The Wandering Monk

Brewmaster Rysu – New Posts On Tuesdays


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Happiness and Suffering

Think about a time in your life that you’ve been at your lowest.  I hope it isn’t too painful to do, but if you can, don’t think about the events, just think about how you felt.  Remember it as best you can; as vividly.  Remember how you felt, what your rationalization were.  Consider how deeply rooted it felt, how absolute.  Was it as though your entire life was defined by that moment, at the time?

Now, if you can, come away from that and think about the happiest time of your life. Your wedding day or the birth of a child is popular.  The day you graduated college, or maybe a particularly strong vacation or place you’ve visited.  While you’re thinking about it, try not to focus on the events of it.  Instead, think about how you felt.  Was it almost overwhelming?  Surreal?  Was it like the clouds parted and the sun finally came in, with warmed and light?  Was it like you couldn’t imagine how you ever lived without that thing before? Like you indeed hadn’t lived at all, and now you’ve finally been equipped with the necessary tools to start really, truly living?

If you’ve managed to go through both of those scenarios, then I applaud you.  It can be difficult and harrowing to face these things.  But what would happen if compared them?  Naturally one would be good and one would be bad, but what are the similarities?  What are the acute, factual differences?

Perhaps they both helped highlight clear distinctions in your life. Perhaps they both seemed to define a place in your life as being a particular way.  Perhaps they are the anchor for your memory of that time in your life.  Good to bad, terrible lows or dizzying highs, they are spikes in your otherwise ordinary life.  Perhaps other pikes occur, and maybe they even come close to these, but they don’t quite measure up the same way.

But now that we’ve brought out awareness to these two major things and have compared them, we must see the contrast and their relationship.  What if your whole life was those happy moments?  What if every day you were THAT happy, and THAT elated about what was happening?  It’d be too much of a good thing right? You’d feel unbalanced after a while.  You’d feel like you had something amazing but it was too much of a good thing.  Over time, you’d find yourself feeling complacent, and then guilty at the realization that you were.  You’d say to yourself, “This is such a good thing, why am I not enjoying this as much as I should?” 

That brings us to the point.  

Years ago I was blessed with being in a situation where I was able to travel to places I’d never been, see and meet people I otherwise would never have encountered, and all the while I was surrounded by compassion and kindness.  My heart swelled by it all. These were some of the greatest times of my life.  I’ve had singularly happier moments, but as a whole, this time in my life was one of my happiest.  

But I wasn’t really prepared for it.  All my life I’d been exposed to much, much less.  I’d never really been in a situation in the past that I could draw on in order to process what I was going through.  It was beautiful, and happy, and amazing, and absolutely overwhelming.

Conversely, there have been times when I have been in my lowest lows.  Dark places — places that were equally as overwhelming, but that I was equally unprepared for.  

But when my dark times had passed, and good times began to come, the bad places I had been were actually the times I drew on to helpe me process and enjoy the good times better.  I felt more deeply, loved more completely, and fully appreciated where I was because of the pains and trials I had been through.

I would never have truly been able to experience happiness and love if I hadn’t first experienced crushing depression and trauma.

I’m not saying “Go out there and get damaged”, but I am saying that we all have had troubles.  We’ve all suffered at some point in our lives. But when we do suffer, we must balance our suffering with equal parts happiness. We must use our hard times to give us contrast to enjoy the happy things.  And when dark things happen again, we can reach back and say “But I have known great love and great happiness, so as bad and as hard as this is, I see the context and perspective of how it is now.”

I wrote this in a journal years ago, perhaps it applies:

I suffer, but I learn. 

I am happy but I am complacent. 

I am complacent so I suffer. 

I suffer, but I learn. 


Maybe there’s something to that.

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Confidence of Self

I’ve had an interesting revelation that I’d like to share with you today. It involves society, how we behave when we’re among perceived variations of social situations and, more directly, how our confidence and sense of self is affected. 

I like to consider myself fearless; or at least to possess a fearless heart. I have faced challenging things in life and, while I may have been afraid, I did the best I could. I made mistakes but I always tried to do my best even as fear was my companion, I didn’t let it determine my destination. 

But there are some people in my life that, when I face them, no matter how long it has been or how much I have changed, they always seem to invoke the same sense in me. 

