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Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Eye

 "The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!" (Mt 6:22-23)

What is Jesus talking about here?

In that time, people understood the eye to be both the organ and the process of understanding what is seen.  They did not think that understanding occurred separate from the sensory organs.  Rather, the senses acted through the organs themselves, and the organs brought meaning to what the senses perceived in the world.

Therefore, the condition of the eye naturally effected the entirety of perception.  If one's physical perceptions are distorted, the one's entire reality is adversely impacted.

It is pretty easy to see how something like clinical depression fits into this.  It isn't unscientific as it is just a different way of expressing what science rediscovered.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

How do you feel?

 "How are you feeling?"

That can be a tricky question.  Sometimes we use that line of inquiry to explore emotions, and at other times thoughts.

Are they all that different?  Emotions are clearly felt in the body, which is why we call them 'feelings'.  Yet, most of our thoughts also have a corresponding physical reaction.

While we like to think of our intellectual faculties as distinct from our emotional ones, the truth is that they are all interconnected.  Perhaps we would like to believe that thought is 'immaterial' or 'non-physical,' but the truth is that our physical disposition directly effects our thoughts.

We can observe that a headache can negatively alter our thought processes.  But, what about more subtle conditions of the body that we aren't even paying attention to?

Someone who feels depressed will have depressive thoughts.

The path of recovery begins when we acknowledge not only the power of our physical experience of our feelings to derail us from what is good, but also that these feelings are just that... they are experiences that are not necessarily attached to reality.  

You can be depressed without having any reason to be.

If we accept the notion that our feelings are not consistently reliable measures of reality, we can be freed from their tyranny.  We don't have to believe them.  We can reject their demands.

An emotion is a decision to act, which is why we have the physical experience of emotion generally after a thought.  But, if you stop to observe the feeling more closely, you can prevent yourself from jumping off the cliff that the feeling demands you do to make it 'feel better.'

Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Problem of the Senses

If you read enough Orthodox monastic writings (often lumped into the general category of 'Patristics', which includes theology, philosophy, law...), you tend to get the idea that the serious Christian is fighting two battles in his inner 'battlefield'.

Indeed, the battle is an interior one.  We aren't really fighting with the devil or other people, though it often feels that way.  Relationships represent 60%-75% of the typical confession.  Not that I'm taking notes...

But, honestly, our fight over sinful or 'bad' actions begins with what goes in within our consciousness.  It is deep within ourselves that the struggle takes place between the 'higher' aspirations of the heart and its cruder appetites.

This battle over which side will dictate the actions of the person goes on in each of us.

On the one hand, the battle is one of thoughts.  We have memories, ideas, visions of what we can accomplish.  On the other hand, we have yearning desires for sensory experiences and sated appetites.

While we discuss thoughts a great deal, we often don't give sensory experiences their due.  And, that's a major oversight when considering that most addicts get addicted in order to have a sensory experience.  While the addict will often settle for 'numb,' that numbness is preceded by a 'euphoria.'  And, where that euphoria is generated is important when discussing recovery, especially when trying to break the cycle of suffering and running away from suffering.

But, I think there is more to the matter.  I think that there is room to make the argument that each of us experiences our physical world in a unique way.  For example, I like blue but you like red.  I like salty, but you like sweet.  People have sensory preferences that point to differing experiences.  My theory is that the differences in physical experiences lead to, in many cases, the conditions which lead to addiction.  Our physical experience of fear can either lead us to becoming psychopaths (too little) or shut-ins (too intense).

The addict often reports being 'sensitive'.  I think this is something worth exploring.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

How does recovery work?

Christ is Risen!

It has been a busy last few weeks, but well worth the wait.

So, I'm going to jump right into the question: what is addiction?

Is it a mental disorder?  A moral failing?  Those two are the most common categories used in the last few centuries to classify addiction.  The problem is that the tools available in these fields are generally ineffective in helping the addict to recover.  Psychology and moral teachings can have some positive effects, but generally not enough to make a huge difference in addiction.  Most addicts continue to die even with all the religious or psychological encouragement to get sober.

So, what does that leave?  In the 12-Step concept, a spiritual solution is offered, but there isn't really a very clean understanding of 'how' it works beyond describing the phenomenon of people working the steps and somehow 'magically' getting sober.  If God is working on us, what exactly is he fixing?

Think about it for a moment.  There may be a 'spiritual awakening,' but how does that effect one's decision-making processes, particularly since the addict knows that thoughts alone cannot save the addict from the addiction.  Were that true, psychology would work.  But, it doesn't.

As I see it, the problem is a fundamental one of not understanding how humans make decisions and even how human consciousness works.  We once did understand human consciousness in a way that, in fact, prevented addiction from taking hold.  But, as we abandoned ancient wisdom and chased after psychology as the solution to all suffering, we lost out on the key to comprehending human awareness.

