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Friday, August 31, 2012

A new drug for depression... like heroin?

Many people become addicted while trying to 'self-medicate' mental disorders like depression.  One may wonder how or why, but the truth is that some drugs do help a bit.

Now, it seems that scientists have discovered a synthetic cousin of heroin is effective for treating depression:

The scientists claim the in the study, all of the patients responded to the drug.  That's really good.

They also claim that it is non-addictive.  You may wonder why they would say something like that, and there's a simple reason: it does not give you a high.

Addiction is all about the high, be it subtle or profound.  While heroin may provide some relief from depression, the bigger effect is the intoxicating effects.  Pain medications like Oxycontin have the same problem of generating a high while blocking pain.

As doctors perfect medications, we can only hope that they will be able to develop pain medications along the same lines, blocking pain signals without creating a high.  This medication should also give hope to millions of addicts who suffer from addiction, just as Bill W. did throughout his life.

This may even end some of the silly experiments with with other intoxicating drugs in the search for relief for the terrible burden of depression.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Free Will, Islam, and Addiction

I'm not going to pretend to be an Islam expert, but I would like to address a few words towards the previous post about strict Islamic countries trying to use the 12 Steps.  So, this post is going to be a little more 'religious' than usual, but I think it is an interesting juxtaposition that people in recovery will have to address, and that is free will versus predestination.

Islam relies pretty heavily on predestination.  Everything is determined by God's will.  If your car breaks down, that's God's will.  Don't get a job, that's God's will.  Fight with your spouse, that's God's will.  Over and over again, you can hear 'inshallah' or 'as God wills' falling from the lips of Arabs throughout the Moslem world.

As a result, Islam has a difficult time with 'cause-and-effect.'  Basically, the world is seen not by God and man both acting on the world with God's foreknowledge, but rather God's and man's wills confronting one another, man as an agency of rebellion and his will either being permitted or thwarted by God's willing overcoming man's.  At the same time, God does not rely on man's agency, and He can make something happen without human 'help.'

As a result of this, you can divorce yourself from a great deal of personal responsibility.  After all, it was God's will that something happened or didn't happen.

And, yet, Islam also teaches that men will be held accountable for their sins and there really isn't much room for forgiveness.  So, for those Muslims who are in big trouble, God is literally leading them into damnation.  You can now see why Jihad and dying in battle became so attractive: if you die as a martyr, your sins are automatically forgiven and you go straight to paradise.

The problem for them will be accepting a disease model in which God desires to forgive and will tolerate even their worst sins.  Harder yet, this model also assumes that man has a completely free will.  After all, you can only take personal responsibility for actions and their consequences that you are responsible for.  If you believe that God is responsible for everything (because He dictates all that happens), then you are not responsible.

Of course, blaming God for everything only goes so far, and so human beings will suffer when they know that they have done wrong.

But, what makes this worse is forgiveness: every evil done to you was decided on by God.  He didn't allow it, He willed it.  There's a big difference between the two.  Moslem addicts will have to struggle with forgiving God first for allowing evils to fall upon them, before they can even get to the part about forgiving other people.

This falls into conflict with the usual interpretations of God found within 12 Step practitioners.  God does not will evil, but does allow it in light of His ability to fix what is broken at a later point.  So, evils of the past become sources of healing and light in the present.

This is the premise of Orthodox Christianity: God's justice is His ability to renew what is broken and rebuild even better what was lost.  It is constant improvement rather than a motion backwards.

It will be interesting to see how 12 Steppers in Moslem countries deal with the definition of a Higher Power.  I can't say for sure how they will square this off.

What will be more interesting will be to see how the religious authorities handle it.  I'm sure they are going to take an active interest, though I wonder how closely they will pay attention to the finer nuances of 12 Step teachings.  Recall from yesterday the confusion between ethanol and methanol in the cleric's statement about the evils of bio-fuels.  He thinks that arak and ethanol are the same thing.  Ooops... I guess he didn't get the memo.

Since these nations are dominated by the clergy, recovery programs are likely to be dominated by non-addict religious figures.  This does not bode well.  Recovery programs are best handled by recovering addicts.  Non-addicts have a difficult time understanding addiction.

As I said, it will be interesting to watch and see what happens.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Alcoholism in Strict Islamic Countries

You would think that a country where there is a punishment for possessing, let alone using, alcohol would mean that there would be few social problems with alcohol.  There's nothing further from the truth: alcoholism and other addictions are on the rise throughout the Islamic world.