I recently reunited with someone that has a curious affect on my confidence. It isn’t that they demean or reduce it, but because I value them and their opinion, I inadvertently shed my own self-generation of happiness and instead pour that energy into them. I do this almost automatically. 

Today I realized that I was doing that as we talked. I realized I was not balancing this person with my ability to maintain myself. I realized that I faced this person and evaluated them as someone I wanted to see happy at any cost, but gave no attention to my own sense of happiness. 

I won’t go into how balance once again reveals itself, but what I will say is that confidence, like anything else, starts with you. 

I once heard someone say “No one can put you down without your permission.” I never agreed with that. Hurtful words were hurtful whether or not you permitted them to be. But I think what that advice is saying is that you can choose to see it as something that demeans you; they have power and you’re the victim. If this is indeed  he scenario you believe yourself to be in, then you’ve already lost. But if you can see it as another person inaccurately describing you and instead revealing their own insecurities and lack of confidence, their words ring hollow. 

I took some time to think about how my confidence can waiver depending on others and how I can cement it. The conclusion I came to was that I must equally accept that my actions will impact others and that my actions are first determined from my self. If I am not confident, my decisions and my actions will send the wrong energy to those around me. Despite my best efforts I will spell disaster for myself if it snowballs. Others will lose confidence in me if I do not have confidence in myself. Without confidence, how can they respect me? How could they perceive me any other way than how I am communicating how I am perceiving myself?

And so I have decided that confidence starts with balance. It starts with keeping the dispersion of my energy even and equal, and to include myself in my equation. It starts with not trying to grasp and wrench and control the happiness of others. 

Happiness is a delicate flower. Even well intended squeezes will destroy it. It is Evanescent. It is uncontained and undefined by singularit and form. It is born both from within through trusting yourself and without in trusting your decisions. 

Confidence comes from loving yourself, valuing yourself, and for not accepting any less than having an equal place in your world. Placing others above or below you only shatters the balance. 


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What is YOUR Direction?

Think back as far as you can remember.

 

Go on, I’ll wait.  Alright, are you there? Is it at some specific memory? Is it a state of mind, or a place in your life?  Is it very specific or is it hazy?  Do you feel it more than you see it?  Do you think it more than you feel it?

Now comes the hard part.

Take one step closer to now, but only one.  Find the next memory after the oldest one.  Got it?  Now find the next.  Continue on until you see the timeline of your life unfold until present day.  You’re now traveling down memory lane, that road we often travel down when nostalgia strikes.

When you get to the first crossroads in your life, I want you to stop.  Don’t just ask yourself which directions you could’ve chosen as someone who already knows the outcome of one of them… ask yourself what your options were at the time, to you, as you saw them.  Ask yourself what would’ve happened if you would’ve taken another path.

When you do this, do you feel things like regret or satisfaction? Are you happy with the choices you’ve made?  Are you unhappy with the outcomes?

As we travel through life, we often face crossroads that we negotiate with little thought, because the social world around us has deemed that one road must always be the one we choose.  For example, when you were in your teens you likely got a job, or started driving.  You likely kissed your first kiss, experienced social stress at school, or discovered yourself in leaps and bounds.  You likely fostered the first seeds of who you truly are, and became shaped by these seeds and your environment.  You added details to your mold, and prepared (or attempted to prepare) to define yourself.

Or maybe you didn’t do any of this.  Maybe your life completely different.

But no matter what your life was, did you make those choices yourself, or did society make them for you?  Did you explore yourself because you wanted to — define yourself how you wanted to? Or did you do what the world asked you to do?  Did you become who the world told you to be?

Growing up, I always heard some interesting phrases.  “You can be anything you want to be” was one of my favorites.  It’s true, you can.  But such a simple phrase is deceptive, because it omits the most critical requirement.  Perhaps you can be anything that you want to be … but can you want to be anything?

If you wanted to throw High School to the wind and be a writer, could you?  If you wanted to be an artist that awed the world, could you?  If you wanted to do nothing at all, could you?

If I had gone to my school guidance counselor and said “I want to write a blog, travel the world, and free my spirit.” she would have laughed at me.  When she realized I was serious, she’d truncate her mockery with advice.  “You’ll need to go to college in order to learn how to write professionally, you’ll need a job that pays you well enough to travel, and you’ll need to study what freeing your spirit means before you can know what to go do.” she’d say.