So, let's stop and use some reason.  Let's assume that the 12-Step concept is true (but its explanations are incomplete).  So, God does something to the addict, and the addict breaks the cycle of bad decisions.  Where would God place the 'fix'?

If you follow the concept of human consciousness found roughed out in Genesis and later with the Greeks, human appetites rise up from within, and thus the senses are used to find the 'solution' to the appetite.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Mt 6:22-23)

"Your eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is sound, your whole body is full of light; but when it is not sound, your body is full of darkness." (Lk 11:34)

The wise man has his eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness; (Ec 2:14)

Judgement is vision, both what we see and how what we see.  This means that our physical perceptions are key to recovery.  How you see determines what you will do.  And, while sight and taste along with the other senses are important (think about the physical experience of the addict when he takes a drink), it has much to do with 'sight' both in terms of overall intellectual perception as it does the physical one.

Are you aware of how your body truly 'feels'?  Are you aware of all your stress you are carrying around?  Do you 'see' threats in other people around you?

The 12-Step group acts as 'eyes to the blind' because the addict learns, with Divine assistance, to not trust what he sees.  Some of this is thought, but a great deal of it is feeling.  When anger or fear arise (which are thoughts but have enormous physical components), the addict learns not to trust either the 'reasons' or the 'feelings.'

Recovery is about correcting one's sensory experience of the world.  If one learns not to trust one's feelings, then one has a shot at recover.

Friday, April 22, 2022

What's been going on the last seven years

 So, my life has been 'topsy-turvy' the last few years.  New assignment to a mission, and with that moving house and several secular jobs.  Working full time, keeping a small mission afloat during COVID, a fixer-upper house... and questions.

I'd been asking myself a lot of questions about the fundamentals of addiction.  I wasn't happy with the answers, or perhaps the lack of answers.

The problem I was struggling with is the "ping pong ball" I see in modern alcoholism and addiction treatment.  It goes something like this: when an addict sees he has a problem, he goes to a psychology expert, who sends him to a 'treatment program, which sends him to a 12-Step group, but he still ends up back in the office, and then back to the group, and so on.  Back and forth.  meanwhile, the rates of recovery are still abysmal.

In America, addiction treatment is a big business.  Between court referrals and even just social expectations, American addicts go 'back and forth' without really the overall addiction problem in America getting any better.  In fact, I'd say we now have more addicts than we ever had, just spread along a wider spectrum of addictions.

It seemed to me that lots of people are getting paid salaries to do nothing other than assuage the guilt of the 'unafflicted'.  Addict develops, it worsens, and few find a way out.

Perhaps it shouldn't bother me, but it does.  I watch people go in and out of treatment, able to regurgitate all kinds of platitudes about recovery... only to relapse.

The other thing I really struggled with was the inquiries about sexual addictions.  I read and read about pornography and its effects on the brain, but also couldn't square it with what I was hearing both from counselors and addicts.  Nothing was adding up.  I hit a wall.  And, so I gave up on posting here, figuring there was nothing more I could say.

Then, all this changed a few years ago when I began to consider a new angle... a traditional angle.

What if the problem is with how we understand human consciousness?  I began to think of addiction not as a thought problem, but a sensory one.

Eventually, the ideas have come together, and I now plan to gradually roll them out here.

Here's an example specific to sex, but you will be able to see how this can work back into most addictions:

In the meantime, stay tuned as I try to bring readers up-to-date with where I believe the discussion about addiction should be heading.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

A New Beginning...

 After almost seven years, I think I'm ready to come back with some new stuff.  Stay tuned...

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cheese and Addiction

I've written elsewhere in this blog about the sensory aspects of addiction, so I won't dig all of that up.  What I will say is that, as we discover more, it becomes apparent that the sensory processes of the human person have sadly been routinely confused with psychology.

Here's an example of inroads into the sensory process, this time the Yale University study entitled Which Foods May Be Addictive? The Roles of Processing, Fat Content, and Glycemic Load.

Here's the Abstract:
We propose that highly processed foods share pharmacokinetic properties (e.g. concentrated dose, rapid rate of absorption) with drugs of abuse, due to the addition of fat and/or refined carbohydrates and the rapid rate the refined carbohydrates are absorbed into the system, indicated by glycemic load (GL). The current study provides preliminary evidence for the foods and food attributes implicated in addictive-like eating.
How do we fight our own nature, then?  Well, the truth is that addiction is complex, and has as much to do with context as it does with the nature of the substance.  Plenty of people try cocaine or heroin and never develop addiction.

We can't just blame the substance, though we ought to understand why the substance works.