For example, Iran is struggling with a significant alcoholism problem: 

Most recently, alcohol tests taken from drivers in Tehran in the period of 20 April-20 May showed that 26% of them were drunk.

Wow, that's pretty high if you ask me.  There's a lot of drinking in a nation that has traditionally struggled with opiates, since Afghanistan is near by and opium poppies are cultivates in the area.  yet, there are few treatment services available, in large part because of the authorities.

Saudi Arabia also has a big problem.  Look at this study:

If you look closely at the story, married students, who are going to be older and more life-experienced than single students who (in this culture) still live at home with mom and dad, report a higher level of social problems related to drugs and alcohol.  This is confirmed by other sources, such as:

With the Saudi government actively pursuing treatment models, the medical establishment is basically copping to the problem.  

The difficulty throughout the Middle East is that the religious establishment is generally more likely to want to punish than to treat.  They are also relatively isolated from scientific information.  Here's an example of just how radically uninformed some of their leadership is:

Yes, that's right: one of the top religious figures in Saudi Arabia thinks that fuel-grade ethanol is the same stuff as bourbon.  It's pretty clear that these guys have no idea what they are talking about on a practical level, and so this does not bode well for establishing treatment centers that people will willingly walk into.  After all, the religious figures are probably not going to understand the 'disease model' or the loss of control in addiction, and won't slow down to investigate matters before rendering a verdict.  After all, this scholar made his pronouncement apparently without talking to anybody in the fuel industry... and he's in Saudi Arabia of all places!

I do hope that these nations will one day understand the disease concept of addiction and help their people break free from the misery of addiction.

What I think is important to keep in mind is that addiction can form even under repression and suppression of addictive substances.  The law can only be used in a limited way, and so nations that want to deal with the social costs of addiction need to have a multi-faceted approach.  The law is only effective in controlling behaviors surrounding addiction (theft, public drunkenness, dealing, transporting, etc.), but not the problem itself.  After all, prison does not cure criminals in most cases.

Treatment must be made available, otherwise the wily addict will find ways to get around the law.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Marijuana Makes You Stupid

I know this is going to get me a bunch of hate-mail, but I just could not resist this headline after reading this article:

I find most marijuana-legalization advocates particularly annoying when they try to say that something that messes with your brain chemistry is somehow healthy and harmless.  Any time you mess with brain chemistry, you are increasing the odds of causing lasting damage.  The brain is not meant to be tampered with, and even well-meaning attempts to regulate brain chemistry backfire with horrendous results: just ask someone who has gone through difficulties with depression medication.  

Mental health professions who work with schizophrenics are often the loudest critics of marijuana usage, because they see how bad it is for schizophrenics.  It can make someone with borderline schizophrenia go full on, and take someone with full-blown schizophrenia and make them totally untreatable.  Marijuana usage is guaranteed to make psychotropic medications totally ineffective, as well as worsen the condition.

Because THC, the active ingredient in marijuana besides all the nasty chemicals that make cigarettes look like a healthy alternative (, is naturally occurring in the body, its effects are different from all other drugs.  It is, indeed, 'natural' but not the quantities that cannabis provides.  So, the body does not have the 'fight mechanism' it has with other drugs.

I think this is why it does the damage that it does to a developing brain, which the study proves is the case.  Here's another report on the same study:

What is more annoying are the people who say it is 'non-addictive.'  I think I can prove that just about anything is addictive.  If you can get addicted to food or sex, then getting addicted to smoking pot should not be too difficult...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Religion as a Drug

A friend sent me this link:

The title got my attention: "Attending a Megachurch is Kinda Like Doing Drugs, UW Study Finds"... yes, a 'professional' website used the word 'kinda' in a headline.  Already the credibility of the article has been undermined.  But, then again, in the age where 'Casual Fridays' are everyday and an entire generation thinks that you only wear a tie for your senior picture and the prom, then it should not surprise anyone that proper spelling in what represents itself to be a news article is just too hard.

End of rant from a recovering journalist.