Sure, I could do the things I wanted.  But I couldn’t want to do them how I wanted to, because that path wasn’t approved by life’s management.

Well, I’m 31 years old, I’ve been to 15 countries, maintain this blog (such that it is), and it took me freeing my spirit before I could ever study what that meant.

But I followed the path that everyone told me I needed to, before I did all that.  And it held me back from being who I wanted to be.  College taught me more about the restriction massive debt can have on your life than it did about writing or pursuing my dreams.  The more I stuck with the system they told me was right, the more I’ve struggled to be free.  I have to keep a job to pay off debt that funded a life I never wanted.  Following society’s path was like wearing a lead boot in a marathon — except that everyone was proud that I was doing it and all I could think the entire time was “Why would anyone do this?”

So, tell me.  What’s YOUR Direction?  Not the one that is prescribed for you, but the one that you’d truly love to take.  As you step back through your personal timeline, look at the choices you’ve made and ask yourself: Did I make these choices because I wanted to, or because I was told, forced, pressured, or coerced into making them?

No matter what your answer is, you should know that it’s never too late to look towards the distant horizon you’ve been longing for and to step towards it.  Be responsible with your decisions — clean up the mess that you’d otherwise leave behind — then go for it.  Commit yourself to it and orient your goals towards your own happiness.  Arm yourself with your passions, and know that one day you’ll breath the air of a life you’d never thought possible but that you’ve finally achieved.  Take your victories where you can get them and don’t give up.

I’ll leave this post with one final thought.   In the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, we learn about our personal legends.  We all have something beautiful and amazing that we are meant for and the unfortunate truth is that we don’t all find it.  But the universe speaks in omens and in gestures, always trying to guide you towards your personal legend.  So the next time the world speaks to you — when a situation that pushes you in a direction, when an unlikely outcome asks you to rethink something in your life, or when you read a blog post that resonates with you, consider that it may just be the universe sending you a nudge towards what you’re truly meant for.

Remember that if you are truly in love with life and how you live it, you’ll be a beacon of real and true inspiration for others.  You could make lasting, impacting, and brilliant contributions to the world in ways you may not even be able to comprehend now simply because of your love for the life you’re leading, for the harmony of the energies around you and within you, and for the employment of your brilliant and creative mind as you live.

Believe in yourself and the very act of doing so will instruct the rest of the world to follow suit.  You can do it.  I believe in you.


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The Truest Victory

When we think of victory, inherent words come to mind:

Winner. Opposition.  Versus.  Against. Loss. Conqueor.

But is victory simply being better than someone or something else?  Do we consider ourselves the winner only if there is a loser? Do we stand high only if we stand over someone or something?

This may sound a bit dull, but Chen Stormstout says something interesting during his introduction to the Mists of Pandaria expansion in World of Warcraft (bare with me here, I promise it’s worth it).  Here’s what he says:

To ask why we fight
Is to ask why leaves fall.

It is in their nature.

Perhaps there is a better question.

Why do we fight?
To protect Home and Family.
To Preserve Balance.
and bring Harmony.

For my kind, the trust question is:
What is worth fighting for?

If you shed the Warcraft vibe and read that for what it is, you can see some interesting highlights there.  The contrast here is how we view conflict and, ultimately, victory.  Many view conflict and victory as the means and destination, respectively.  Some view it as rebellion, or defiance.  Retribution.  Assertion of dominance.

Whatever your viewpoint on conflict and victory, we can’t deny that the role these things play in the nature of all things is clear.  Life blossoms in all of its majesty from conflict.  It is at our deepest level, in every cell in our bodies.  The most basic and truest rule that all life that we know is to preserve itself and to resist death.

And so as human beings, with complex minds ultimately derived from this basic function, we have tied the nature of all things on our deepest levels to this concept.  Socially, victory is to thrive and defeat is to falter.  Before we find our states, the natural response of most kids and teenagers is to aggressively engage in a battle of dominance with their social peers.  Think back to high school; consider what the word ‘drama’ means in the modern world.  Look at politics, both nationally and at your office or place of work.  Look at the way people interact with each other versus how they interact in private.

It all boils down to the same instinct: survival.  To be socially accepted is to be part of the pack that survives and to survive is the ultimate objective.

Because we are complex individuals that think and see the world, through the ideology of awareness, we can analyze this and peer inward.

