In the book Rapt Attention and the Focused Life Winifred Gallagher makes a case that life ultimately adds up to what you choose to pay attention to.
This got me thinking about how addiction has evolved to our changing world, and the ways in which we are all more vulnerable to excessive behaviors – or at least exposed to far more triggers or precursors of addictive behavior:
Not long ago I had the pleasure to hear Dr. Kelly Brownell, Director, Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, speak about the link between food and addiction. In brief, his talk was shocking, sad, and made me really mad.
He provided a very empirically-based overview of how the food industry, food marketers (guerrilla, viral, stealth), and chemistry explain a great deal of our current epidemic of obesity. In his presentation, check out slide #71, where soda manufacturers used baby bottles to package soda – absolutely disgusting!
If the 60’s and 70’s were about heroin, LSD, etc., the 80’s were about cocaine, the 90’s about methamphetamine, the drug-object of addiction for our current times is prescription drugs.
Why? They are readily available, many believe the myth that they are safer than illicit drugs because they are prescribed by a health care professional, anyone can learn about them online, and we currently live in a culture that seeks quick fix solutions to problems.
Advancements in multimedia technologies have been led by the porn industry. Today, anyone can act-out their fantasies in cyberspace through avatars in second life, or find their sexual cup of tea online. Sex also sells products today more than ever, and marketeers continue to up the ante in ads of all kinds.
And a day does not go by that some celebrity ends up in the news for infidelity (David Letterman, Jude Law, Ethan Hawke, John Edwards, Hugh Grant, Bill Clinton – need I say more?) Is it all bad? The flip side of the coin argues that what we need in our every day lives is sexual intelligence.
The evolution of reality television has resulted in many people spending inordinate amounts of time living in illusory worlds. When people lack the development capacities to initiate, form, and maintain healthy relationships, then relationships depicted in reality shows provide an easy out.
We can get caught up in the lives of those we find interesting or are attracted too – their relationships, struggles, and triumphs – and then cheat ourselves of real relationships living only vicariously through those on television.
Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and other social networking sites have fueled a new generation of social interactions, but research into the depth of social networks today reveals a very sad conclusion: We are becoming more and more isolated in our everyday lives.
In a well-designed general social survey comparing social networks in 1985 to those in 2004, the number of people saying there is no one with whom they discuss important life matters nearly tripled! Seems like isolation may be a trigger for wanting an escape…
I continue to be amazed at the degree to which news makers will go to grab the attention of an audience. Traumatic, horrific, terrifying events happen every day, but now they are brought right into our living room in graphic detail via YouTube, Internet news sites, and other multimedia channels.
Sure 9/11 changed a lot, but stories about children being brutally attacked, tortured, locked away, thrown over bridges and left for dead, or kidnapped, raped and held captive for years – and that is just the tip of the iceberg. How are we to take-in these violent images and stories?
How are we to process them? Make sense of them? Or have we just desensitized ourselves to such stories? And how does exposure to this type of media motivate our desire to escape into fantasy?
Despite all the new time-saving gadgets I utilize, I still don’t seem able to keep up with the pace of our fast moving society. Fast food, Twitter, blazing high-speed Internet, sound bite news, packed calendars, energy drinks, and did I mentioned residential treatment for addictions in under five days?
In the book In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed, Carl Honore challenges our way of life in the age of speed. I like both the book and his TED talk because they help us understand how the pace of our society promotes our need for quick fixes, quick releases, and quick highs.
Perhaps one solution to addiction is just to slow down life.
My experience is what I agree to attend to
It seems that we are increasingly living in a world where the choice of what to attend to is being made for us.
The increased pace of life is a definite factor in the increase in excessive behaviors. A study carried out in the early 1990s demonstrated that pedestrians’ speed of walking provides a reliable measure of the pace of life in a city, and that people in fast-moving cities are less likely to help others and have higher rates of coronary heart disease. In my opinion, this suggests a more self-centered worldview that could increase the risk of excessive behaviors.
A recent study by British Council researchers replicating the earlier research showed that the speed of life today is actually faster than in the 1990s. The study measured pedestrians’ speed of walking in city centers across the globe, including London, Madrid, Singapore, and New York. Michael White, Adviser to the British Council Science Department said: `All the measurements were made on the same day and at the same local time. British Council researchers found a busy street with a wide pavement that was flat, free from obstacles, and sufficiently uncrowded to allow people to walk along at their maximum speed. They timed how long it took 35 men and women to walk along a 60-ft. stretch of pavement. They only monitored adults who were on their own, and ignored anyone holding a mobile telephone conversation or struggling with shopping bags. Comparing the results with those from the early 1990s revealed that the pace of life is now 10% faster.’ With the increased pace, there is an accompanying increase in sensory stimulation.
The sheer volume of sensory input that we are subjected to in today’s society compared to fifty years ago is overwhelming. According to Bruce Lipton, PhD, the pre-frontal cortex (our ‘thinking’ brain) processes 40 bits of information per second while the subconscious (our ‘primitive’ brain) is processing 40 million bits of information per second. So all the images from television, radio, movies, billboards, books, internet pop-ups, emails, text messages, and other sources are being processed and stored. It is interesting to note that all that input goes somewhere in our brain and will inevitably play a role in our behavior. Perhaps this constant assault on our senses makes us more vulnerable to the seductive call of excessive behaviors.
As the blog indicates there are many forms of addiction that invade our lives. Some are lethal, some like reality tv have less consequences. One addiction that has been ignored and is especially prevalent in teens is text messaging. A recent story aired on NPR on a girl who texted so much she averages about 470 texts a day. That’s a text message nearly every two minutes she was awake. In Texting May be Taking a Toll by Katie Hafner, “the phenomenon is beginning to worry physicians and psychologists, who say it is leading to anxiety, distraction in school, falling grades, repetitive stress injury and sleep deprivation”. No matter how much parents, teachers and psychologist attempt to curb texting behavior, teens just can’t stop.
Major national organizations and even the government realize that enormity of the problem and it’s cost to americans. According to the American College of Emergency Physician’s, chin, mouth, eye and even fatal injuries occur while in motion according; they recommend you ignore messages. These warnings are futile if we don’t address the underlying addictive issue. One teen has been in multiple car accidents due to texting. In an interview with All Things Considered on NPR teenager Brandi Terry stated the following: “I tried really, really hard not to,” Terry says. “Then it got to the point where I would do it only once every 5 minutes. I would rarely do it — it got to the point where when I was alone in the car, I would do it,” she says. “I don’t know — it’s just so addicting, I just can’t put it down.” Terry was in two major car accidents within a year because of her text messaging. Whether you agree that text messaging is addictive or not, it is definitely a problem we can no longer ignore.
I agree the world has gotten to be a pretty busy place since the industrial age. I believe addiction to anything is possible. If not physical then behavioral. A lot of todays issues and problems are centered around behavioral addictions. These addictions are not classified in the DSM and are not illegal behaviors per se. The resulting disruptions and social issues to the rest of us are unbearable at times. I honestly believe the speed of upcoming generations will be incomprehensible to older generations very soon. By speed I mean how fast they do every day things. How agile they are at multitasking. How younger generations seem to learn and do things at younger ages every year. Addiction plays a very large roll in all of this. Behavioral addiction is what I am referring to. Behavioral addictions have broken up marriages. Behavioral addictions have turned good honest people into criminals. Behavioral addictions have destroyed lives. All of these behavioral addictions that are ruling society in some aspects coupled with the speed and multitasking of today are a recipe for disaster. One of the big problems I see with all of this multitasking and faster attitude is lack of pride. The lack of pride in a job well done is creating a generation that believes OK is good enough. Quickly done many times does not mean thorough. This attitude has also fostered the “as long as I’m OK skip the rest” movement. If everyone only looks out for number one what kind of world are we headed for. In light of all of this speeding up of everything. I believe it would be a smart move for researchers to speed up and get some statistics about behavioral addictions and how they can be equally as destructive as substances. All of this is of course is my own opinion and I don’t mean to offend anyone. Thanx for listening.
