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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Pride and Addiction - Part 1

Orthodox Christianity does not categorize 'addiction' as a separate 'disease' from the disease of sinfulness.  This trips a lot of modern thinkers into thinking that the Church has nothing to say about addiction because the wording is not the same.

Addiction, in Orthodox parlance, is the extreme end of a passion.  A passion is suffering, a type of wound, and when it advances to a certain point the sufferer becomes so wrapped in his own pain that he loses the ability exercise his free-will.

Someone who is familiar with addiction can see how this definition works in real life, and how the 12 Steps are in fact designed to heal us from deep wounds that come to compromise the human will.  Pain is a powerful experience: it is designed to help us avoid harm and motivates us to move out from the places we are not supposed to be.  However, the way out of pain is through it, and away from it.

Having the courage to move through pain takes experience... and faith.  Without the sincere belief that we will be OK if we enter into and pass through our pain, we will never grow.  Ancient societies forces men and women to endure initiation rites that were, on the one hand, difficult in some way, yet also quite survivable.  After all, if there was a significant risk, the society would lose many of its members.  Subconsciously, the initiates had to trust their elders' advice to endure the hardship.  That in itself is an act of faith.

These days, we have no such faith-building activities and people are, more and more often, left to their own devices.  We have no enduring relationships other than the ones we construct on our own, and very often these are weak and neurotic at best.  That is because we rely on self-sufficiency as our only guarantor.

This is why we also see such high levels of addiction in modern society: addiction is the sign not only of personal but cultural breakdown.  As cultures disintegrate, men must find their own way in a very scary world.  Once God is removed from the human equation, we begin to experience the seeds of disaster.  Of course, atheism or anti-theism (the hatred of God rather than mere disbelief) work well when things are going according to one's will.  When plans go awry, however, atheism is a very lonely in insecure place.  Here is a chart of what generally happens:
Without God, one experiences Fear when encountering the various threats and insecurities of the world.  We must either run from these threats, or somehow find a way to get through them.  We need confidence, the kind of confidence that faith give.  But, since there is no faith, man must find an alternative that gives him the strength of faith in God without God... and so man begins to pump himself up.

This is Pride.

If lack of faith in God is the 'father' of addiction, then Pride is the 'mother' of all passions.  Remember, passions are suffering, but the suffering of the conscience. When we inflate ourselves, we know that our Pride is false.  When we lie or do something bad, it is our conscience that troubles us, and Pride is part of that.  We know it is not true, and so we at once pump ourselves up with knowing that our pride is false and subject to failure just as we are.

Addiction emerges from the extremes of both pride and the insecurity that it breeds.  pride is not real, it is a false narrative that we create for ourselves to replace the notion that someone, or Someone, is looking out for us and there to save us if we fail.  Addicts are often characterized as 'egomaniacs with inferiority complexes' as a result of both the extreme Pride they exhibit, which naturally triggers great insecurity in the towering ego they have built for themselves.  The higher the walls, the bigger the collapse.

But, once Pride is in place, then the rest of the passions become the tools by which the ego tries to deal with its fears.  Pride provides one's entitlement to harm others and ignore their pain.  Pride also erases evidence that the walls are collapsing at inconvenient moments.

I started to go through this chart in my posts on lust and porneia, but over the next few posts I think I will go through the entire chart in a step-by-step manner just to show how this all works to imprison the addict.

Tomorrow, I will show you how the 12 Steps address Pride in a round-about way.

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