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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Learning to Live

If we consider the problems associated with impulse control and addiction, it becomes apparent that the inability to govern impulses is a critical issue.  The question then becomes one of how to teach someone to reign in their whims.

The most obvious solution is the one that has come into vogue, the 'safety model.' well, that's what I call it.  Safety is an issue everywhere, be it in the workforce, the streets and even in the schools.

What this model involves is not an improvement of the individual's ability to govern his impulses, or to have the right reflexes in a given situation, but rather to make impulsive activity literally impossible.  So, we don't criminals, but make better alarms.  We don't teach better tool safety for workmen, but put devices on their tools to keep them from mutilating themselves when using the tools incorrectly.

So, the assumption is that in a perfectly safe environment, even the completely incompetent person will not bring harm to himself.  Yet, each year, people find new ways to harm themselves.  If you get on YouTube, you can see teenagers do horrifically stupid things that bring pain and injury.

Why do they do these things?  It is because with these constrictions comes several problems.  First, we know that we are losing freedom, and human are meant to be free.  Even cultures that are very restrictive provide means of blowing off steam, be it alcoholic rampages (such as beerhalls in Germany or Japanese after work bar-hopping) or mad crowds (such as Islamic protests).  Humans like to build fences, but like to be kept in by them.

Second, these 'safety' restrictions don't give people the opportunity to perfect their wills.  They become dependent on restrictions, and cannot function without them.

Here's an interesting case study:

Teenagers are having problems maturing because they are afforded so few opportunities to be mature.  This is feeding into addiction, because a great deal of addiction's beginnings comes from a lack of maturity.

It is said that a person stops emotionally maturing once an addiction kicks in, but it is also true that schools also prevent maturity from occurring, because the students have no responsibilities for themselves.  The less they mature, the greater the opportunity for addiction to take hold, because the impulse controls are not developed.

This can even be seen in the Church: look at the number of people who come to services casually dressed.  Men of the previous generation wore a coat and tie, and now most people come dressed for the park.  There are a growing number of young adults who may own ten pairs of sneakers and no dress shoes.  There is no need for dress clothing because nothing important is expected of them.  They are permanent children, and their emotions reflect this problem.

So, they come to services looking for a handout rather than to serve.  They want to offer nothing, not even praise of God, but rather entertainment and stimulation.  They come 'needy,' but once their needs are met, they head out the door.  They don't stick around to serve, and they certainly resent any restrictions on their freedom.

Addiction is over-diagnosed so often because of the rampant problem with poor impulse control and immaturity.  Addiction impedes emotional development, but so does our society.

We must learn to live without the 'safety model.'  We must learn to live without the guard rails.  It is difficult, and at times dangerous, but it is in keeping with our humanity.

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