Monica Damaskos says
I really enjoyed the powerpoint link to the Rudd center for food policy and obesity. It was really creepy to look at all the food ads w/one word missing in the slogan and know what it was. Also I think it is good to realize that addiction can spread into many areas of our lives; and can be to anything even if that thing is meeting a basic need like food, fascinating…
A link from your post took me to an article on the growth of socially isolating behaviors. Lynn Smith-Lovin, a Duke University sociologist, argued that increased employment related responsibilities, including working two or more jobs to make ends meet, and long commutes leave many people too exhausted to seek social and family connections. Instead, these “exhausted” people are turning to their televisions, the bar, computer games, or other excessive behaviors to fill the rest of their waking hours. My question: Is it really exhaustion or the fact that we are exposed to more triggers as Dr. Fitzgerald discussed that drives us to perpetuate these harmful behaviors? We have come to depend on one another for so many of our material “necessities” in life, to preclude each other from meeting one another’s emotional needs sounds unreasonable. What really keeps us from turning to each other for comfort in time of need?
We are at once complex human beings and very simple creatures of habit. We do what it takes to get our needs met, yet why is that we have yet to evolve in to completely rationale people able to recognize when our habitual behaviors no longer advance our well being, but actually become detrimental to our health? The greatest predictor of future behavior is past behavior so perhaps we are more rational (on the conscious level) than I just gave us credit for. If past behavior (to isolate or get high or engage in fantasy) served the intended purpose (to be comforted), then it makes sense to continue with the same pattern of behavior. Perhaps it is not that we don’t want to seek solace with a friend, but rather do not know how to. If one tried to express frustration or sadness 1-2-several times in the past, but was not satisfied with the results, to better meet her needs, she will do what works—in the moment. She doesn’t think about the long term effects because she’s too busy getting her immediate needs met. Thus, excessive and addictive behaviors ensue.
In terms of the conscious level (where most of us live), I believe the most effective way to change behavior is to provide the tools necessary to be successful, and then provide opportunities to test out these tools (in realistic environments). For example, a individual struggling with an addictive behavior may not have someone they feel comfortable discussing their personal troubles with so they “escape” the current state by getting high. If effectively guided and trained in accessing and then expressing emotions interpersonally the individual is more likely to successfully be comforted by an acquaintance, co worker, friend, or loved one. In turn, she will be less likely to rely on excessive behaviors for support in time of need.
In short, and perhaps in addition to exhaustion and over exposure, I see a lack of knowledge, practice, and positive experiences in communicating/relating with others as an important contributing factor in the perpetuation of these harmful cycles of food, drugs, sex, gambling, voyeurism, etc.
Kevin Govro says
I’m interested in the argument that we would, as a society, be better off if we made an effort to slow down. I believe that most people would rather have a doctor prescribe an anti-depressant than take the time to invest in therapy that would enable them to understand why they feel the way they do. A pill is easier. A pill is faster. But a pill can’t help you gain insight and help you move past a serious issue that has gotten you stuck before and will surely affect you in the future if left ignored.
Our high tech world has urged us all to be consumed with maximum efficiency and productivity. But what is the cost? How many parents try to squeeze in that extra work at the office, even after an incredibly productive day, at the expense of their responsibilities to spend time with their children? Sure, they may get ahead at work but neglecting their children is a much greater personal cost. Even people without kids who are obsessed with getting ahead will wear themselves out with incredibly long hours at the expense of their personal health. These people who sacrifice sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise are especially vulnerable to the many quick fixes that exist to artificially keep them going.
A slowing down of life can give someone the time to achieve a healthy balance in their lives. By slowing down they are no longer so caught up in the “race” to realize all of the important things in their life that they were too “busy” to attend to before.
It saddens me that our world has come to this. So many people work in groups that claim to “help bring our world together” by stopping global warming or feeding starving nations but hardly any of these groups truly seem to bring the world together. They proceed to push us to choose between groups and divided our time and money based on what we feel to be the most important at that moment. How many times have I walked through the streets of my city and been stopped by someone trying to have me “donate” just a dime to help stop the water pollution problem overseas. Our society has become so focused on helping other people with their problems that they forget that we still have problems of our own! How can we make claims to help other people if we don’t have all our ducks in a row. The first thing our society needs to focus on is ourselves and the issues that we have going on in our own backyard BEFORE we even attempt to “clean up” the rest of the worlds problems!!!
The Increase in communal laziness and the food industry’s brutal assault on society via aggressive marketing, agriculture, and processing, is a lethal combination. The correlation between Technological advancement and the dramatic increase of BMI>30 in the United States from 1985-2003, as illustrated by Dr. Kelly Brownell is of noteworthy concern. Since the advent of the Internet in the 1990’s, there have been countless, wonderful advantages through the growth of technology; nevertheless, it has its consequences. Technological evolution continues to augment convenience, but it also promotes less physical activity and increased isolation. In addition, the social networking sites may endorse, quality over quantity in respect to friendships and require less investment of, “face to face” time and negative effects when forming intimate, meaningful relationships. Dr. Brownell’s data demonstrating the commodification of highly processed, accessible, and addictive, almost “unfoods” is alarming. The “bigger is better,” endorsement for excess is becoming a linear theme in these modern times.
Addictions are undoubtedly adapting with our ever-changing world, and addressing them as a comorbid, chronic, disease is particularly striking with the epidemic of obesity. This epidemic is the second leading cause of preventable death, an urgent matter that deserves more attention, and investment for prevention. Some research implies that breast-feeding may decrease vulnerability to later food addiction, as well as, parental monitoring of television viewing, at childhood. There are many suggested environmental factors, however; I believe making this data accessible and improving awareness is key. Also, this is a great example in regards to adopting treatment plans that address addiction, as a package of issues that directly amplify one another. I can’t help but think of Disney’s 2008 animated science fiction film, “WALL-E,” and where will we be in the distant future concerning our addictions?
Jordanna Palermo says
well, i would like to first say in response: bravo and well said. there are so many things i wish i could say, but am unclear on how to make sense of all the flying thoughts i have going on in my head about these subjects: crappy food, drugs used as an escape mechanism, “reality” tv, sexual unintelligence…and do not even get me started on electronic affection i.e. facebook, myspace and twitter. does the list not go on? if there is anything i stand up against, it is all of these absurdities. i’d like to share something and although not my own words, i believe he has said it best. it is called The Paradox of Our Age:
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways , but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things, but not better things.
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less. These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit back…
Remember; spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent. Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak! And give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind. AND ALWAYS REMEMBER: Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. -Dr. Bob Moorehead
now, my question is this: what is your steering wheel? your driving force? we have all the knowledge and resources anyone can ever need to make a difference, when will the revolution start to DO SOMETHING about it? when will we start to take a good look at ourselves and make a change?
“William James said ‘My experience is what I agree to attend to’, but it seems that we are increasingly living in a world where the choice of what to attend to is being made for us”.
Isn’t this a cop out? At what point does the responsibility shift to the individual? In a world where we can do anything we choose to, doesn’t it seem ridiculous to say our choices are being dictated to us? People have the capacity to choose; where they go to get information, what they eat, buy, watch on television, and the list goes on. Yet they refuse to bear the burden.
The first part of your quote says, “experience is what I agree to attend to”. Agree. Interesting word choice. One that implies a decision being made about what truly deserves recognition and commitment in our lives. Ultimately it’s our choice. If we agree to attend to bad things or excessive behaviors then who can blame the media or, for that matter, all of society for exposing that choice and running wild with it?
I understand the science behind some of these issues. Chemicals that change one’s brain pattern are a little bit harder to explain away as being the sole responsibility of the individual. But social networking and reality television? I can see how both of these things can be classified as excessive behaviors or triggers for such behavior, but it’s hard for me to rationalize away the responsibility of the individual. Again, the word ‘agree’ fosters the reaction that there is some element of choice that has to be examined.
It seems the common theme behind most of these excessive behaviors or triggers that you mention is the desire and need for entertainment. Which begs the question, what is it we are lacking that causes us to search relentlessly for things to keep us entertained? Is it relationships? And if so, how can so many millions of people be so inept at creating them? There are plenty of avenues available to connect with others. Yet what many choose to do instead is remain surface and vague and ultimately distant. Why is this? What is it that we are thirsting for that can never be quenched? And why are we so resistant to attend to it? Maybe it just doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. There are so many other things out there that warrant attention from us that we put ourselves on the back burner. The constant drive and desire to assume the empty rewards of the materialistic world ultimately seems more important to people. If we bear responsibility for the road our lives have taken then we have to come to terms with the emptiness inside that we are trying to fulfill. Instead of continually appeasing boredom with entertainment that’s meaningless, we have to be willing to attend to it.