Consider the quote above again after thinking about this concept.  Perhaps we fight for survival — and this can and has driven many wars (think: war over resources, politics, religion, way of life, or philosophy, ultimately boils down to wanting the survival of something to persevere or overtake the survival of something else).

So, is victory survival? If we survive in an aspect (or all aspects) of our life, have we become victorious?

Let’s talk about the word equilibrium. Here, we’ll use this word to define the very center of balance.  When a scale no longer tips in any direction, it has found equilibrium.  When something is truly dead and no longer transitions from a state to another state — when it sits completely idle and motionless at every possible level or scale, we’ll call that equilibrium.  We can call this true death.  We can call it true center.  We can call it the point that something reaches when the aggregate of all of its actions and reactions finally lull to the point where no action or reaction ever exist within the boundaries of the thing we’re talking about.  When the universe reaches this, it’s called Heat Death — where the universe “has diminished to a state of no thermodynamic free energy and therefore can no longer sustain processes that increase entropy (including computation and life).”

Inevitably, survival won’t perpetuate forever.  At best, we can prolong it for a time before we descend into equilibrium. Perhaps knowing this is why we have developed such a keen awareness of the world — to find a way to transcend this!  Or because some deep part of us knows that, while survival is our prime directive, we cannot escape the fundamental balance of nature.  The fundamental truth that all of the universe wants balance and harmony and violations of this are always corrected.

In a way, the truest fundamental truth of the universe — which life is a participant in — is the nature of balance.  Existence is the culmination of both the balancing laws and the violation of those laws working as one.  Light and dark.  Good and bad.  Positive and negative.  Without one, the other wouldn’t exist.  It would all settle into a calm, dead silence, and perhaps this, too, would still maintain this duality — being both life and death, true harmony and balance, and the utter lack of it.  Unity in its truest sense.

Does that mean that ‘victory’ is the defiance of this true equilibrium? Does ‘survival’ mean we’re combating our descent into the very harmony and balance that we know must exist in all things?  Are we all rebels and resistance?  Are we all defiant?

Consider this: When we see dark things happen — crime, chaos, destruction — we dislike it.  Our very nature is to dislike these things proportionately to the magnitude of our perception of it.  If a man dies of old age, our response is different, both in scale and intensity, than if a thousand people die in a fire, or that man dies violently.

This may mark our innate survival prime directive and perhaps it is this that fuels our reactions.  But is it because we view death as our descending into equilibrium, and those who die have ‘lost’ the ‘fight’ against this?  Is it because we fear our own fight will fail too? (Spoilers: it will).

When a star explodes, it is chaos and it’s beheld as incredible from our perspective — be it incredibly beautiful, incredibly brilliant, or incredibly destructive.  We use words like ‘dies’ when we describe it.  When this happens, the stardust it leaves behind will eventually coalesce into a nebulae and then eventually reform into a star once again over an incredibly long period of time relative to our perspective of existence.  So did the star die? Or did it change?  Did the star fall into equilibrium?  No, it didn’t.

When we die, does what makes us up fall into equilibrium? Just as the star didn’t, neither do we.  At least, not at the juncture we call death. 

But if that’s true, then why do we fight death so vehemently?  I think the answer lies within the conscious state of our minds — our soul — our ego — and our inability to validate its continued existence beyond the transition of our state into another.  When we become dust and that becomes flowers, and that becomes trees, and that becomes fruit, and that becomes an animal, and that becomes part of a person, and that becomes someone in some distant time — when we are diced up a million-million times and scattered to the wind — what will remain of us?

Humanity has invented countless ideas and belief systems to help us cope with this fact.  Some believe that when it happens, the essence that is truly and uniquely YOU goes elsewhere, while the rest of you is recycled into all of creation to be re purposed. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the various ideologies popular to our societies. Whether you’re a stout believer or a silent observer, we can’t deny that one function of these religious views is to give us some peace with the otherwise loss of our conscious soul.

But this blog post is about victory — why are we talking about all this?

Okay, okay.  So we talked about Chen’s view on fighting — and contrasted two popular views: fighting for survival and fighting against falling into equilibrium.  We ultimately concluded that the two are one in the same.

But let’s ask ourselves two questions:
1) Is our standard concept of victory possible here?
2) Is this actually victory at all?

Let’s tackle these questions in order.  First, is our standard concept of victory possible here? Is Chen’s standard of victory possible? Are they different?

