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Monday, May 19, 2014

Gluten 'Intolerance,' Addiction, and the Power of Suggestion

I have not seen this discussed anywhere, so I am straying into uncharted territory.  Of course, this is not the first time for me, as the scratches in my 'hull' show ample proof of my ability to stray off the charts and find where the unknown reefs are.  So, let's begin!
So, this article seems to indicate that many people with 'gluten intolerance' are having a reaction based on psychology rather than physiology: the mere suggestion of gluten is enough to send them into a symptomatic downward spiral.  Sure, they are experiencing real pain and suffering, but the question is what is the cause?
Now, I've gotten all the usual name-calling and breathless diatribes about how horrible I am for suggesting that people are 'making it up.'  You can try that and waste your energy.  In fact, part of why I am so convinced that many of these cases are psychological is the over-the-top and harried defense of the legitimacy of such disorders, even when I am not questioning actual cases of Celiac or medically-diagnosed problems.
What I am questioning are the countless thousands that have self-diagnosed themselves and take up the mantle of those who really are suffering.
But, then it got me thinking: how much of the problem of addiction and the magnificent attraction of our obsessions is less about the power these things really have but how much power we attribute to them?
We often speak of alcoholism as being part psychological and part 'allergy,' and that is how I began to make something of a connection: is there a genuine 'allergy,' or is this 'allergy' something like a psychosomatic reaction that we think our way into?

With all the glamorization of alcohol, are people really experiencing a super-powerful effect because that is really what is going on within them biochemically, or are they creating this effect strictly in their own minds?  Who remembers choking on their first cigarette, and then immediately trying to hold another one down in order to participate in the glories of smoking?

Drinking and drug use have no doubt been glamorized by media: how many songs have been devoted to the benefits of these?
Warning: Graphic Language (i.e. bad words)

I'm posting this version because it is a mockery of the original.  But, in this one song is the abuse of alcohol, drugs, subjugation of women, criminal activity... all rolled up into a catchy beat.  Fantastic, isn't it?  It makes all these things seem far more exciting than perhaps what one would experience in a ghetto apartment or desert trailer park, but if you have convinced yourself that these things really are that great... could this be the 'allergy' that so many people seem to 'contract'?
This is the gray area of the allergy factor, where people experience real symptoms (which is why many people are so very hurt when you question their allergies, because regardless of the source, they are really suffering) but because of thinking.
Don't forget that addiction is a problem of perception, first and foremost.  This is why the 12 Steps are mostly about changing one's perceptions rather than one's experience of alcohol.  Anabuse and other tools that work with classical conditioning have limited effect on a direct confrontation with alcohol and other drugs because they are simply too narrow in scope: addiction runs deep into the fabric of the human person, to the core of our worst fears and the passions we suffer with.
We have all seen the addict who comes to hate the experience of his addiction, and yet cannot stop.  The same is often true of other allergic syndromes and the people who suffer from them.  I am not saying that people with psychosomatic allergies like having them (sure some do, just as some people enjoy their addictions).  The thinking in both cases run far deeper than like or dislike.  They run straight to the murkiest layers of the human will.
We have only just begun to understand the interplay between the human brain and the body.  There are plenty of books out there documenting the amazing discoveries of science in this field, which I think are helpful in putting right our own expectations of what we are up against in addiction and recovery.
The area of psychosomatic allergies is one that will help us better understand the power of addiction and how our own minds often make trouble for us in the journey of this life.


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