And that’s the scary part. Slowing down and actually peering into what we’ve become. Who we really are at the core. And being comfortable in that skin. Perhaps that’s why television programs about nothing are such a great comfort at the end of a routine filled and exhaustively boring day.
Gerald Flynn says
I have long been bothered at how the current epidemic of obesity and the correlation with addiction has been ignored. Maybe it is too close to home for so many red blooded Americans to believe the nation is getting fatter and fatter. Part of our culture seems to include gross amounts of food consumption with celebration, comfort and family. Diabetes is moving up the charts of preventable death at alarming rates and yet the attitude is a similar one when it comes to addiction; “why do people keep eating if it just makes them fatter?” Or as the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity slid # 63 shows, those in charge of public policy on health believe it is a lack of personal responsibility. Could be, but that sounds a lot like something I heard my mother in law say to a relative who was struggling with alcoholism, “If drinking got me into so much trouble and kept me from so many things in life I would just quit.” We could make a list of vices that bring out a similar attitude from society. I think the reality show business reflects our attitude towards addiction. We watch others in anticipation of failure and in some cases success to somehow make ourselves feel better about our own lives. I guess this goes for positive shows also. Programs like “Extreme Home Make Over,” are fun to watch and sometimes escape the stress or traumatic reality of our own lives.
I have always thought that most of society needs counseling or at least the process of a twelve-step program. Is it a way of life we are too afraid to change that keeps many fat and dying? My mother died from complications of diabetes. With both legs missing and her whole life reduced to what she could carry from the hospital to the room she had at my house, she was never seen with out one of those gigantic soda cups full of Pepsi. 48 teaspoons of sugar! It was her comfort. She drank alcohol only a few times in her life; she did not like the taste. She smoked a little weed a couple of times to be part of the party, and she never, as far as I know, even tried hallucinogenic drugs. But she over ate, never even dated after her first marriage, an abusive relationship ended, and had a dangerous addiction to Pepsi. Yet to tell her she was an addict was a laugh to her. To her addiction was drugs, sex and alcohol. I think she is a reflection of how a good part of society views addiction and how many times industry encourages society to see unhealthy living as normal. To some extent the surgeon general is right, there is a lack of personal responsibility, but when the people whom a great part of society puts their trust in says everything is ok, doesn’t it make it harder to convince anyone there is a problem?
KYLEA GLEASON says
I definitely agree that addiction is not only related to drugs. I know that I am addicted to social networking, especially with my iPhone…so I guess that makes me addicted to my iPhone. Another form of social networking could be text messaging or that could fall under communication.
I have not thought of being addicted to time, though the way you describe it that we are addicted to fast pace in our society. I definitely agree with this. As a college student, there are no ways to slow down the pace or slow down schedules to find time to relax or do things that we want to do such as blog posting. It comes and goes and I think time is a withdrawal symptom, when we have a lot we don’t use it wisely and then when we are crunched for time we then begin to make more time and see how time management may be useful in our daily lives.
Dina Soriano says
We have indeed been inundated by triggers or precursors to excessive behavior, which has only been magnified by advances in technology and media. These advances in technology have created a phenomenon of instant gratification. One click to buy this, add that friend or watch that video. As a school teacher, I have observed some of my students lacking in patience and the skills necessary to persist through difficult tasks. I am curious if there is a correlation in this skill deficit to the immediate gratification attained by the IPOD, Blackberries and other electronic devices. I also question how this concept of immediate gratification relates to addictive behavior. For a person in recovery, the thought processes associated with instant gratification may contribute to relapse. In a society where needs and wants are obtained with a click of a button or touch screen, someone who is going through a craving may generalize that behavior to their addiction. This makes the recovery process that much more difficult when a person’s ability to persist through difficult task is comprised by pre-existing societal influences.
Despite these influences, I still believe we do have a choice of what we attend to. I tend to agree with Gallagher that life is what you choose to pay attention to. I chose to buy my blackberry. No one forced me buy join Facebook. I also chose to quit smoking. Society has made it more difficult for us to decipher what is most important for us to attend to, but ultimately the choice resides within every one of us.
Haley Weiner says
It really feels to me like unregulated capitalism has affected our appetites for excess as well, in many ways. First, businesses aggressively purvey all sorts of products and substances to us, and it has become a social norm in our culture to be mass-marketed-to all the time. Omnipresent, corporate logos are just a “normal” part of life, if not “natural,” and we are encouraged to embrace them. If one has a predisposition to be addicted to certain things, one will likely discover at least some of them, rather than live life in ignorance. I mean, who does that anymore?!
Second, in keeping with the ruthlessness of unrestrained “free” market politics, the goods we are sold are often toxic- from bleached tampons, to high fructose corn syrup, to the “additives” in cigarettes. Did you know that bleached tampons make us bleed more, so we need to buy more tampons? Why bleach a tampon anyway? High fructose corn syrup was engineered to keep our insulin from becoming activated after we eat, which happens after eating normal food (sugar), and makes you feel full. Maybe there is a reason that one of my ex’s, someone addicted to many things, used to refer to Doritos as “crack chips.”
We are urged to look at the hyper-glossed, corporate media spectacle before us, with its thinly veiled contempt for real humanity, as being “cool.” But how is becoming increasingly socially isolated and lonely cool? I think most people are left feeling cold. For instance, I dread calling ANY institution do business with because I know I’m doing to have to go through a soul-crushing labyrinth of slow, automated messages. If I do get to talk to a real person, I almost feel like I can be more candid than if it were someone who worked down the street, who I had an actual relationship with. But, actual human aside, it doesn’t feel like togetherness when she’s taking the last dollars out of my bank account.
For many years, the average earning power of people in the US has been declining. It’s hard to imagine a time when having only one earner working to support a household was generally enough, though it wasn’t so long ago. Americans’ financial turmoil, caused in part by the de-regulation of many financial safeguards put in place after the Great Depression, can be a major catalyst for addiction. When our basic survival needs are not taken care of, it is difficult to function with optimism and hope. Coupled with increasing social isolation and a lack of healthy consumer choices, addiction is one result of our appetites not being trained in a completely healthy way.
Kelly Lash says
I found your thoughts on time to be particularly interesting. It is not something we have discussed in class and is not something I have really thought about in terms of addiction until now. Yet, it seems as if an addiction to living your life in the “fast lane” could be just as dangerous as an addiction to heroine. It also made me think that people who are busy and have no time would be more likely candidates for addictions such as cocaine and meth, or any stimulants or uppers. It seems as if this lack of time issue could go hand in hand with substance abuse. I definitely agree that one solution to addiction is to just slow down our lives. Our culture’s addiction to speeding things up could also help explain why there is more substance abuse than in other cultures where life is not as fast and competitive to get to the top.
I really enjoyed Carl Honore’s lecture about time. The “Slow Movement” seems like an excellent idea. I would be a huge proponent in getting that movement going in grad school! Carl mentions how countries like Sweden have 35 hour work weeks and are found to be very successful still. I’ve always been a huge supporter of 35 hour work weeks. I have spent a lot of time working in school and have been lucky to experience this, however, I really think that 40 hours is just too much and is not necessary. People’s mental health could benefit greatly from shorter work weeks.
I think that if people slowed down, many would be frightened with their newfound awareness. More free time means more time to reflect on things, and for many people, this free time could be replaced with more thoughts that cause more anxiety and depression. This seems to be a catch-22, because people being busy causes stress and anxiety, but people slowing down could experience more anxiety too. Hmm. I am not sure how we could solve this predicament..therapy I suppose…
I could hardly believe my ears when I heard about a woman who was arrested for harassing a man whom she was “divorced” by in a virtual world of online game. Two months ago, I was back in Japan. I felt fooled, but I was indeed hearing a serious announcer reporting that they were married in the game for months and that after the guy dumped her, she stole his ID and password, and eliminated his character –a little guy in screen he had diligently created- from cyberspace in an instant.
