struggle with. With this understanding, hopefully we can push back against the stigma associated with addiction. In the above paragraph I am arguing for MORE addictions! Taken out of context, that would be read as totally outrageous. Clearly, I am using the word addiction in a different light than it is commonly used today. We need to stop condemning the idea of addiction and start progressing on how to live and work with ourselves. Meet reality on reality’s terms. I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist. I am certainly no professional. I just enjoy thinking about difficult problems, and trying to come up with approaches that get us to a better place. If we are not free to develop new ideas about old problems, we get to keep the old problems.