As our standard of victory is generally overcoming something else, standing above it, conquering it, bending it to our will or our desire, I would say no meaningful victory can exist.  We all know we can’t fight death.

If we look at Chen’s view on preserving balance and to bring harmony, then I think we’re much closer to the truth, but perhaps implicitly more than matter-of-factually.  More on that in a minute.

Our second question, “Is this actually victory at all?” is perhaps best applied to the first concept of ‘victory’ we outlined above.  Any victory we can measure in the fight for survival is only ever short term.  Inevitably, it becomes a loss, doesn’t it?  Everything dies eventually, right?

Unless we redefine what ‘survival’ means.  Unless we take the full nature of all things into account and expand our definition to include the truth about balance and harmony — about equilibrium.

If that is the case — and if we define victory as preserving balance and bringing harmony — we’ll see that the truest sense of victory is to simply exist and be the best we can now! As an expression that will inevitably change and grow and be.  If we respond to our environment with balance and we maintain harmony among our actions and the actions of those around us, we will be as close to our truest nature as we can possibly be — aligned both in mind, body, and spirit with the very motive of the cosmos and the methodology of existence itself.

Ironically, to be truly victorious, we must surrender our resistance to the nature of things and embrace this principle in our lives.  In doing so, we preserve our balance and the balance of all things and align our spirits and souls with the same freedom that nature has shown us it has had all along.

Every war that is fought decides its victor from the leaders who see the flow of their environment and respond with balance and understanding.  Every conflict finds conclusion in favor of the force that exists within the balance and harmony of existence.  Tactics surround this philosophy.  Hand-to-hand or Army-to-Army, we interpret the nature of terrain, of people, of humanity, and of response.  We look forward and listen to the flow of battle.

When we farm, we listen to the nature and balance of all things to be successful.  Plants grow because we understand the balance life has with its environment; it needs water, food, sunlight, and attention.  Life grows when it is balanced in these things.  Too much of these things or not enough of these things, and balance wanes and the result is stunted, faltering growth, or even complete loss.

Yet when this happens, balance tells us that the loss or death of these plants will fuel and feed the soil and allow more to grow in their place, once balance is restored.

In all things, we experience this truth.  Even in our definition of victory. 

So get out there, be victorious in the way only you can.  Learn and feel the flow of balance in the things you’re passionate about.  Inhale and exhale equally, pace with each foot evenly, and explore both home and far.

Until next time.


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Addiction: It’s all in your mind.

There are plenty of resources on the internet that talk about addiction.  Still, the stigma of addiction talks a lot about chemicals and withdraw, and marks distinction between a person being addicted to Heroin and a person being addicted to, say, Gambling.

The stigmatized perspective is that when you take chemicals that are considered addictive, the chemical makes you want it — nearly involuntarily.  And perhaps this is true in a sense, but the general perspective is that it’s the chemical that’s at the wheel of the addiction bus, not you.

But what if that was completely wrong?  What if I told you that no chemical makes you addicted to it inherently?  What if I told you that all that chemical addiction stuff you read about is actually all in your mind?

To be clear, let’s mark the distinction between withdraw and addiction.  Withdraw is the physical and psychological response to not having something one is addicted to, whereas Addiction is the act of feeling like something is important enough to alter the gravity of your life and to become such a priority so as to be viewed as irreplaceable and to want uncontrollably.

Often when someone is denying addiction, they’ll say “I can stop anytime I want to, so I’m not addicted.”  … I think the inherent logical fallacy here is that addiction is never wanting to stop.

“Okay, I’m addicted,” you might say, “But why don’t I want to stop? Because of the chemicals!”

This is where I’ll disagree with you.  To explain why, let’s first look at what the typical symptoms of addiction are in a person’s life.