Since I have been in the US for five years now and didn’t have any idea of what was just said, my younger brother explained. Characters that the players create meet in a game; with or without realistic love, a male character makes a proposal to a female character with an engagement ring (which costs in reality to purchase!), and if accepted, then, they may have a detailed wedding in the procedure resembled to that of the reality (of course, they actually pay for it!). Therefore, they can also get a divorce when things are not working out between these little husband and wife.
Another story astonished me was that there were multiple cases reported in which adolescents and young adults even died from neglect of their basic needs to sleep and eat at the cost of excessive play of games. Gosh!
In relation to the blog, the prevalence of Japanese people addicted to, even dwell in, virtual reality has been recognized as one of our social issues. Hikikomori, for instance, is a Japanese term for those who have chosen to almost completely withdraw from social life, often seeking extreme isolation and avoidance of touch to the outside world (as long as I perceive, most of Hikikomori people rarely leave their rooms. Often, they even demand their caretakers to bring their food and leave it in front of the door, and they may not take a shower for days in order to avoid contacts with their family members). They are confined in their rooms, and may spend up to years mostly using internet, playing video games, and communicating with people limitedly in cyberspace.
Even though, there is a background where Japanese technology in visual art has been relatively advanced in its quality that may account for this epidemiology; it looks quite real and much appealing to Japanese people; addiction with cyberworld may be seen everywhere in the world.
Interestingly, long ago, I’ve read an article on a British Psychiatrist who planned to serve counseling service to the population with online game addiction inside of the world of online games by himself participating and interacting with the clients. Unfortunately, I haven’t followed up with this psychiatrist’s attempt; but I doubt the effectiveness of this approach because it seems to me this may reinforce and increase his clients’ excessive addictive behavior. Rather, I assume that those who get stuck in this unreal world need more of touch to humanity and eventually learn to face reality.
Wendy Baker says
Your blog is increbly true. Everything you mentioned about media shaping our lives to be somebody else is jaw dropping. Most people don’t realize how media, society, and just the world in general are molding us into these cookie cutter clones of what we should be. The internet is a perfect example of being able to be this “fantasy” person that one can make themselves to be. Who wants to face reality and be themselves when technology is allowing endless possibilities for people to pretend they are otherwise?
This can play a part in addiction, too. Not only can people forget they are addicts, but the media, especially with alcohol and tobacco, are trying to sell more by making certain drugs sound appealing. It’s madness to think that another human being will do anything to earn a buck even if it means putting another’s life in danger. My favorite line from the blog is the last sentence: “William James said “My experience is what I agree to attend to”, but it seems that we are increasingly living in a world where the choice of what to attend to is being made for us.” It’s so catchy and true! What is this world coming to?
The section on time and its relationship to addiction made me think of two pieces I have read recently: One is the “busyness plan,” by Sally Kempton in the November 2009 issue of Yoga Journal in which she discusses internal and external busyness, and busyness as an ADDICTION. She writes, “The ego’s addiction to busyness has at its core a terror of its own emptiness. The ego feels, “If I’m busy, that means I exist. I’m worthwhile. I’m wanted.” She discusses the need to tap into the “one who is not busy,” our own pure Being.
The other is a book called The Energy of Money, written by Maria Nemeth. She believes that our relationship to money is a hologram for the rest of our lives. (an exerpt from her book)
We live in a universe made up of energy and surrounded by energy. Because we all share in the universal energy that unifies us, no compartment of life is shut off from another. The smallest parts of life and matter reflect the properties of the universe as a whole. Physicist David Bohm called this the holographic universe: every aspect of our lives has a reflection in every other aspect. Our relationship with money is a metaphor for our relationship with all forms of energy: time, physical vitality, enjoyment, creativity, and the support of friends. Pg. 18
In the TED video, Carl Honore talked about how the Scandinavian countries have somehow managed to have a thriving economy and not be workaholics. Which makes me think about the connectedness of the energy of time and money. The Scandinavian countries also have some of the best social systems of any developed nation. Sweden has extensive paid paternity and maternity leave. They have comprehensive health care coverage, and usually a month of paid vacation for all employees, not to mention paid higher education. To me it seems that the Scandinavian countries have connected to the idea that every aspect of our lives is a reflection of every other aspect, so when you value and respect one part, it flows into the others. The United States is one of the only developed nations that does not require paid vacation for All employees, and as we are learning right now, the slogan is “we can’t afford” Universal Health Care, but if we consider the holographic concept, if we can’t “afford” to take care our ourselves, then we probably can’t afford to take time for ourselves either, nor can we afford to enjoy ourselves, etc. How can we have a healthy relationship with time or anything else, if we don’t value ourselves enough? In my mind, addiction is related to our disconnected relationship of the connectedness of all forms of energy.
It does seem that as our time is made less abundant by the “conveniences” of modern technology and the pace of modern times, we end up loosing focus of the things we may all agree deserve attending to: our health, our relationships, our responsibilities, the betterment of ourselves in our various roles, and the greater good of our society. This loss of focus frequently causes us to engage in excessive behaviors until a negative impact is felt.
We now live in a society where we react to the crisis of the moment and leave foresight, planning and prevention at the doorstep. We take action too late and expect results too soon. We do this with the expectation that modern technology, science, and finance will abate these consequences and thus are left in a problematic cycle.
How will we as a society address this issue and given the scope and nature of the problem how can we? Perhaps the start lies in increasing our awareness so that we can think about viable solutions or experience a shift in our attitudes and values. After all James also said, “Man can alter his life by altering his thinking.” Now, If I can only find the time….
Well stated. I also believe as Antonio Damasio pointed out in Decartes Error, we cannot disconnect thinking (reason) from emotion – and our awareness of the world around us must also be informed by feelings. In fact, I think our emotions are the more powerful motivators for altering life.
Michael CR says
Responding to the reference to social networking websites-
In an article posted on the Journal of Interactive Advertising website (http://jiad.org/article100) researchers found a positive relationship between the feeling of needing to belong and attitudes toward social networking sites. Maybe the explosion of membership in social networking sites is related to the idea that we as a society are having a more difficult time connecting on a personal level with individuals. People are now looking to other avenues to gain that feeling of connectedness.
If that lack of feeling connected to other people drives many people to pursue relationships on social networking sites rather than or in addition to face-to-face relationships what will happen in the future? Where will our balance of personal relationships and social networking site relationships end up?
The isolation that people may create for themselves in an attempt to feel connected to other people can be a slippery slope between a satisfying the need to belong and a sense of being cut off from the rest of the world.
Honestly, it’s difficult to read a post like this one and not become depressed. I don’t think that these “quick-fixes” and potentially addictive behaviors should be so accessible, but I also think that if we try to fight the battle of trying to make them inaccessible, we will ultimately fail. While our culture would benefit greatly from slowing down…I just don’t see it happening. I think the real issue, the one we’d be better off addressing, is how can we learn to build and sustain meaningful relationships when so many substitutes are sometimes so much easier to access?
Building relationships that are fulfilling and meaningful is hard. It takes work. And a lot of us don’t know how to do it. I was talking to a friend recently who works in the student life department at a small college. She confided that one of the most prevalent issues she deals with with college students is their inability to have face-to-face conversations about major life issues. While they’re comfortable baring their souls over the internet, or even over the phone, they’re unable to share face-to-face. When they realize that phone and internet friendships are not nearly as fulfilling as those we experience in person, they have to learn how to create better boundaries over the phone and over the internet, while learning to connect in authentic relationships with people in person.
How do we teach and train the next generation (and ourselves) to build and maintain friendships? And why or how is it so difficult in the first place?
I would have to agree that everyday we are bombarded with sex in selling products. From car ads to cigarette ads, you can’t escape the fact that sex is selling products. I honestly still think that if we DIDN’T show sex in any way to advertise products to the consumer, I still believe products would be bought. After all where do parents think their teenage daughter’s are learning how to dress inappropriately? Well all parents have to do is to look at the scarce world of advertising.
