Stigma and the Mirroring of the Human Condition
When the word addiction was deliberately omitted from four consecutive editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM III, DSM IV and DSM IV-TR, it was because it was considered a layman’s rather than a scientific term, pejorative, stigmatizing, and too difficult to define. There were simply “too many meanings”. The word has recently been reintroduced in DSM 5, where it appears in the name for a new category, “Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders,” yet the text observes that addiction has been omitted from the official DSM-5 substance use disorder diagnostic terminology because of its uncertain definition and its potentially negative connotation.
If you speak with most any current practitioner of any facility that treats substance abuse, and they are up to date with current approved terminology, you will hear them use terms like “substance use disorder” or “substance misuse disorder”. All of this relabeling and the meticulous sculpting of the vocabulary when referring to substance abuse is a valiant attempt to change the perception of a stigmatized societal structure involving addiction. To shift the conceptual understanding of what an “addict” truly is and although a wonderful sentiment, it can’t be done in this manner. To simply dictate what words are used to define human behavior, we further fracture and isolate the population we are attempting to protect.
Now, don’t come for me. You will notice I don’t adhere to any dedicated term for the behavior of modern addiction and I will not attempt to sway you on which term to use not because it is useless to do so but because it is far more useful to focus on the nature of the behavior and how this behavior impacts every single one of our lives whether we have ever been impacted by narcotics or not and until we realize this, the compulsion to escape our reality will remain. The truth is the behavior of addiction is deeply embedded in every human. Let’s quickly explore the word addiction. Derived from the latin word “addicere” meaning, to devote or sacrifice. The term addiction had a positive usage up until the late 1700s where it was first used to describe a compulsion of tobacco use. Later it was resurrected when opium hit the modern world in the early 1900’s.
The Nature of Compulsion
When we are in our formative years, up until about year 6 of our development, our brains will process the largest program upload of our entire lives. To put it simply, during these formative years the brain is in the Theta state which is the frequency mode the brain is in when we experience creativity, intuition, emotional processing, and memory consolidation. It’s a highly receptive state that literally is the mode of the brain that uploads our operating programs of how we interact and perceive ourselves and the world around us. Children are dominant in this state in the developmental years whereas adults have by now had this state snuffed out by our modern ideas of responsibility and shame.
In these formative years, we have all learned basic subconscious behaviors passed down from the society around us. Things like sugar are a reward. Sugar hits the same receptors in the brain as cocaine, heroin, MDMA, sex, love, “likes” on social media, scrolling through a smartphone, purchasing clothes, helping someone, being loved, exercising etc. In the brain, there is no difference on how these hormonal receptors are triggered whether it be a wink from an attractive person or hitting the purchase button on your Amazon shopping cart. In these formative years we are introduced to things like sugar as a reward, we are bad if we say certain words or have too much excitement.
These are perception states that are uploaded into our processing system of how we view ourselves and the world around us. We learn on a very subconscious level (Theta State), which actions, behaviors and substances will produce fear, joy, love, hate, envy, guilt, shame, satisfaction etc. and by the time we are about 6 or 7 years old our basic unconscious beliefs are formed and to put it bluntly, the collective consciousness of our race is struggling for balance immensely because we have not yet understood that this unconscious state formed in our developmental years is corrupted. We all repeat harmful behaviors over and over but cannot seem to grasp why we cannot stop. We observe abusive relationships, but we feel we cannot leave.
We observe we are eating foods that contain poisonous chemicals, but we feel we cannot change our diets. We observe that we treat our children and family members poorly but feel we don’t know how to change. We observe that working 60 hours per week is not serving us but feel we have no other options. Many of us may not even be at the point where we can observe these behaviors at all due to the unconscious state we have been conditioned to operate within during our formative years.
How many of us sat in front of a television during our childhood. Or handed a screaming child a cell phone. How many of our fears have been minimized as children and told to just go to bed. How many of our emotions were stifled. Told to stop crying. Told to stop having a tantrum. How many of us were told that our behaviors were the cause of other people’s problems. Told our wants and needs are causing an issue. How many of us have learned to maintain our emotions in an unconscious state because that’s what the world around us did in our formative years.
That was the upload of our operating system. That is our program. We have this entire society walking around unconsciously punching in and out of jobs, feeding our children boxed food, telling them to stop feeling their emotions, soothing ourselves with various avenues of dopamine like shopping, sex, gambling, parties, television, video games, social media, food, sugar and drugs. This is the nature of addictive behaviors. In short, addiction is an unconscious repetitive behavior of relieving unfavorable emotions. So, we can now agree that we all experience addiction. Every single human will experience a repetitive cycle or compulsion of a behavior that offers a heightened emotion, in spite of it having a positive or negative effect on us and those around us.
The human condition in a nutshell is operating with an unconscious mind. If you have ever said things like “I don’t know why I did that”, “I don’t know why I feel this way”, “I don’t know why I keep doing this or that” or “I don’t know why my life isn’t going the way I want it to” than you too have an unconscious mind. The comforting news is, we all do. It’s the nature of our species now and we must begin to acknowledge this if we wish to contribute to the healing and mending of ourselves and our fellow humans.