So, let's get to the real core of the article: megachurches specialize in a controlled stimulation experience.  They have a type of 'liturgy' which, despite the 'kinda' informal attire, is entirely formulated.  It is designed the draw the person into a trance state.  For those of you who have not experienced this, here is a comedic interpretation of how this works:

Some of my recent-convert parishioners sent this to me and said this is what their Sundays were like.  Yes, it is that cynical, but very effective.

This type of hypnotic activity has been around since the early history of man.  Many 'pagan' religions rely on the same susceptibility to hypnosis for their rites.  We see it in Voodoo, Santeria, the 'Whirling Dervishes' of the Sufi (, etc.

You want to see how intense these hypnotic sessions can get?  Just watch:

You can also get the same effect from a heavy metal concert when you start shaking your head, called 'head banging.'  The trauma of the brain being sloshed around in the skull releases all kinds of chemicals which drugs also do.  The music provides the basis, whipping the emotions up until chemicals are released, and physical activity (like a mosh pit or head-banging) increases the effect.

That's why you can go to a 'Straight Edge' concert with no drugs or alcohol and see kids get high off of the 'adrenaline rush,' which is actually part of this same brain chemical cocktail.

And, yes, it can become 'addictive' (I would not argue in the same sense as alcoholism or drug addiction, but it can become a gateway addiction to these or other addictions) to the point where you can sacrifice a great deal to get that 'high.'  We have all seen people destroy their lives for the 'concert scene' or through weird religions and cults.

So, it is true that ecstatic religious worship can become a 'drug' in the sense that it causes chemical releases within the brain, but the same is true of music and even video games.  Any pleasurable activity, if amplified, will have the same effect.  The Germans harnessed a basic understanding of the human brain to design the Nuremberg Rallies ( exhaust a crowd through a day of marching, feed them heavily, then march them into a dimly lit arena to hear a speech: the combination softened the mind to the point where a type of hypnosis worked to enthrall the crowd.  That wasn't a religious service, but it looked in many ways like one.

Ecstatic worship is dangerous because it lowers one's critical thinking apparatus.  You must think about what you are being told in a religious service.  That's why I don't think these 'megachurch' services do much to communicate real information, which is why, overall, basic Christian knowledge has plummeted in recent years:

Drugs don't communicate truth.  So, a service that essentially tries to create an 'experience' also won't communicate truth.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Anonymity: Good and Evil

Recently, I've started reading a book on human evil (The Lucifer Effect by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, a topic which comes up when you are dealing with human consciences and confession, not to mention 4th and 5th Step work.  One of the most difficult questions for many people to answer, especially those who have done profoundly evil acts, is the 'why.'  Why kill, why rape, why do harm?

Part of this why involves the how.  Too often, the answer to why is simply "Because I could."  It is the old Mt. Everest explanation of George Mallory... "Because it's there."  

Human curiosity is virtually limitless.  The higher the intelligence, the more we want to know and to explore.  But, there are many things you cannot learn about simply by reading a book or hearing a lecture.  There comes a time where one must do.

Very often, the only thing holding us back from evil are the consequences to us that are not physical, but reputational.  With our name on the line, we won't do something.  That assumes that our reputation is worth keeping.

Let's remember, the police arrest and charge you through your name.  And your name is the key to your records and the remembrance of your past.  If you want to escape your past and how people see you in light of it, you must lose your name.

People go to ludicrous lengths to dodge their pasts.  I still remember watching The Apostle ( and how Robert Duvall's character, after murdering a man, 'baptizes' himself and gives himself a new name so that he could go on doing what he was doing before.  He escaped his crime through a type of anonymity called impersonation.  He took on another identity.

There is another anonymity... blending.  Gang members out here wear the same clothes and shave their heads so that they all look the same.  Can't tell one from another, and that's just enough protection to carry out horrendous acts of violence and afterwards slip back into an amorphous crowd.

This type of anonymous evil was written about more than 100 years ago by Gustave le Bon (  I think it is worth reading for everyone, because it so eloquently describes the madness of anonymity and evil.

Anonymity grants a freedom from the self and the consequences of identity.

Can it ever be helpful?  In the case of Alcoholics Anonymous, the answer is 'yes' to some degree.  Of course, AA does not advocate total anonymity, but a type of anonymity that is designed to free one from a 'bad' identity.  After all, if one's identity is bad, one will continue to do bad things.  But, what if we are afraid to let go of this bad reputation and flawed identity?