Your blog is so dead-on. It is scary to think of what our society is becoming. The way that the media consciously and unconsciously controls and shapes our perceptions and lives is astounding! Overall I think the media is disgusting. I enjoyed your perspective on the media and I agree with it whole-heartedly. I don’t even watch the news snymore because I am so sick of hearing about tragedy. I sometimes wonder what it might be like if the news only reported the wonderful and giving things that people actually do for one another every day. Could we become inspired as a socety and start changing one news story at time?
I also like the discussion on food. I definitely think that food and eating are a problem in our country because it is all about more, more, and more. What people think (or really what the media wants us to think) is a proper portion size is ridiculous! I recently went to a fast food place and was disgusted when I ordered a medium sized meal and in reality the proportions were that of a large! I rememeber when a small was really a small, now a medium is a 32 oz drink and the fries are monsterous!. It is no wonder that obesity is such a problem when everything is just bigger.
Finally, I just wanted to say that Jordanna’s response was amazing! It was so eloquently written I felt like I was reading Philosophy. Everything in there was so perfectly descriptive of the times and the changes that we should be making as a culture. I was incredibly moved by it, so kudos to you!
Troy S says
As society becomes more sophisticated and technology advances, free market forces encourage companies to utilize new knowledge and tools to compete for success and invent opportunities to profit. Unfortunately, as illustrated in the examples in this blog post, the loser is often the consumer, as sophisticated techniques can prey on weaknesses inherent in our biology. Humans have evolved to adapt to historical forces that are no longer in play in modern society, however success in surviving and reproducing has effectively halted evolution while leaving us susceptible to new risks in a rapidly changing world.
As complications that stem from addictive behaviors become more evident and unavoidable, we inevitably ask what we can do about it. Is it enough to simply passively respond and attempt to address pathologies after they’ve systematically and repeatedly cropped up? Or should we proactively attempt to intervene prior to these problems developing?
A conservative political perspective would lean towards personal responsibility and free market response without government intervention. Unfortunately the personal responsibility mantra is unsatisfying when companies refine methods that prey on embedded biological desires and put consumers at a significant disadvantage. There is little benefit in holding suffering people at fault for succumbing to stimuli that prey on their evolutionary adaptations, and such a stance of indictment does nothing to offset very real personal and financial costs associated with the widespread pathologies.
However applying a more liberal approach may not be any more feasible in many cases. Can government intervention and regulation keep up with moving targets that have huge financial motivation and rapidly changing mechanisms? And if the long term consequences of common addictive behaviors don’t have an extensive history of empirical support, is it ethically justifiable to constrain industries based on speculation about the long term effects of their products and services? Even when societal costs are well founded, such as in obesity, there are still significant roadblocks and lack of political willpower to legislate change.
Perhaps change will stem from the grassroots level as public awareness increases and culture adapts. However even for issues at the forefront of public awareness, such as the obesity epidemic, change appears to be slow despite undeniable consequences. For the issues that are on the fringe, action is even less likely and we are relegated to a wait and see approach to discover how rapid societal changes will exact tolls on our society.
I read this soon after being posted, like SUD’s I found that most topics here really triggerred an anger but difficult to direct it toward anyone specific as I believe we all play and have played a role, in one form or another in the structure of our current society. In every aspect from pharmaceutical, to drugs, to media, social networks etc., we are responsible..think about…I did is why I am so angered. I think about the 17 bags of ____I just scored a deal on…and I am going to feed to my family!!! How frustrating to know that because were so busy to provide a GOOD meal, to be home to parent our children, to live in an economy where both parents need to work in order to maintain any type of lifestyle…and why is it that the USDA provides such low funding resources for fruits & veggies yet we don’t have the resources needed for further nutrition education. How is it that food marketers have such an open platform to market to and exploit our children? Our kids will continue to be fed with food items of which ingrediants cannot be even pronounced as a result increasing their risk for health related illness and obesity, not to mention ADDICTION. It is of no escape we are a society of which addiction is a norm and only identified if related around drug and alcohol. In terms of addiction it is the perception/understanding of it that need to change for societal change to occur….As for all of us…we do our part….I’ll need to stop buying these food items that I never have but yet since a half reduction in income, resorting to the readily available and inexpensive items has been my alternative….a thought I will ponder on.
the human’s development from baby to adult, who is independent, and addiction too…
This blog has allowed me to explore a theme or concept that has been running through my mind as I learn more about the nature of addiction.
Bear with me here as I try and take these thoughts from my mind to this digital paper.
To me it feels so far that addiction in essence is the human becoming and maintaining a state of dependence on a foreign agent/behavior/substance to counter a process that the mind/brain already has in place to naturally create that emotion/physiological function/experience.
Alcohol used in addiction, perverts the natural process of experiencing and internalizing a painful event perhaps. Without alcohol the body and mind will go through a painful event, experience it, reflect on it, process it and then move forward to the new experience. Alcohol addiction could be seen in the light where one uses the alcohol as a shield, to dilute the pain/events, delay the internalization of experience indefinitely.
So this led me to think what is this natural process that is set in place? Ideally the human child is raised in a happy home, taught the right lessons, gets love, and so on and learns how to provide for themselves physically, mentally and socially. But sadly this is not the case of course, even those from happy homes bear the scars of some of life’s uglier moments.
Lets put the social process of life of going from baby to adult aside. As a creature of the earth humans are very dependent on OTHERS to survive at all. If a mother placed her newborn child on a field and left it it would most likely perish. Now Im not trying to be provocative, that was a shocking image but this is done to explore this concept of a human not dependent on anyhting to survive.
I’m no biologist but most creatures in existence have some type of interplay between themselves and thier environment. I imagine even electrons need something from somebody/thing to be, maybe not.
Back to our discussion, what human is really independent of their environment. None, everybody needs to eat, everybody needs to keep their body warm and dry. Further the human development, in keeping with this addiction topic, from infant to adult is interesting. Genetically we come hard wired with the potential for being able to survive and thrive on our own. Given time and support the human grows from a infant unable to survive on its own to one that can.
THAT is what has being jumping around in my head but for the life of me I can’t apply it.
***A human at birth is dependent, at adulthood independent.
***Addiction is the human dependent on a foreign agent to fulfill a function that is done naturally by the human either mentally, physically or socially.
***Also related humans seemed to move forward from cave man to man once we started using our minds and creating tools and processes to solve problems abstractly. Again this jumps out at me as being central to the discussion of addiciton.
Humans in our modern context have been dependent on our minds and ability to use tools to progress from the cave/wilderness to the concrete mega town/cities that we live in today.
It feels like in trying to combat and understand the addiction process it needs to be plugged into the context of understanding human nature overall. When a child is hurt and sad they can find solace in the embrace of their mother’s arms or have a grumpy day at school turn around when a teacher gives them a sticker or blanket. An adult having a bad day may end up seeking solace in a sexual episode with a stranger or shooting up as a reward for getting their chores done is the same thing. Morally it has a different value attached for each process. this link and parallel is key and to write it off as all we need to do is have adults act like adults and not like children is missing the point I think. Children and adults are the same creature the same thing, human. All that separates the two is time and the fulfillment of potential. Size too I guess.
Anyhow I’m going to leave off there but I’d be interested to hear anyone’s thoughts on this post. I know its all over the place but these thought blurbs have been buzzing ever since I started studying addiction last month.
Wow! So many interesting points made in this blog as well as in all the accompanying comments. The more I learn about what drives us to excess, I realize that it cannot be traced to any one factor, (genetic vulnerabilities, media, unregulated capitalism, social isolation, societal pressures, etc), but rather it is many complicated interacting factors that result in insatiable appetites for unhealthy objects. However, there seems to be one underlying theme present in all addictions – loneliness. Before attending Dr. Fitzgerald’s class, I never thought about addictions being so closely tied to an absence of deep and personal connections to others and objects.
Since the dawn of the industrial revolution and its ensuing technological advances, it seems our society has placed increasingly less emphasis on connection. In the race to live the American Dream we have sacrificed our connection to the things most important to human survival – our families, our spirituality, our community, our food, our environment. I believe that this has led to much emptiness in the human heart and many people fill this void with unhealthy addictions. Unfortunately, our culture’s way of life has become so entrenched that it is difficult to begin to understand what caused or how we can remedy our unrelenting ache for connection and the resulting unhealthy behaviors.
