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Working With Addiction: Redefining The Word

Addiction can be a source of deep misery. You can name the big life destroying ones pretty easily: gambling, alcohol, and all the various chemicals.  However, we very often don’t have a framework of reference to speak about the process of how addictions form. What we are missing is more detail about that process so we can become proactive in our own lives and nip addictions in the bud before they grow out of control.

The discussion on addiction is primarily one of habits and the loss of our self control to those habits. A quick scan through all of the online dictionaries defining addiction will find descriptive words such as need, disease, compulsion, and dependence. However, addiction should never be considered a static condition, but part of a continuum of how intensely a habit has control over us. In this vein, by changing our focus from simply defining addiction to seeing addiction as part of a process we can gain enough understanding to make decisions for greater health and happiness.

The model of a continuum grades habits by the strength of momentum and intensity they hold over us. From the least to the greatest momentum they are: subtle impressions, actions, habits, addictions, and compulsions. And while we don’t have time to define all of the subtle changes as a habit moves from each point to the next, it is important for us to define the edges of the addiction phase. A habit becomes an addiction when we think about that habit even when we are not doing it.  Its that simple. The point on the continuum that begins an addiction is when the pull begins to take us away from what we are currently doing.  Habits are just actions we do regularly while addictions pull us away from the present moment. Addictions become compulsions when we no longer have the willpower to stop ourselves from doing them. Even if we hate it, or want to stop, or feel guilty about doing it, our habits have taken on such a devastatingly large momentum that we cannot stop them. Compulsion is a very devastating space that hurts us because of this loss of control, but also because the compulsion propels towards its own goals and disregards all the rest.

Caution: We all have addictions, habits, actions and probably a few compulsions. By using the model of a continuum I hope that it is easier for us all to own a few more of our skeletons.

Remember: All habits flow along this continuum. Coming to know yourself and your habits before they become addictions is a powerful tool for health and happiness.

 

 

 

Reflective Analysis: Understanding the Theory

One of the tenants of holistic health states that we are whole.  We are one unit, all together, with all of our specialized functions and diverse aspects of mind/body/spirit connecting and overlapping. However, the ‘whole’ of us is complicated beyond the capacity for us to know completely.  It’s much like astronomers telling us that there is a unique galaxy in the heavens for every grain of sand on a beach.  How can we possibly comprehend such vastness or complexity within ourselves? Well, the good news is that, just as we really don’t need to know the nature of the 75th galaxy to the right of mars, we can get by without all the overwhelming details of our own physiology and mind. While we don’t need to know all the details, it is helpful to know enough about our inner complexities to stay healthy and to keep us in harmony with our nature. But even that much requires methods of analysis that summarize our complexities and give us insights into our health that are accessible. One such method of summarization is called reflective analysis.

So what does this reflection idea really mean? It’s pretty simple. You are one whole unit. What happens to any part of you, happens to all of you.  If an emotional stress happens to you, say you have angry words with someone, then that emotional event sends changes through all of you.  And while the anger may originate as an emotion, it quickly becomes a physiological response: hormones released and increased heart rate etc…. Those words sit in your mind causing reactive thoughts and associations that change our future behaviors. Thus, I can find the emotional stress of the fight reflected throughout all of you – in your physical body, in your emotional space, and in your thoughts. You are one complete whole and thus the altercation happened to all parts of you.

Reflective analysis takes a cumulative snapshot of all the things happening to you and allows us to see reflections of those events in one part of the body. For example, by mastering the details of how different stresses send reflections onto your tongue, you can use tongue analysis to gain insight into the state of your health. The physical appearance of your tongue can tell you about the state of your organs.  You can see the health of your organs if you study what the reflections mean! This makes deep insights about our health as accessible as sticking your tongue out and looking into the mirror.

Some parts of our bodies are better at showing reflections than others. Thus, systems of analysis were only developed for those body parts that impart information easily. Next week we will explore some details of tongue and facial analysis to give more specific examples of how reflections are used.