This type of anonymity within the group allows someone to let go of an identity and reputation that is false.  The identity built by the addict is a mask.  The identity of a person is a crowd is also a false identity, but the identity of the addict is 'portable' in the sense that he carries it with himself constantly and in every situation.  If you take someone away from the crowd and remove the uniform, he loses the crowd's identity.  However, the identity of the addict runs deeper.  He uses this false identity against himself.

By, giving it up, he becomes free.  He is free to explore himself and do other things that he would not otherwise do because of the restriction of his identity as a 'managing addict.'  

Anonymity can be an ingredient of great evil, but even more profound evil is committed not with anonymity, but total identification with evil.

When the addict totally identifies with his disease, then he needs anonymity in order to escape the source of his destruction.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Russell Brand's Documentary

Well, wouldn't you know it: once I posted that I was still looking for his documentary, I found it.

Interestingly enough, Mr. Brand is actually making some really good points.

From my perspective, the British medical establishment, the National Health Service (NHS), has an interesting take on addiction. They seem to take addiction in the current definition as a disease.  They also see it as incurable.  So, the entire approach is utterly rational... if you have an incurable disease.

It's pain management in a nutshell.

The NHS dispenses methadone as a form of pain management, not really treatment.  After all, why treat a disease that is incurable, especially from a medical perspective?  So, they don't even try, and most addicts are more than happy to go along with the 'pain management approach.'

Mr. brand really objects to this, for good reason.  It does not bring sobriety, nor does it alleviate the suffering of the addict.

Pain management never alleviates suffering, it just dulls it until death takes over.

For the medical community in Great Britain, death seems to be the only real option for the addict.  So, they dope addicts up until they die.  This is why the NHS director and Mr. Brand were talking past each other during the interview: Mr. Brand is fighting for the life of addicts who are suffering with an incurable disease (that is treatable through a non-medical process), and all the doctor really sees is an incurable disease that leads to death (from a medical perspective).  In a way, each of them is right.

What he didn't say which needs to be said is that the medical establishment really needs to get out of treatment altogether, stop handing out Methadone, and let the government funding tied up in the NHS go to treatment centers.

Fat chance.  Government agencies never voluntarily give up cash or power.  NHS has them both.  They will fight to the end to keep their budget intact.

Mr. Brand's demands for reform are an uphill battle in the UK, in large part not because of the NHS, but the recent British aversion to any form of belief in God (other than their compromises with 'religious sensitivities' of non-Christians).  The English are very much opposed to religion, and the 12 Steps seems to the less-attentive to be quite contrary to the present fad of espousing atheism.

The UK has another problem of over-centralization, which makes local initiatives all the more difficult.  However, treatment centers like the one he attended will continue to exist and work their miracles because, in the end, there will always be those who believe in the 12 Steps and will continue to carry the message no matter the cost.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Russell Brand on Abstinence

Comedian Russell Brand has been talking a lot about his sobriety:

I've been trying to find out how to see his entire documentary on his recovery, but I think he's making some very strong arguments against the typical medical approach used in the UK for addiction treatment.  Basically, the British tend towards 'reduction and replacement' goals for addicts.  In essence, there is an assumption that sobriety is an impossible task, and so the best one can hope for is to manage physical dependency to a point where one becomes nominally functional in society.

What the UK is hoping for is to get people out of the gutter.  So long as you are not sleeping in your own filth, you're OK.  Never mind that you are still dependent, and in many cases unable to work.  Just don't live like an outtake from Trainspotting and all will be well.

The common medical approach has never worked, and it is not working in the UK.  In fact, Western Europe is having enormous consequences from this approach.  Why?

I think that the main reason is that the medical community in the UK, as well as Europe as a whole, is entirely adverse to God.  The Church of England is fading into obscurity, and most Western nations with a historical state church either have or are preparing to withdraw support.  Governments have become institutionally atheistic, and with this enforced atheism comes a discomfort with a 12 Step program that relies on God.

In the US, we have a slower creep of this influence, but it has been largely overcome by American pragmatism: while our courts usually uphold atheistic protests, they still enforce the usage of 12 Steps for addictions-related crimes, such as DUIs and 'drug court' charges.

