Chapter Fifteen

OBSESSION AND ADDICTION


People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within. - Ramona L. Anderson


The optimal, rational lifestyle includes synergy of mind and body, with an individual's mental functions advancing his physical well being, and vice versa. A mind bent on self-destruction, which acts on compulsions that are destructive to itself and its own body, cannot possible lead a long, happy, enjoyable life.

You don’t have to advocate abstinence or self-denial to recognize that many harmful addictions and obsessions are encouraged by others, to our detriment and to their enrichment. I have never met a long term smoker or meth user who is glad he started, or who doesn’t wish he were able to quit.

One of the primary problems with addictions is they eventually stop being fun, and often take control of the addict’s life. An addiction can never be satiated. The addict may delude herself into believing she will quit after just one last fix, but that next fix is never enough. As is the case with external authorities, a person's internal control mechanisms may be hijacked, and place the rest of that person's mental and physical resources in servitude to the external authority or addiction. An individual can truly be free only when he is truly in control of his own mental control mechanisms.

The World Health Organization has estimated that the tobacco industry produces approximately 5.5 trillion cigarettes each year world wide, which are smoked by over 1.1 billion people throughout the globe. Averaged out, we may conclude that approximately 17% of the world’s population smokes cigarettes, and that each of these people smokes an average of fourteen cigarettes a day.

How many of those cigarettes are smoked as the result of a conscious decision, and how many are smoked out of pure habit, or in an effort to quash withdrawal symptoms? My guess is that the majority fall in the second and third categories.

It is not my intent to pick on cigarette smokers, but the addiction is so senseless it does lend the perfect example. If a person has made a conscious decision that smoking cigarettes enhances his life and is worth the risk, cost, and debilitation, then so be it. I doubt that most chronic smokers have made this analysis.

The same holds true for a variety of other addictions and compulsions. We earlier discussed some of the methods that the deceiver class uses to push our buttons and control our emotions, so that we will “voluntarily” act in their benefit. The marketing and pushing of addictive substances is merely a variation on this same tactic.

Once the true nature of addiction is understood, an affected person may decide to suffer the discomfort of quitting the addiction, in favor of regaining control of her mind. At its core, this concept requires increasing the level of desire for freedom from the substance to a level greater than the desire for temporary freedom from discomfort or withdrawal.

Sheer willpower is usually not the most effective method of conquering addictions and compulsions. Attempts to thwart deep-seated desires by the iron force of will creates conflict between various portions of the mind, which typically results in the addiction reasserting itself in a moment of weakness. A more effective tactic is to create a desire for all of the good things associated with freedom from a particular addiction, which overwhelms the temporary desire to indulge a craving. It is also possible to consciously influence one's own subconscious through visualization, self-hypnosis, or other similar techniques. Such influence can not only be used to break undesired habits and addictions, but may also create desirable habits and positively affect other aspects of one's subconscious.

Another effective technique for gaining greater control over one’s mind is the simple practice of mindfulness. Instead of always being caught up in your own thoughts, practice consciously observing your thoughts and reactions. Allow your brain to really feel your body, and to feel yourself in the present moment. Make a conscious effort to bring yourself back to this state of mind in a variety of circumstances. Get to know who you really are, and try to understand why you do the things you do.

Since much of our subconscious programming was created by chance events and/or intentional programming inflicted upon us by others, it is beneficial to consciously work to improve and control one's programming. The time and effort spent learning to control your own mental processes can pay great dividends in the future, as it may allow future thought and effort to be spent improving your well being and happiness, rather than service to mindless addiction, external authorities, or self-destructive thought patterns.


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