In thinking about my own life, I see many of these addiction-causing problems. I often marvel about how many interesting people live in my building and how little time I spend getting to know them, despite their incredible accessibility. I also think about my own response to Facebook and the Internet and the compulsive way I plug-in the minute I get home instead of interacting with my husband or attending to other “healthier” needs. I wonder why in “the land of plenty” we can’t figure out how to lead healthier lives. Then I realize that the key word in that phrase is “plenty”. Perhaps a more appropriate way to phrase it is “the land of too much” and perhaps without so many options and the incredible drive to have more and be more we would have the time and energy to connect with those and that which matter most to us and to our happiness.
Dan J says
My classmates have done such a good job exploring this blog I don’t know how much there is left for me to say! It has been fun and interesting for me to see the outside sources that others bring into the discussion and how those sources reflect each responder’s lifestyle and unique perspective.
Of the themes picked up by the responder’s, I can pick out the comments that view these addictions as the products of social, economic and spiritual factors.
When I try to understand how all these different I ask the same kind of questions as Troy S did, focusing slightly more heavily at the economic and social forces at play. I use literature such as Consumed, No Logo, and The Revolution Will Not Be Funded to build a framework regarding the systems in place, the development of those systems, and my part in contributing to them.
It can all seem overwhelming. There are so many contending interests out there and so many ways to view them. I agree with most of what Troy S said, but I have a different view of the cause and effect relationship between consumers and companies. People want happiness and pleasure. While it can be hard to find fulfillment through spirituality, the immediate rush of happiness that accompanies potential addictions such as sex, eating and spending is much more easily obtained. As a result consumers demand that companies provide these objects. They do not develop their products with the goal of preying on desires, but in order to compete with other companies to meet demands. If consumers decided to demand healthy foods, such as organic produce, instead of unhealthy foods, such as toxic-chemically-laced-life-shortening-fun!-bars, than companies would bend all of their resources to compete with each other to meet the new demand.
Viewed in this way companies can be seen as doing their job well by meeting consumer demands. Ordering companies to stop producing products that most of the population demands does not seem like a reasonable solution. A more reasonable response may be to help people find spiritual fulfillment through healthy relationships, rewarding employment and self-understanding. Because these are long term goals that take time, special attention can be placed on the fact that it is a learning processes and that indulging in pleasure does not have to lead to addiction.
Casey Conrad says
I look to the internet for inspiration and knowledge and am not let down while visiting your site. It is so refreshing to be able to expand and think critically on new ideas surrounding addiction and dependence. Our society is over consumed. No matter what the “object” is, we want it and we want more of it. Knowledge, money, beauty, life, success, etc. What you bring to the table through your progressive thinking is what this world needs. We need to appreciate, and take a moment to bask in life. Although it is necessary for our time to move at a constant pace, take a minute or two to breathe.
Heather Crich says
I agree that today, our addiction problem lies with prescription drugs. While there have been attempts to regulate the prescribing and refilling of the drugs, these attempts have only put a small dent in the problem. Many doctors seem to prescribe these drugs without any thought of possible dependency or misuse. If you go to a doctor and tell him you are tired and sad all the time, he automatically assumes you are depressed. He gives you antidepressants without thinking twice. You get the prescription filled, start taking the medication, and are able to get endless refills without the doctor even discussing it with you—much less offering alternative treatments. Many people get hooked on painkillers. They start because they have a legitimate need for it, but then advance to abusing the substance. It begins to consume them—and eventually takes a major toll on their lives. All of this, and the doctor has no idea—no concern for the problems he had helped to cause. What about Michael Jackson’s doctor prescribing dangerous drugs in dangerous amounts just because the patient demanded it? Surely he knew of the dangers these drugs had. Another problem is the ease with availability to obtain prescription drugs. Once people get hooked on drugs, if they can’t obtain the prescription drugs legitimately, there are many other options, mainly internet pharmacies, that they can turn to. All you have to do is order the drugs online—usually, only filling out information that is sent to a supposable doctor at the pharmacy who, in turn, fills the prescription. Viola, the medicine will be delivered in days with minimal questions being asked. Until we can tighten up the process of obtaining and filling prescription medications, the abuse and addiction of these drugs will continue to be paramount in our society.
Sarah Kinney says
I competely agree! No matter how much time I allow for ALL of my obligations, I still somehow cannot manage to do the neccessary things such as eat, sleep, and exercise. My work week for example is arranged so that I can just barely pay my bills, feed myself and my cats, and have a tiny bit of fun. I can’t work any less. While working a full time job, I am also in graduate school, and trying to maintain healthy relationships. No wonder we are searching for a release indeed! Thank you for such a clear piece on the busyness of our lives, which can often lead to people looking for “something more”. Simplifying life is defintately one way to slow things down, and to accept things in life as they come. This was a great blog, and I really appreciate how clearly you define the numberous ways people can become addicted.
Paul Woodland says
I found the section about addiction to food to be interesting and it got me thinking about my brother and his wife. About a year and a half to two years ago they joined Over-eaters anonymous. It basically follows the same structure of Alcoholics Anonymous, but in regards to food. Basically, they have come to the realization that they are addicted to food and there are certain types of foods that they are striving to never eat again, including sugar and flour. If they did, it would be considered as devastating as an alcoholic relapsing with a drink again. They have both excelled in the program and have lost substantial amounts of weight!
Sue Jenkins says
Two years ago I lost my husband of 24 years. He had the same doctor for over 10 years. This doctor we trusted. My husband had fallen and broke his ankle. He had surgery to put metal pins and a rod in his ankle. Three weeks after the surgery he was still in a lot of pain. It was unknown if he had an infection. He did not have any fevers.
It was thought maybe that there was an infection on the metal rod rubbing against his skin. He was put on antibiotics and given pain medication. He had a high tolerance of pain and was given almost triple the dose of what he should have been given.
He was still in a lot of pain so another high potent pain medication was given to him, again in a higher dose and he was to continue the other pain medication as well. Two days later he passed away in his sleep. Are prescription drugs safer than illicit drugs? I do not think so.
I agree that the faster way of life has led to expectations of faster everything! I also think that our (Americans) materialism to have bigger and better everything has been exploited through food and marketing. I know for myself Food addiction has been my personal battle, the interesting thing for me is that I never made the connection that this might be possible because I have not had deeper more personal connections with others. Thank you for shedding light!
Holly C says
In the article, you ask “What does it mean to manage addiction?” The costs associated with drug abuse are astronomical, and have enormous effects on our society. It is mentioned that “We should find creative ways to incentivize or reward treatment providers who can keep patients in treatment for years, decreasing hospital admissions and residential stays.” Is it possible to have partnerships (if they do not already) between treatment centers and hospitals? This would be an arrangement in which possibly a portion of the costs for the treatment center could go to the hospital or vice versa. There is a strong parallel between treatment centers and hospitals, and I would think that all options should be explored. Many treatment center websites offered programs that lasted for a few weeks up to six months for drug addictions. I agree with you, that treatment should extend much longer than that. There are people who attend AA meetings for almost the rest of their lives, because it is a support system to maintain the recovery.
Another interesting fact was the use of robots to replace human counselors… how effective is this? I looked at some of the treatment centers, and it seemed that the majority of them requested support from the family members. This would imply that human interaction is paramount in order to overcome such addictions. I agree that our technology and its results are amazing. As a society, we have been able to think of conveniences that were almost unimaginable when I was a child. However, when I go to the doctor, I am going there to seek the wisdom of an individual who can look at me, give me a prescription, smile, and tell me everything will be better in a seven to ten days. How will robots, computers and/or internet-based interventions be able to replace that humanistic quality?
A week ago, I wrote this blog response when there was only one entry. Now, it seems like I am one of the last to enter.
Sue, I am so sorry to hear about your beloved husband. What an unbelievably shocking, sad, anger provoking, and desperate experience that must have been. How could such a tragedy take place just from a broken ankle. I appreciate your courage to share your story so openly.
Below is what I wrote a week ago. A week, in 2009, means an enormous amount of information flies through the air, and at the same time, a week means it is going and gone so so fast.