  1. A person lies about the frequency, and sometimes even the existence of, a particular thing in their life either out of shame, fear of judgement, or so as not to draw attention to it.
  2. A person slowly restructures their life around the addiction, reconfiguring their finances, responsibilities, and social participation to support their addiction — all the while downplaying the impact of those changes and justifying them in their mind.
  3. A person slowly pushes the boundaries of meeting their obligations; shedding all unnecessary responsibility, time, and commitment to focus on their addiction; including going into work late or leaving early, frequent call-offs from work, or neglecting other responsibilities without hard boundaries, such as relationship obligations, house maintenance and duties, or even parental responsibilities.
  4. A person with addiction is defensive, abrasive, and/or protective of their addiction if it is referenced to or attacked.  When it’s approached as being an addiction, it’s dismissed without consideration.  When it’s critisized, irrational counter arguments or ambiguous replies are the majority of their defense, such as “It’s what I want to do.” or “I can do what I want.” or “You just don’t understand me.”
  5. A person with an addiction justifies to themselves why they are doing it when their common sense questions the activity.  “I only need to win one more time,” .. “I’ll be fine as long as I do/don’t …” … “I’ll just do this quick and then that’ll be it.”

There are other symptoms but these are often telltale signs of someone with addiction in their lives.  The thing is, these symptoms exist in someone who is addicted to Heroin, and they also exist in someone who is addicted to video games, gambling, checking their smart phone, smoking, drinking, or even running, drinking coffee or tea, or any other activity that offers certain criteria in a person’s life.

Addiction is just another word for a runaway habit.

An addiction can usually form if these criteria are met:

  1.  The activity gives the person some form of relief or happiness that nothing else in their life can emulate.
  2. The activity is an escape, can be easily downplayed, justified, or explained to oneself, even if external logic or common sense easily dismisses those explanations or justifications.
  3. An activity that can be done habitually and with relatively or perceived ease and discretion.

 

Here’s why Addiction is in your mind.

If I wake up in the morning and I spend 30 minutes drinking a cup of coffee at my kitchen table, it will become a habit (after about 20 days of doing this).  If I then tie any of the three criteria listed above to drinking coffee, it will eventually become an addiction, or a runaway habit.  If drinking coffee in the morning gives me a sense of relief, if I feel like I need to escape my life and I use my morning coffee to do it, or if I justify it to myself even if it could potentially have a negative impact on me (high blood pressure, jitters, etc.), then drinking coffee in the morning will grow into an addiction that is re-enforced each time I do it, and each time I talk myself into it.

If, one day, I wake up and I’m suddenly not allowed to drink coffee in the morning, and I have tied relief, escape, or need to it, then I will begin to go through some form of psychological withdraw.  Compounding this factor is the 5-7 day chemical withdraw period.

Withdraw is not addiction, withdraw stimulates addiction in us, psychologically.

When I go through this withdraw, psychologically or chemically, I’m telling my mind that I am being adversely affected and I am associating my adverse feelings to my lack of the thing I want, that gave me relief, escape, or need.  Because of this, I will use these criteria to justify my continued use of it.  We maintain addictions for fear of withdraw for the same reason we don’t touch fire — we experienced it once, and we learned that it hurts, so we try to avoid it by human nature.

Okay, so if I maintain my addiction for fear of withdraw, then how do I stop being addicted?

Too often, our society has this view on addiction — especially to illegal drugs — that consists of us casting those who experience addiction out of our accepted society.  We make it harder for them to find jobs and become stable, and we put people who use drugs in cages.

We take people who are not well and put them in a place where they can’t possibly get better and then hate them for not recovering.

The fight against addiction is two-pronged.  We must first approach it as individuals by understanding it, and then we must approach it as a society by healing it, not trying to conquer it or lock it away.

For us to approach it as individuals, we must understand that our very nature — the nature of wanting and needing emotional peace and happiness — is the root cause of addiction and that once addiction has taken hold, it cannot be torn from a person’s life by making a single decision to “just stop”.

Personal addiction stems, at its heart, from an absence of fulfillment, balance, and compassion in our lives.  Human beings are wired to adhere to things that give them a sense of happiness, relief, and fulfillment.  Our friendships and relationships are examples of this.

But when the things we expect to give us happiness fail to do so, we’re stuck in limbo.  We want to maintain these things because society tells us we must — we must have friendships, we must have relationships, we must always try no matter what.  But the truth is, persistence isn’t the same as trying; existing isn’t the same as living.

Inevitably, we will find something that can fill the void of what we are missing.  If we feel trapped in our lives, we will look for an escape.  If we are unhappy, we will look for something that gives us relief or fulfillment.  Once we find it, no matter what it is, no matter how petty or minor, we will latch onto it and not let go — because we are afraid of losing the one thing that gives us that sensation.

As human beings, we overcome addiction by finding what our addictions provide to us and make lifestyle changes that promote our finding those things in healthy and productive ways.