Mr. Brand may want to examine the US approach to courts using a treatment-based system: it isn't very efficient and has a low success rate.  However, that's because it isn't voluntary and you cannot force an addict to sober up by force.  I recall years back hearing a drug-court 'client' tell the commissioner, "As soon as I'm done with probation, I'm gonna by a forty-ouncer and smoke a big, fat splif (slang for marijuana cigarette)!"  There wasn't much she could do about it.  He was 'in compliance' with the program and testing negative.

Abstinence is the only way to begin real sobriety.  So long as one is returning to dependency, one cannot grow.  Like riding a bicycle, you can't really ride the bike so long as you still need the training wheels to stay steady.

I'm glad Mr. Brand is making that case.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Hard Wiring Issues

Popular 'mythology' tells us that many of our perceptions are 'taught' or 'nurtured.'  Social scientists of the post-modern strain like to think that matters like gender roles are strictly a cultural phenomenon, and if we do not teach gender roles, we can achieve 'equality' or whatever the latest social engineering goal is these days.

Sure, society plays an important part in self-perception, but we cannot use our minds to become whatever we want.  There are certain aspects of our perception that are utterly 'natural' and cannot be avoided.

A simple example of this can be found in this story about 'phantom limbs':

This story mentions Dr. Ramachandran, who's brain research at UCSD has been the subject of several popular books.  Phantom limbs are one of his specialties, and he has dome much to help us understand the neurological implications of body-to-mind relations.

Why is this important to addictions?  Because addiction arises when the human being fights his own nature, part of which is the neurological system which, in the case of the phantom hand, expects for things things to be a certain way and goes haywire when they aren't.

If the lower brain expects ten fingers and ten toes, what else does it expect?  Companionship, love, kindness from fellow humans?

If we cut these off, should we not expect problems with our entire personhood?  Part of what it is to be happy is to allow ourselves to leave unnatural restrictions and return to our true nature.  Our 'fallenness' is precisely the opposite: it is the inclination or ability for us to think we can successfully will ourselves out of our own nature.

Our destruction as persons comes when we go against who we really are, and this fight begins within ourselves, the battle between the 'will' or our reason and the totality of who we are as persons.  We are not 'all will'.  Rather, we are a composite, which the will is part of.

We must be cautious in making our decisions as persons to accept who we are as humans and not try to will ourselves into a condition or situation which is unnatural.  To do so creates suffering, like the 'phantom limb' described above, and this suffering often leads to addiction.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sobriety and Sentimentalism

Sobriety is grounded in an unswerving adherence to reality, no matter how unpleasant it can be from time to time.  The truth be told, reality is not that bad if you can survive it.  Even the worst situations are temporary blips in the overall space of life.

Addiction comes when the person seeks to escape life, and this escape has varying degrees.  We can escape the present through drugs and alcohol or some other activity.  Most 'normal' people will occasionally get drunk or over-indulge in some other way for a brief 'break' from the rigors of the present.

One of the most common escapes for people is neither drugs nor alcohol, but sentimentality.  Sentimentalism is the 'auto-erotica' of the emotions.  It is a flight of fantasy where we engage the imagination to take on on a whirlwind of emotional climax that is utterly illusory.  We fantasize about half-truths (reality is usually a little too dirty for such work, and so our minds scrub out the inconvenient truths so we can have pure perfection) so as to have a cheap yet powerful sensation.

Here's a pretty good article I ran across on the topic:

I pulled this great quote that we all should keep in mind:

Similarly, the Irish poet W.B. Yeats wrote, “Rhetoric is fooling others. Sentimentality is fooling yourself.”

Sentimentality is a real drug, and it is a danger wherever it appears.  In religion, it creates a fantasy of perfection that drives people to either utopian dreams that end in tragedy or the utter abandonment of faith. In politics, it marches countless people off to death or oppression.  In families, it leads to abuse or abandonment.

Sentimentality is dangerous because, once the orgasm of emotion has subsided, we return to a less-than-perfect reality and our fantasy is turned to vapor.  It is not real, and our reality begins to look less and less appealing.  It ruins our ability to be grateful for what we have in the present.

This destruction of gratitude is brought about by a number of factors, most especially Pride.  After all, you cannot engage in sentimentality unless you think you deserve it.  Pride ruins our ability to be grateful, but sentimentality stomps out what little chance we have to appreciate reality.  The blinding white light of sentimentality's perfect fantasy world shows up ll the more the stains of the present.

However, those stains and blotches of well-worn use ought all the more to be treasured than a reality devoid of imperfections.  After all, the annoyances of the present are signs of the victories we have achieved.  We are survivors, and have been given the crown of life!

