Global Resilience Solutions > Doped Up! How We Sabotage Our Resilience Even Without Alcohol, Nicotine, Narcotics or Pharmaceuticals

Doped Up! How We Sabotage Our Resilience Even Without Alcohol, Nicotine, Narcotics or Pharmaceuticals

Authentic Ancient Traditions are fairly consistent in teaching that there is nothing wrong with taking pleasure in the everyday things of life, that such pleasure is good and healthy and natural.  Some would go so far as to say that the pleasures of life were created for our enjoyment.  Heck, C.S. Lewis’ character Screwtape goes so far as to accuse God of being a secret hedonist.

All this is true.  So what about the other side of the coin, the discipline, the self-denial that finds an equal place in those traditions?  There are many important aspects to this question (none of which have anything to do with self-mortification or penance as taught in Western Christianity of the last thousand years), but one that is particularly important for this culture to understand, is that many of our so-called pleasures are actually manifestations of pain.

Specifically, they are manifestations of the anxiety trap (also known as the adrenaline addiction cycle), and situations of personal constriction and dissatisfaction.  Through chronic pleasure-seeking (more accurately, stimulation-seeking), we are seeking validation from something outside of ourselves to make up for something that should be coming from within, but is not.  Unfortunately, the neural and biochemical results of these activities in turn reduce our ability to find what we are truly looking for.

 

 

Drugs of Choice

We can all recite the litany of addictive drugs, from alcohol through nicotine to cocaine and heroin.  And it is true that drug addiction often begins with unaddressed pain.

But the real drugs of choice for our society are things we don’t usually consider in that light.

 

Food

Food, particularly fast food and junk food, the high-sugar, high-sodium food substitutes that are so easy to come by, is one of the first drugs of choice.  Between sports drinks, soft drinks, chocolate bars and corner store candy, we have almost limitless opportunities for a sugar high.  High carb, high transfat diets, in fact the obesity epidemic itself, is symptomatic of an underlying dysfunction in society.  People who are happy with themselves and their lives simply do not make those choices – their bodies know better, and they listen.

 

Adrenaline and Other Stimulation Highs

We’ve written previously (http://globalresiliencesolutions.com/escaping-survival-mode) about the cycle of adrenaline addiction in our society.  Constant, low-level, unresolved stress sustains the fight-or-flight response, making us biochemically dependent on adrenaline, and above all, persuading us to see the universe in antagonistic and hostile terms.  This biochemical process is the cornerstone of the modern Newtonian Worldview.

As this kind of constant, low-level anxiety has taken hold, we’ve seen a distinct change in how we entertain ourselves.  While society experienced rebellion against established forms of music, for instance, as liberating, another, largely unnoticed theme went along with the change.  It is the same theme that has gone along with changes to film and television for at least the past twenty years.

You see, traditional forms of entertainment, whether musical, literary, theatrical or anything else, had a common element.  They were designed to relax us while engaging our intellectual and creative capacities.  Recreational reading in itself, as John Taylor Gatto among others has persuasively argued, required a high level of intellectual participation from the reader, and required both attention and relaxation, in a way that an increasing segment of the population is simply unfamiliar with today.  Classical music was mathematically complex and relaxing.  Folk music was relaxing and participatory.

Ever since this sensibility has changed – and it was quite a jarring change if you think about it- we have had a different expectation from entertainment.  We expect stimulation- laughter certainly, but also provocation, controversy, anger, noise, violence, titillation, and above all, adrenaline.  Where it was once customary to reduce anxiety by relaxing with, well, relaxing things, we now feed the adrenaline addiction directly.  The problem with violence on television isn’t (primarily) desensitization, but rather that most of the audience will never have the same opportunities to discharge the adrenaline they have built up as the fictional characters do.

Of course, every other kind of stimulation complements that adrenaline high, and so we have the ever-expanding world of designer energy drinks to keep us juiced twenty-four hours a day.  Titillation also goes well with adrenaline, as the advertising industry knows.

 

Social Media and Video Gaming

Social media addiction is about the feeling we get from belonging, acknowledgement by others, fitting in within a group.  Social media caters to our instincts as social animals on a scale that would once have been considered ludicrous.  The addiction component, however, is tied to the need to be heard, to feel something other than helplessness at the circumstances of your life.  In this sense, it is a band-aid at best.

Video game addiction, by contrast, is a release rather than a band-aid.  It is a surrogate for the natural consummation of the fight-or-flight response.  Unfortunately, there are very few video games with only one troll to kill, so the adrenaline addiction is heightened, not reduced.

 

Coming Down

The adrenaline addiction cycle is one reason that we surround ourselves with stimulus.  The other is constriction or dissatisfaction.  In the post about the emotional roots of chronic disease (http://globalresiliencesolutions.com/emotional-roots-of-chronic-disease), we mentioned the ways in which life patterns of either constriction of anger or enslavement to it can start.  Similar patterns appear in many different areas of our lives.  An unconscious belief or experience leads us to replicate the same dissatisfying relationships, career situations, family dynamics or personal habits again and again.  In the face of apparent helplessness, we turn to any of a dozen ways of distracting ourselves.

The catch is that by doping ourselves, we exaggerate whatever biochemical problems we already have.  We lead ourselves further and further away from a positive attitude and a healthy lifestyle.  That above all is why a new attitude needs to come with a change to your external lifestyle choices. 

The flip side of that coin is that by making those external changes, you can begin to move yourself toward a better mindset. The question we should all be asking ourselves is, “How am I doping myself and why?”  An uncomfortable question, to say the least, but absolutely essential if we want to become truly RESILIENT and, therefore, HAPPY.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

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