In the brain there is no difference in how these feel good receptors are being hit whether shopping or heroin use, the only difference is that when we shop we are using our own storage of dopamine and when we use heroin we are supplementing it which is of course a far more aggressive approach to relief because the chemically addicted person has created an additional task of maintaining an unnaturally high amount of the hormone being triggered or in other words “physically dependent”. The human body heals quickly from this dependency once removed however and it is the acute stage of healing the behavior. Once the substance is removed all we are left with is the emotional programming that we all share. The desire for joy. The desire for love. The desire for peace.
Carl Jung said “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. I have a very good friend I keep in contact with often and during busy weeks we communicate through text messaging. She often takes days to respond to me and it drives me nuts. I often get stuck in this mental turmoil/judgment state and begin juggling various statements in my mind like “she’s being so rude” or “does she just feel I’m unimportant?” and the biggest one “if I did that to her, she would be so mad!”.
One morning I was about to tell her how upset I get when she never responds to my messages. I thought out the whole speech in my mind and I knew she was going to feel really crumby once I brought to her attention her carelessness to my feelings. My thumbs are punching away at the keyboard and I’m closing the speech and I finish with “I don’t do that to people because I know it would hurt their feelings”. Right after I said it, I had to check myself before hitting send so as I don’t sound like a fool. I suddenly started recalling all the people I do this to. I opened my text message threads and saw that most of them were never responded to! Not because I didn’t like the person or didn’t value them but just because I simply didn’t know how to respond at the time and eventually got distracted and forgot. I wasn’t conscious of this behavior I exhibited because I am often lost in the mind of defense.
Unconsciously scanning all interactions for something that I don’t like. For something that needs addressing. Something I need to wage and judge as good or bad. Before I began the long journey of introspection, I didn’t know why I did this or that I did it at all. So much of my unconscious behaviors began rising and I was overwhelmed to find that in all instances that I became upset or felt strong opinions about anything around me, even if it had nothing to do with me, my emotions still attached to them. They attached because in my formative years, the society around me programmed my subconscious to do so. We watched and we learned generation after generation to project our discomforts onto other people rather than identify where the discomfort is coming from within.
In the example of my friend and I, I was upset because at some point in my life I felt disregarded by those who loved me. I felt unheard and invalidated. The text I could have sent her that would have pulled my unconscious mind into the conscious front would have looked more like this; “Hi, I’m feeling disregarded when you don’t respond to my texts, it makes me feel like you don’t care about me”. This turns the mirror inward and tends to my need for validation. The root of all judgment is fear.
Many may immediately disagree and declare “I’m not afraid I’m angry” or “I’m disgusted” etc. But both anger and disgust as well as hate all come from fear. Fear of the emotions inside us that we have not allowed to be uncovered. Folks that are trying to recover from addictive behaviors are often heavily judged and stigmatized. In my own recovery many years ago I heard many unconscious projections from folks and their opinions of my struggles. Things like “you reap what you sow” and “its your own fault” were used often. Also “addicts are lazy and weak” is another perception often expressed. Sometimes I received more humble judgments disguised as support. Things like “it’s a good thing you smartened up” and “it’s about time you decided to become a member of society” while all along I was rejected from my society because I displayed the most vivid example of the human desire for relief from suffering.
Recovering In An Unconscious World
Recovery is a word used to describe the rising and processing of subconscious pain. This is why the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous helps so many folks recover from their dependency with alcohol. The 12 Steps are derived from a Buddhist model of consciousness. The introspective questions asked toward the self is the journey within and through this process, relief is found and no longer suppressed by the hormone manipulation of substances used. This same 12 Step program helps folks in non-substance fellowships such as sexaholics anonymous and gamblers anonymous. For the human that is going through this process of pulling up unconscious emotions and facing the very programs that made up their entire world around them, this is a very taxing and overwhelming time.
It is a lifetime of memory recall, and many meet themselves for the first time. The good, bad and the ugly of their perceptions and paradigms are now mirrored back to them and to face such heavy scrutiny from the world around them adds an entire layer of struggle within their recovery. The stigma that is casted upon these folks especially by professional personnel can be near crippling. Imagine getting shot and going to a hospital for help and the nurses, doctors and other patients begin throwing rocks at your bullet wound.
The truth is, they all have bullet wounds too, but they have ignored them for so long they can no longer feel them. No one cared for their bullet wounds. No one acknowledged them and now here you are crying and in pain and expecting them to show you the compassion that they never received. This is the nature of stigma. A direct result of the unconscious mind projecting unattended emotions onto those around us and this is the true epidemic that not even one of us has not been gravely impacted by.
A New Earth
Imagine a world where every human being experiencing any negative emotion, opinion or judgment used these experiences as tools to find the unconscious pockets that existed inside them. Imagine what the world would look like if every time we called someone lazy, we saw how badly we needed rest. Imagine what would come of our world if we all took the journey of recovery. If we all realized that we are all addicted and attached to the desire to feel peace. Imagine a world where we found that peace within us, just waiting for us under all the pain. Imagine if we were one consciousness and by taking this introspective journey into a conscious state of unconditional love for ourselves we by default helped heal the entire world. There is a new earth emerging and it needs you to instead of calling your fellow humans out, to start calling them in.
Comments are closed.