In their video, Everything We Know About Addiction is Wrong, Kurzgesagt (In a Nutshell) talks about the Rat Park experiment and the human equivalent, the Vietnam War.  It’s a compelling highlight to this blog post and says many of the same things I’ve said as well.

The important take-away is that it’s not the drug, it’s your cage!

As a society, we view addiction with a negative, terrible stigma because human beings fear what they don’t understand.  We shed our compassion in favor of cold finger pointing and disassociation.  We remain too proud to associate ourselves with those that are suffering and explain our actions as the wounds they suffer are self-inflicted and that their choices are what condemn them.

But the truth is, more than 83% of Americans have experienced some kind of addiction in their lives.  Change comes in one of three conditions:

  1. A major catalyst forced change into their lives and allowed them to break the habit of their addiction.
  2. Sincere epiphany revealed the true impact the addiction is having (and depending on what sparked the epiphany, this could just be another catalyst).
  3. The needs that the addiction filled were met by something else in their lives and so their interest in the addiction tapered or subsided.

All three of these criteria can be boiled down to one constant: happiness.

A catalyst doesn’t stop addiction because it forced the person to stop, it usually stops the addiction because something that the person values more than the addiction becomes impacted.  This can be family, friends, bystanders, financial stability, or anything else in a person’s life that is suddenly or immediately threatened or even removed, that causes such a trauma that it jolts the person into making huge changes.

The epiphany is similar, but could come in the form of learning about the nature of what’s going on in their lives, social or peer pressure, intervention from friends and family, or the clear realization that life isn’t better with this thing in their lives, no matter how good they feel temporarily.

When the needs that the addiction fulfilled are satisfied by something else in their lives, this can be both incredibly positive or terribly destructive, depending on which direction it goes.  This can be the introduction of a love in their life, the birth of a child, or a new job.  Or it can be the discovery and access to an even worse habit or addiction that rivals the impact the other one had.

Of all three of these conditions, the worst is the catalyst.  Because life needs balance, it will constant react to an imbalance.  A relationship that suffers under the effects of addiction will eventually boil to ending.  A job will only tolerate addictive behaviors so much before it dismisses the employee.  Because the nature of a runaway habit is that it consumes as much as it can, addictions will always lead to a catalyst and the catalyst is rarely good.  The stress these kinds of things exacts on those in our lives can make people do things they would never do otherwise, and will only perpetuate suffering and sadness — the very opposite of the reasoning we cling to addictions in the first place.

Our society subscribes to the catalyst method of handling addiction.  We ignore people who have them until it’s reported or until the symptoms begin to affect others, and then we shun and condemn them, and even throw them in prison and complicate their lives.  We do this in the name of ‘consequence’, when the consequences of the person’s addiction likely already resulted in grave losses — which often is what pushes addicts to commit crimes.

It’s a slippery slope, where those who are addicted make sacrifices in their relationships and personal lives to maintain the temporary feeling of relief they get, which perpetuates the suffering of their life dynamics and only increases their dependency and reliance on their addiction.

The catalyst in their life can be wild and destructive, and lead to the punishment of a person’s actions as a result, instead of at the root cause.  This is a true tragedy because we never truly prevent the reasons the catalyst formed.

When we are sick, we don’t just treat the symptoms, we treat the cause.  But how do we stop it as a society?

Well, heroin addiction was rampant in Switzerland in the 1990s and they couldn’t stop it.  So, they decided to approach addiction differently.  Instead of condemning those who were addicted to prison, they opened clinics across the country that actually gave them heroin as long as they enrolled in a rehabilitative program.  The statistics speak for themselves, with significantly positive results on the Swiss population as a whole.

The idea is that they don’t rip perhaps the only source of relief and comfort from a person and then shout at them until they get better, or lock them away so they aren’t a menace to society.  Instead, they acknowledge their current state — not the state that they should be in, or the state that they might have been in.  Then they find out what lead them there, and teach them how to build strong, healthy living habits that can bring them superior happiness, fulfillment, and joy to the addiction.

We fix addiction by taking people out of the cage and by giving them another option.  Nobody wants to be addicted, they only want what addiction gives them.

I hope you’ll think on this information and if you decide to do your own research on the topic, I’d love to hear from you.  Reply in the comments below or toss me an e-mail from the contacts area.

Talk to you soon.