I find it significant that so many people are currently involved in the issue of addiction. To me, addictions stand for the deeper conflict between maintaining one’s old conditioning and breaking free.
The root causes of addiction are hotly debated, but one aspect of the syndrome is that it brings pleasure to people who cannot find it any other way. As Alice Miller observes, “People who as children successfully repressed their intense feelings often try to regain – at least for a short time – their lost intensity of experience with the help of drugs and alcohol.”
I think it is obvious that many people have anesthetized a huge portion of their feeling self. To show strong emotions is rarely considered an acceptable form of behavior in our society, while paramount importance is placed on self-control.
As a result, many of us may reach the point where we panic at the first sign of emotion starting to well up. Repeating the denial of emotion imposed upon us in childhood, we now exert enormous pressure to deny ourselves.
Addiction “solves” this problem by permitting pleasure while at the same time insuring that the pleasure is furtive and guilt ridden. The essence of any form of compulsive behavior is helpless repetition, which pleasure alone would not be strong enough to incite.
Often it is the pleasure itself that alcoholics and heroin addicts, food bingers and compulsive thieves find shameful; therefore, they have no alternative but to seek pleasures that have built-in dissatisfaction.
I would like to apply the diagnosis provided by the rishis and say that addiction is basically the result of a mistake. The addict is caught in a circular trap of his own devising; he cannot get enough pleasure to finally abolish his guilt; he cannot suffer enough guilt to keep him from the next fix. Rather, the two impulses circle each other in an endless dance.
Adapted from Unconditional Life: Discovering the Power to Fulfill Your Dreams, by Deepak Chopra (A Bantam Book, 1991).