You look and see that what someone else has is better, but did you ever think that perhaps the humble life you have will lead to greater happiness?  After all, even the fastest car on the road will end up getting door dings and being replaced by faster models, new houses will get dingy, and young bodies will get sick and sag.

The sober addict must come to grips with the truth: his reality can be even better than his fantasies, if he can open his eyes and see what he has been given that he does not deserve.

If we can truly appreciate the present, then we have no need for sentimentality.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Confusion of the Will

So, I think we preceding posts should help clarify the problem of the will for the alcoholic.  His will becomes tangled up in a confusion between what he knows is right and wrong versus his impulses to either move towards good or avoid bad.

Another way to look at it might be the problem of working in a mirror: our minds have difficulty translating actions in reverse of the way our bodies are oriented. We see in the mirror we must move in one direction, but have to send the message to the muscles to move in the opposite direction.  It's not easy.

In my town, we have a high number of Japanese families, who work at several Japanese auto companies and surrounding businesses.  Every day there is an accident, and so appear rather silly.  One day, I saw three cars all mashed together on their front ends: one tried to pull out of a driveway, while the other two tried to pull in from either side of the street.  My friend commented that they were lousy drivers.  I had to remind him that the Japanese drive on the other side of the road, and when they come here and get in trouble, their instincts for left side driving kick in and they have major problems as a result.  They are not bad drivers, they just have contrary instincts that are hard to unlearn in 12 months.

So, the addict has similar problems.  His instinct or reflex is to avoid growth.  Every momentary impulse will be to run, and so we must realize that the addict will need time to 'reprogram' this instinct.'  He will always flinch in the sight of fear, and, particularly in earlier days of sobriety, will go very quickly into an anxiety mode.

So, we may wonder how we can help an addict in the early stages of recovery.  Obviously, it requires a great deal of patience.  What it also requires is the mindfulness to remind the addict that he needs to be mindful of how his 'car' is designed: when he is looking back over his shoulder into the abyss, he's facing the wrong way.  He must keep looking forward, past his fear and pain, towards the goal.

This is the position of hope.  Hope is looking forward, not back.  Living in the past is not hopeful, and neither is wishing that the past could be restored to the present.  The past is the past.  The past is also an escape.  You see, in the past we were ignorant of the future.  Now that we have entered into the future, the past is ignorance.

We must remain looking forward in order to enter into the new future.  Those helping the addict must always understand that preparing for the future is one of the addict's greatest challenges, and his hampered will has kept him from moving towards the 'happy destiny' of recovery.  Patiently reminding the addict of the joys that await his completion of growth will keep is important.  In order to make that proper 'shift,' he needs to be coached to slow down and not react, because his reactions will send the car in reverse.  He needs to slow down and think through the shifting process to put the car in forward.

Friday, August 10, 2012

How Your Will Operates - Part 6

So, let's see how addiction takes hold of the human will.  Looking at the chart, we see that the car is designed to move forward.  This symbolizes the fact that we are 'designed' by God to be happy.  We are made to move towards Him, and that 'reverse,' while an option, is a temporary maneuver.

Think of a real car.  How long can you drive backwards before your body starts to hurt and you begin to make mistakes?  That's because 'reverse' isn't the natural way a car is supposed to go.  So it is with us that we are not designed to move 'backwards' through life.  Human beings under constant anxiety begin to 'deform.'

This deformity of constant avoidance leads to the problem of addiction.  

Here's how it starts: we move towards happiness, and begin to experience the beginnings of pain.  This triggers fear within us.  Rather than move forwards, we move backwards by going into reverse.  This moves us back towards numbness, but we know this is unnatural, and so we eventually move again back up the awareness incline, where we again begin to experience pain and the fear of suffering which leads to change.  The gear shift gets slammed into reverse, and back down we go.

Over a long enough period of time, the mind (which is designed for 'forward' progress towards happiness) begins to confuse numbness with happiness, and avoidance with progress towards what is desired.  It reverses the gear shift pattern to look like this:

This is the problem of addiction and why the will cannot be used to get the addict out of his self-destructive cycle.  All of his gears are mislabeled.  When he wants to move forward, he hits reverse, and visa-versa.  Addicts cannot make appropriate decisions because they have no will-power... the will is still there.  It just have everything out of order.