David Siegel, in his book “The Mindful Brain”, talks about the difference between top-down and bottom-up experiences. According to Siegel, top-down experience occurs when one bases his experience on pre-learned, pre-exsisting knowledge and memory. Contrary to top-down, he describes bottom-up experience as following. “Direct experience gives rise to the sense that mindful awareness involves the dissolution of the influences of prior learning on present sensation. This is the way we diminish the effects of automatic top-down processes and it enables us to create that state of ‘nonjudging’ experience” (p. 134). More than ever, there is so much information coming to us from all directions, and it is so easy to lose touch with the energy that is individual, original, and creative within ourselves.
Gregory Bateson, the father of cybernetics, never owned a house nor a car, and said he never would. Maybe it’s because he understood how systems work, he did not buy into the value system pushed down from the society. He focused on his creative ideas that were alive in himself. That was his passion, and that’s what he owned.
Hermann Hesse, in his book “Demian”, wrote that if we take information from outside and identifies with them, we will be killed like a beast. Doing so would be like being hit by arrows shot by hunters. In the book, Demian tells his friend Sinclair, “We talk too much. We must be like turtles, and hide deep inside of our shells.” Arrows must be shot from within ourselves, form the deepest place of our soul.
Jenny Parrow says
Embrassing the Idea of Addiction Managment.
Oct. 25 2009
Computer based treatment is a new concept to me and one that I’ve never heard of before regarding drug treatment. In one blog you mention that computer based treatment could possibly be as effective as face to face counseling while in another blog you say that social networking websites such as facebook and twitter are causing us to become more and more isolated in our lives. Don’t you think that computer based treatment would fall under this category? If isolation is one of the triggers for drug use than wouldn’t the isolation of online treatment trigger more of this excessive behavior?
Jon Kilzer says
While the numbers regarding diet and obesity are irrefutable, I wonder what kind of statistical data exists regarding the other forms of addiction exist. While there are more objects of addiction in the world today, is there an increase in the overall prevalence of addiction? Since behavioral addictions are relatively new in the world of psychology what kind of trends over time can we observe. The increase of addiction triggers in society implies that we should have greater rates of addiction today than in the past.
While I find these trends disturbing, I feel we don’t have an accurate picture of the trend over time. I believe that historically, there was a lot if addiction that went unnoticed, or unrecognized as a problem. Could our greater awareness of addictions, combined with a historically inaccurate reporting of addiction, make it appear that we are having greater problems with addiction today?
Jenny – very astute observation. Unfortunately, because our current treatment system sees less than 10 percent of those in need of help, and many reside in communities where little or no treatment is available, embracing the use of the Internet may be the best alternative. Our challenge is to develop interventions that acheive the intended outcomes while not becoming part of the problem as you suggest may happen. Already there are numerous examples where technology has proven helpful: smoking cessation, PTSD in vets using virtual therapy, drinking and driving interventions, and prevention efforts using online cartoon stories. Check out Ch3: A Future for the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Abuse: Applications of Computer-Based Interactive Technology and Ch4: Office-based Treatment of Addiction and the Promise of Technology in the book: Addiction Treatment: Science and Policy for the Twenty-first Century, edited by Jack Henningfield, Patricia Santora, and Warren Bickel (2007): The John Hopkins University Press
Meghan Greider says
I find it interesting that many of these behavioral addictions clearly replace the need for actual human relationships. Sex addictions often manifest in excessive viewing of porn, using prostitutes, etc., which can be a hindrance to finding or maintaining a meaningful relationship. As mentioned in the blog, reality television serves as an escape from the real world and real relationships, and allows people to live through actors on television. Social networking sites allow people to carry on quasi relationships through the internet, with individuals that they may not even know. I cannot help but wonder why our society is moving away from meaningful relationships through these artificial means of escape.
Sara Goldman says
The meaning of your life is the meaning of your life. Life is truly what we make of it. It seems to me that the reality of increasing addition and different flavors of addiction (food, TV, internet, etc) has more to do with searching for something, anything really, that can fill the void. We have less and less meaning in our lives. Our superficial exteriors define our interior lives. There is a quick fix promised for everything from spiritual emptiness (“The secret”) to obesity (any number of diet fads and surgery). But because we won’t or perhaps can’t do real soul searching and work we are left feeling more empty and less fulfilled than before we went looking for answers.
As people feel more isolated and less connected to those around them, they will continue to search for answers. I believe the only answer is relationship.
The post claims at the end, “but it seems that we are increasingly living in a world where the choice of what to attend to is being made for us.” I disagree. We have a choice, but it is a tough choice. We have to be willing to face ourselves and the hurt we are creating in the world. This is uncomfortable. But, if we can, we will be able to create more healthy lives that do not call for as much excess. Addiction is an issue with many facets. One of the sides is a social justice one. We must help the world around us in order to help ourselves.
Paul Cordisco says
October 15th, 2009 Paul Cordisco
I liked what Deena says about William James who said, “I agree to what I want to attend to.” I liked this statement because I believe that we have a large degree of control (internal locus of control) over our environment and that it, the environment, does not control us all of the time. We may have to respond to the external world in our various ways but, hopefully, we are in control of ourselves.
If we have excessive appetites for one thing or another it is a choice that we make. It may be insidious at first but in the long run we should be able to control ourselves without blaming other things, people, or events.
I have been lucky to be able to quit smoking and drinking alcohol but it also takes a lot more work to overcome the addiction. My thoughts are that it is too much trouble for the individual to change friends, maladaptive habits, and desires. So, it is easier to stay addicted than to quit. It is a personal thing that will only change when quitting becomes easier than listening to everyone complain about someone’s drinking, drugging, gambling and all of the other excessive habits.
sheila vincent says
This blog is very insightful. It reassures what people say all of the time. Where did all of our time go? I can remember 15-20 years ago my family did not have a computer, or cable and we only had a land line house phone. I actually had free days, quality family time; I did not need to make a list to remember to check my e-mails. We are desensitized due to the modernization of TV programming, easy access on computers and connections to the rest of the world. Where is the family time we once had? You had said that “one solution to addiction is to slow down life.” I do not see how this could be these days. I think that by slowing down life it would free up time elsewhere to get addicted to something else. Our lives now cannot be compared to what it was back then. What could you take away now that would free up time and not interrupt daily normal living?
Vincent L says
I think that many, if not most of the people in this country suffer with at least one of the excessive (addictive) behaviors that you mention. One of the greatest achievements to come out of the twentieth century was the advancement of science and technology yet it’s sad to see how we have allowed these wonderful instruments of life use us to no end. We as a society have become not only addicted to technology, we have become terrified of social interaction. There have been numerous of times in which I have been on a bus and have seen people either talking on their cell phones or texting. It’s as if the person sitting next to them is not there. Then there is the lack of face to face communication in the work place. Many people feel more comfortable sending their co-workers’ an e-mail regarding a job related inquiry instead of just verbally asking that person their question when the co-worker sits in the cubicle directly next to them. Perhaps its time for us all to take some inter-personal communication courses so we can reacquaint ourselves on how to be able to communicate with others.
Brandon Cox says
I really enjoyed reading this article. I can relate to what you are talking about. I didn’t really think of the things I do everyday are actually prioritized. But now that I look back at the things I do it makes sense. One of the problems I had in the past was spending too much time playing video games. You tell yourself you are only going to play for this much time, but that is never the case. You play way beyond the set time and find yourself at the end of the day with your original to-do list still waiting. My wife would fall into the social networking website group. It seems like she is on Facebook a number of different times throughout the day. I try to stay away from because I don’t want to get sucked into it. Although, I have to say it is a great way to stay in touch with friends that live in different states. After reading through this article it has made me aware that I need to look at my daily activities and find out how much time I am wasting. I need to find out a better way to prioritize and manage my activities. I’m going to look at those books listed and see what pointers they can give me.
Lately, I’ve given much thought to the emergence of demand to create an online presence, and the crossover from social media as a marketing tool, into personal aspects of life. Receiving invitations from friends and aquaintances to “friend” their current form of online social interaction, reinforces the ever pervading thought in my mind, of how artificial human interaction is becoming. Addiction to micro-blogs and the attention gained from updating one’s status and location through Twitter, Facebook, and mapping sites has overtaken many of my friend’s availability in real-life interaction. The stress accumulated by keeping up with what has been sent or discussed in these online social forums has far surpassed the mere idea of convenience, and has become the latest and most accessible form of addiction I’ve found so far.
