Quote of the day: ADDICTION

July 26, 2017

ADDICTION

Addiction is a complex psychophysiological process, but it has a few key components. I’d say that an addiction manifests in any behavior that a person finds temporary pleasure or relief in and therefore craves, suffers negative consequences from, and has trouble giving up. So there’s craving, relief and pleasure in the short term, and negative outcomes in the long term, along with an inability to give it up. That’s what an addiction is. Note that this definition says nothing about substances. While addiction is often to substances, it could be to anything—to religion, to sex, to gambling, to shopping, to eating, to the internet, to relationships, to work, even to extreme sports. The issue with the addiction is not the external activity, but the internal relationship to it. Thus one person’s passion is another’s addiction.

Okay, but the whole subject of addictions is shrouded in a certain amount of controversy these days. What do you think is the most common misconception about addictions?

Well, there are a number of things that people often don’t get. Many believe addictions are either a choice or some inherited disease. It’s neither. An addiction always serves a purpose in people’s lives: it gives comfort, a distraction from pain, a soothing of stress. If you look closely, you’ll always find that the addiction serves a valid purpose. Of course, it doesn’t serve this purpose effectively, but it serves a valid purpose.

Lots of people believe that the term addiction has become too loosely applied. So what’s the difference between saying “I have an addiction” and “I have bad habits that give me short-term satisfaction, but don’t really serve me in the long term?”

The term addiction comes from a Latin word for a form of being enslaved. So if it has negative consequences, if you’ve lost control over it, if you crave it, if it serves a purpose in your life that you don’t otherwise know how to meet, you’ve got an addiction…

The notion of trauma is closely tied into your conception of addiction. Why is that?

If you start with the idea that addiction isn’t a primary disease, but an attempt to solve a problem, then you soon come to the question: how did the problem arise? If you say your addiction soothes your emotional pain, then the question arises of where the pain comes from. If the addiction gives you a sense of comfort, how did your discomfort arise? If your addiction gives you a sense of control or power, why do you lack control, agency, and power in your life? If it’s because you lack a meaningful sense of self, well, how did that happen? What happened to you? From there, we have to go to your childhood because that’s where the origins of emotional pain or loss of self or lack of agency most often lie. It’s just a logical, step-by-step inquiry. What’s the problem you’re trying to resolve? And then, how did you develop that problem? And then, what happened to you in childhood that you have this problem?

All we know about the advances in addiction treatment arises out of our understanding of trauma. People often think that trauma is the bad things that happen to someone: trauma is that you were sexually abused, or that you were beaten, or your parents abandoned you, or died, or something like that. But trauma is the internal impact, which is fundamentally a disconnection from the self and from our bodies and our gut feelings. And the trauma is the discomfort, the inability to be in the present moment because the present moment is too painful.

If, as I argue, addiction is rooted in trauma, then the treatment of addiction has to aim beyond just stopping the behavior. That’s where the addiction treatment falls down so miserably. Too often it’s all aimed at behavioral regulation or behavior reform, with the thought that if people stop the behavior, then they’re going to be okay. No, they’re not—and they won’t be fully okay until they deal with the fundamental issues. So the treatment has to aim at nothing less than the restoration of the individual to themselves and to their capacity to be with the present moment, whether the present moment is pleasant or not. That’s what’s too often missing from addiction treatment.

–Gabor Maté, interviewed in Psychotherapy Networker


Quote of the day: AL-ANON

July 25, 2017

AL-ANON

I once heard a member of Al-Anon, a world-wide group for the family and friends of alcoholics, boil it down like so: “I didn’t cause my mother’s drinking problem; I can’t control it; and I can’t cure it.” But by focusing on our own behavior and feelings – instead of the alcoholic’s, for a change – we may find a healthy path forward. Just walking into an Al-Anon meeting helps break down the secrecy and shame that so often surround addiction. You are not alone. You may not change the alcoholic, but you can certainly improve the way you deal with him.

–Philip Galanes, New York Times “Social Q’s” columnist


Quote of the day: GAYDAR

July 16, 2017

GAYDAR

I have a friend whose 15-year-old son seems gay to me. He doesn’t date, and my gaydar is usually on target. I hate to meddle. But this friend also has a habit of saying derogatory things about gay people, often under cover of her religious beliefs. Can I tell her about her son? It may stop her hurtful behavior.BEV

Proceed directly to the nearest phone and dial 1-800-BE-QUIET. I know you mean well. But speculating about anyone’s sexuality, particularly a child’s, can be dangerous and is none of your business. In other breaking news, great gaydar is nothing to brag about; it only means that you’re often a busybody. Of course, none of this stops you from calling out the mother on her homophobic statements. Say, “I don’t agree with you, and I’d prefer not to hear any more of it.” No need to implicate the son to stand up for human decency.

–Philip Galanes, “Social Q’s,” New York Times


Quote of the day: TOSCANINI

July 4, 2017

TOSCANINI

On the night of June 30, 1886, Arturo Toscanini — recently turned 19 — arrived, barely on time, at the imperial opera house in Rio de Janeiro, where the touring company for which he was the principal cellist was about to perform “Aida.” Pandemonium. The unpopular lead conductor had resigned in a huff. His unpopular replacement had been shouted off the podium by the audience. There was no one else. Toscanini, who was also assistant choral master, was thrust forward by his colleagues. “Everyone knew about my memory,” he would recall, “because the singers had all had lessons with me, and I had played the piano without ever looking at the music.” He was handed a baton and just started to conduct. A triumph! Typical of the glowing reviews: “This beardless maestro is a prodigy who communicated the sacred artistic fire to his baton and the energy and passion of a genuine artist to the orchestra.” For the remaining six weeks of the tour, Harvey Sachs tells us in his biography “Toscanini: Musician of Conscience,” the maestro led the orchestra in 26 performances of 12 operas, all from memory. No one offered him a raise, and it didn’t occur to him to ask for one.

–Robert Gottlieb, reviewing Harvey Sachs biography of Toscanini in the New York Times


Quote of the day: WRITING

June 27, 2017

WRITING

One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. The impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you.

–Annie Dillard, The Writing Life


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