Delving Into Addiction/Addictive Thinking
After having worked intensely for 45 years with people who admit that they are addicts/codependents and know that they need help, I have developed some unique awarenesses about the disease. Initially, having a doctorate in psychology (thus having had three hours – count them, three hours – on addiction), I assumed I knew something about addiction. WRONG. I was just made more dangerous with that assumption. When I realized I knew squat, I started “attending” AA meetings with a yellow tablet and pen in hand, objectively to observe the meetings in a “scientifically detached” way to learn about the disease. This “detachment” was what I had been taught as a scientist.
I’m not dumb, and after a while I realized that there was nothing I could learn from “objective/scientific observation.” If I really wanted to learn about this fascinating disease, I had to participate not observe. I had to work the steps, get a sponsor, share my learnings, failures, and progress and participate, participate, participate. I, and others with their sharing and participation, was my greatest source of learning. I slowly began to question detached scientific observation and the scientific method of our current science as the best and ONLY way to gather relevant and meaningful information.
This shift was mammoth in my life. Observing only resulted in non-real, non-living, abstract, detached learnings. It was not embedded in the real living of life which is where my cutting edge of life was. As I participated in my learning, something significant in me changed. Non-participation with myself and others results in non-intimacy with self and others. It can be interesting and probably not that valuable for living.
Early on, I came to see that we were building a society based on an escape from intimacy from ourselves, others, nature and the world around us. We have concocted a society that not only supports addiction, it REQUIRES addiction in order to be able to tolerate the society we have created. It requires that we tune out what we feel inside of us and what we experience external to ourselves so we can tolerate what we have created. This reality is not good for individuals, families, institutions societies or the planet.
- We are way off base as a race and as a planet at this point in the history of the human race.
In order to gain an understanding of what we are dealing with in this addictive society, I want to start with addictive thinking.
Addictive thinking has no basis in reality. It is disembodied, ungrounded, conceptual ideas that have no grounding in reality. This kind of thinking can be fun, exciting and involve great amounts of time and energy. It can even be interesting and sound very logical and rational if you accept the insane premise on which it is built. It just does not make any sense.
Remember that I mentioned when I was younger and traveled to Washington, D.C. and encountered what I called bureaucratic thinking? This kind of thinking is now what I would call alcoholic or addictive thinking. It not only does not make any sense when a person in authority uses it, much of the time her/his associates (co-dependents) spend a great deal of time running around 1) trying to find the sense in it, 2) trying to implement it, 3) trying to justify it, 4) trying to support it and/or trying to understand it and believe it is real. Does this sound familiar?
One of my favorite examples of this kind of thinking was an experience I had years ago when I was doing organization consulting and was working with a Fortune 500 company.
The company was a mess and I was called in to help straighten it out. (I accepted the job for two reasons I now see, 1) I knew nothing about addictions and addictive organizations and 2) I was young enough to believe a) that they really wanted help and b) that I could “help.”)
The first thing I did was sit in on a meeting with the CEO and his (of course it was a “him” then!) top staff. The CEO was a “good guy” from my perception. Then, I began to notice some behaviors and responses. I noticed that he would make some pretty insane pronouncements – regularly. I then noticed some warning behaviors before these “pronouncements” came out. He would clear his throat, adjust his pants and then say something completely insane (even I felt confused with these pronouncements). The response of his workers was even more interesting – 1) some sat and looked dazed and frightened, 2) some got busy trying to implement what they knew was insane and 3) some set about to sabotage the ideas as they knew they were dysfunctional and bad for them and the company. After seeing this phenomenon several times, I developed a different strategy. When I heard the throat clear and saw the pants being adjusted, I was ready and then it came – blah, blah, blah – I could see the group’s readying for their usual responses.
When the pronouncement finished, there was a pause and then I burst out laughing (I thought some of the employees were going to pee their pants!). Then, pause, he “un-puffed” and said, “Really?,” and I said, “Yes, that was insane.”
He was a good guy and cared about his employees and his company and we set about making a climate change in that company.
Unfortunately, alcoholic, crazy, ungrounded thinking has become the norm in our addictive society. This kind of thinking is seen as “normal” and many think it is the way the world is. Instead of worrying about revenues, profits, gross national products or tax revisions, the country and the people would be much better off if we would tackle the problem of the addictive thinking process and how it permeates white, western culture and those who want to “make it” in that culture.
- The addictive model has become the basis of Western culture.
Years ago, when I was giving lectures around the country and the world based on the book When Society Becomes an Addict, I said that I had noticed the similarities between alcoholic (addictive) thinking and schizophrenic thinking. I had stated that I had done my internship at Bellevue Hospital in New York City and had considered it the “schizophrenia capital of the world.” We learned about every form of schizophrenia there!! It seemed to me that schizophrenic thinking and alcoholic (addictive) thinking were on the same continuum and schizophrenic thinking was just further along the continuum. Later, a woman came up and said to me, “Do you know when they developed the concept of schizophrenia as a category to include a multitude of issues, alcoholism was one of the illnesses subsumed in that heading?”
I was startled and said, “No.” Later I checked and she was right!
Addictive thinking is scattered, confused, delusional, not based in reality, distorted and gets worse over time. Does this sound familiar?
Is Devin Nunes the co-dependent or the addict? Was he and other members of Congress and the Cabinet raised in alcoholic or addictive families? They were certainly raised in an addictive society.
To summarize, addictive thinking is crazy thinking that makes no sense like we see and hear in Washington, D.C. and in politics in general.
We will explore these issues further in the next installment.