From these startling levels of realization, I’ve found it necessary to actually avoid these types of social circles. In so doing, I’ve actually ostracized myself from a few of my aquaintances, giving up the social chase in favor of the more personal, human contact point of reference for a true friendship. Tight circles of friends have a tendency to keep people aware of themselves in realistic terms, whereas online social contacts allow fantasy to overtake many people, resulting in conflicts between reality and perceived character. The addiction to keeping track of friend status or even the addiction of personal commentary absorbs so much of a person’s life, I cannot help but wonder where the online life ends and the real life begins for some people.
Kevin Govro says
I think the internet and social networking sites definitely play in to idea of escape. There is a huge “fantasy” element to the internet. People can be whomever they chose to be behind the safety and anonymity of their keyboard. However, this is not real communication and real human connection. It is becoming, more and more, the common way that people communicate so it’s not surprising that we, as a society, are becoming increasingly isolated.
Meredith Long says
This was a very insightful article. I understand how being creative, can be a problem for many people. It takes you knowing yourself on some level and many people unfortunately do not. I know I have asked myself before if I thought of myself as a creative person. Finding different things to focus on and switching your focus from addiction to something that brings more pleasure in life will take a little creativity but I know from personal experience, it works if you just simply find something healthy that makes you happy. I felt like I could relate to this article.
Donald Sherard says
This is a great article and it is amazing how people (including myself) don’t even realize their own addictions. Whether it’s drugs or watching too much TV, everyone has an addiction of one form or another. I wanted to comment specifically on social networking sites. I work at a local hospital that recently blocked the use of facebook and other social networking sites due to the lack of productivity of the staff. It was pretty amazing to see how long someone could sit and stare at a computer just to tell everyone that they were feeling a certain way at that moment. For me it all started with video games. I went from playing outside and interacting with other people to sitting at home and focusing on beating the big guy at the end of the level. Now you can play those games on your phone while texting someone and listening to music. I personally think it has gotten out of hand and I share many of these addictions to electronics and the social networking sites of today.
Ned Baish says
Do these electronic cigarettes really feel like the real thing? I watched a video at this website but don’t know what to think. Are there any real smokers out there that aren’t promoting a product that can tell me what you really think?
I really enjoyed this blog entry — so many points felt like they rang true in my own life. I will be the first to admit that I love watching raunchy reality television (Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, 16 and Pregnant) you know name it, I’ve probably seen at least one episode of it. I’ve always seen it in the sense that the drama is unfolding in their lives so I’ll be able to escape the drama in my own life. However, this may not be as true as I’d like to believe as the drama may be filtering into my psyche.
As for social networking sites, I’ve found that the more I use them the more depressed (relatively speaking) I become in my own life. It seems like there is so much pressure for us to be social beings — to have tons of friends and do tons of fun things — and social networking sites are the places to publicize this. I find myself surfing the “facebook wave” and feeling like I’m not quite as social as I should be. Ironically, social networking sites make us more isolated, yet they try to promote unity.
Finally, I completely agree with the notion of time. We live in such a fast-paced society it’s hard to imagine a time when there wasn’t the internet or smart-phones. I’ve always been a fairly impatient person (I’m notoriously late to things because I hate to wait) and our society just feeds into my impatience. Just slowing down could be my saving grace and remedy to my tardiness and impatience.
I have long been a believer that our society today caters to over indulgence and is run off catering to excessive behaviors. At almost every point in our daily lives we almost have no choices as stated. I do agree “it seems that we are increasingly living in a world where the choice of what to attend to is being made for us”. On the other hand I also believe that we as “free” people living in a society no matter how tainted with “advertising” have the option to ignore excessive behaviors no matter how forced upon they may seem.
I too enjoyed this blog entry, as I can relate to much of what was written. I’ll be the first to admit that after a long day, the first thing that I want to do is come home and catch up with the reality television that is packed on my DVR. It serves as a perfect escape from what is going on in my own life. I wouldn’t say that I get caught up in the lives of those on screen instead of being invested in my own, but it certainly serves as a distraction. Though I suppose one could argue that even by spending time watching tv instead of engaging with people in my life, that I am (perhaps passively) cheating myself.
I definitely agree that social networking sites contribute to the lack of connectedness offline and perpetuate the importance of being an extrovert. There is such a high priority placed on being a sociable and outgoing person which can be perfectly illustrated with websites like Facebook and Twitter.
I also agree with the overexposure to trauma and have to wonder what the purpose is. I no longer watch the news as it is inundated with horrific stories – even commercials that show awful images of animal abuse are, in my opinion, horribly over the top and inappropriate.
Liz Williams says
This is a great article and one that really applies to our society these days. Right now I’m taking a Drug Education class and this term we’ve been talking about the effects all different kinds of drugs has on our society and the hold it has over the young people. I just finished the books Beautiful Boy and Tweaked by Nic Sheff and his father. Nic and his family dealt with his addiction for years. They did everything to help him get through it and finally he was able to get clean and stay that way. What I love about this article is that it has nothing to do with illegal drugs, but infact stuff that we as American’s do and deal with almost every single day. I have to laugh because I just realized I’m doing four out of the seven things listed above RIGHT NOW! Over the last hour or so, my boyfriend and I have been texting back and forth on whether we should go out to dinner or cook something, I’ve been watching the reality tv show Khloe and Lamar on E and now as I’m typing this, a murder mystery on 20/20 is playing in the background, and Facebook and Twitter both are open tabs on my computer. I’m actually a little embarrassed that just right now I’m doing so many of those things. We compartmentalize so many things in our lives and if you take a step back, you quickly realize none of that can actually be healthy. Our generation has the world at our fingertips, just look at the phones we carry! On an iphone you can be checking your facebook and twitter while surfing the internet and talking on the phone. It’s absolutely crazy! I guess the saying is true “too much of anything can be bad.”
Thanks for your honesty! We have become quite a crazy society and I worry about the future. Unless we are able to strike a balance with technology, deepen our commitment to healthy human relationships, and live in harmony with our environment, then I fear things will not be good for us. Recognizing you are engaged in the things you listed off is a great start, but equally important is what you decide to do going forward.
Cassandra Culkins says
Wonderful article. Highlighting actions such as watching reality television or social networking is really an eye-opening way of looking deeper into addiction, past the common views of only seeing drugs, gambling, and sex as addictive. As a college student I can really relate to the idea of the addiction to social-networks. I do not know very many people who do not have at least one social networking site that they use regularly, including my parents. Most of my peers check their Facebook’s at least once a day, not excluding me either, for I have it open in another tab. I had a teacher once who described the need to go on social network sites as a way to get validation. She described it like “Oh, I have a comment, someone loves me.” Or “I have a friend request, someone loves me”. Obviously these thoughts would not (necessarily) be conscious thoughts, but I often feel that this has some truth to it. Perhaps this is where the addiction comes in. Some have over 1,000 Facebook friends but it is likely that they have not had one meaningful conversation with even a quarter of them. Why do we need to validate ourselves with friend counts, and number of comments posted to our pages? I know a girl who is twenty years old and will text Friend A while in the room with Friend B, and text Friend B while in the room with Friend A. All the while mostly ignoring the person she is in the room with at the time. Where is the connection when we cannot socialize with the people we spend time with, why do we need to hide behind our computers all the while only grazing the surface of what a conversation should really detail? I don’t want things to be this way, but how do we change it?
We need to motivate real, social connections. To do so, people must acquire the developmental capacities to connect. Unfortunately, technology is robbing people of much needed interpersonal interaction where such capacities are developed. One solution is we need to begin using technology in a new way….
Nathaniel D. says
It’s scary to think that today we are faced with the addiction for prescription drugs. This wasn’t the case in the 60s where people were doing the illicit drugs. I can see the reason behind why people are addicted to prescription drugs. People are working longer hours and are dealing with a lot more stress than they did twenty years ago. As a result some turn to prescription drugs to help them cope the initial problem. This is only a quick solution and doesn’t get to the root of the problem (i.e. marriage problems, loss of job, death in a family).