The addict still knows that there is right and wrong, and good and bad, but he's lost touch with happiness.  He does not know what it is, or has been without it for so long that he thinks numbness is happiness.  So, when you ask the addict to move forward towards happiness, he slams the car in reverse.  After all, that's what's on the labels of his gear shift.

Moments of satisfaction for the addict are few and far between, because when his car is in neutral, he coasts dangerously close to death.  He knows it at a deeper level.  Addiction is a game of taking small doses of death and surviving.  Too much complacency can mean the addict will perish entirely.  So, he must work, but for him it is a type of avoidance and anxiety-ridden... after all, look what his gear shift says that it is... 'reverse.'

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Your Will Operates - Part 5

So, we now have a complete model of the operation of the Human Will with four 'positions' into which the will directs the person: Desire, Avoidance, Satisfaction, and Complacency.  You could also add four further clarifications: Good, Bad, Content, and Slothful.  During our lives, our will is madly shifting gears as new events and circumstances come into view.  The 'upper brain' assigns value to each person and thing, and this 'programs' the 'lower brain' like the hand on the gear shift.

Here's how this model can be further elaborated:

You are the car, and 'life' as we experience it is a steady uphill grade of awareness.  Well, that's what is supposed to happen.  We are supposed to 'grow up' and learn about the world and mature.  We are supposed to become who we are and achieve true happiness in God,  After all, there can be no greater joy that the complete awareness of God.  He is all goodness.  He is, quite literally, Joy.

So we emerge from non-awareness, or Numb (which is ultimately non-existence) and move forward.  As we emerge, we discover we are far away from what we are supposed to be, and we begin to experience suffering.  This Pain, telling us we need to move forward.

What happens is that we encounter Fear, which is part of the Fall in Christian terminology (remember Adam and Eve hiding from God?).  Now, fear has positive aspects when it is mixed with experience: you should be afraid to cross the street outside the crosswalk, but that's because you have the experience to know how dangerous the street is in general when rules are not followed.

Fear without experience becomes a barrier to progress and change.  When it is encountered, the 'fallen nature' inclination is to back down, or to put the car in 'reverse.'  Yet, this reverse means, ultimately, that one must deny part of reality.  One chooses numbness and darkness to the light of truth that involves pain.  This is why avoidance leads to greater suffer: one suffers from fear, but one also suffers from knowingly denying one's self true happiness.

Now, if one passes through fear, he changes.  Depending on how 'fast' he drives, one can even put the car in neutral and coast a bit, though this is usually short because the hill is steep.  We will soon want to get back into the race and drive some more, in which case we will encounter more fears and experience more change.

In the next post, we'll explore how addiction takes hold and messes with this progress.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How Your Will Operates - Part 4

OK, let's get back to the 'gear shift model' and talk about 'Neutral' and 'Park.'

After an action of the will that meets completion, the will usually will send the person into a 'rest mode,' which I've labelled 'Neutral.'  The will is neither avoiding nor aspiring.  This is a form of satisfaction.  

Now, Neutral is not really what a car is designed to do,  It is designed to move, but satisfaction is an important feature because a car always on the move is subject to overheating and cannot be serviced.  The same is true for humans.  We need rest and time to repair.

In our modern lives, it is very hard to take this time to repair, and we often end up overloaded with busy work when we should be recuperating from our labors.  The inability to rest is a type of dysfunction we must be aware of.  We may find ourselves jerking the stick between desire and avoidance just so that we avoid this neutral position.  This indicates some kind of fear.

'Park' can look like neutral, though in Neutral there can be movement.  For example, Neutral can enjoy a bit of 'coasting' on one's previous labors.  Once we have worked hard to get up to speed, we can take a break and let the forces we built up gradually unwind.

Park stops all motion.  It is a refusal to either move forward or back.  It is complacency, sometimes called 'akedia' ( ).  Park is NOT satisfaction.  There is no accomplishment in it.  It is a shut-down of normal functions.

Park is time of profound confusion, even depression.  There seem to be no options.  It is also the most dangerous of all the gears, because it is easy to fall into and hard to get out of.  After all, it takes a lot more energy to move a car from a stationary position than it does when a car has been coasting.  Yes, the most energy is expended when going from forward into reverse (which is why stress is so exhausting), but getting out of Park is darn close.