Just day-to-day coping in the global narrative of a community gone mad requires resources, and lots and lots of resourcefulness, and lots and lots of delusional behavior on the part of most of us. Unfortunately, we are a very resourceful species and that is just the problem. Confused? Well then let’s sort this all out.
You are by now as a reader of the essays and articles in the Simple Reality Project, familiar with the fundamental behaviors or “energy centers” of the false-self survival strategy, namely security, sensation and power. Humanity’s self-destructive behaviors are largely centered in what we have called the pursuit of plenty, pleasure and power. The sensation energy center (pleasure) is also the site of our addictive behaviors. There are basically two types of addictions, substance addictions and process addictions. Examples of each are (1) addiction to the substances tobacco or alcohol and (2) addiction to the activity or process of gambling. The most fundamental understanding of addiction, and we are all addicts, is that we are using the behavior to distract ourselves from our suffering. Do these behaviors work?
Tony Schwartz, the chief executive of The Energy Project, a consulting firm and author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working explains why he thinks addictions are a problem. “Addiction is the relentless pull to a substance or an activity [process] that becomes so compulsive it ultimately interferes with everyday life. By that definition, nearly everyone I know is addicted in some measure to the Internet. It has arguably replaced work itself as our most socially sanctioned addiction.”[i] Hence, our essay title, “Another Escape.” Does this behavior work?
We all have some idea of the problems caused by the “old” addictive behaviors and they have been devastatingly destructive to our human community. We don’t need any more distractions but unfortunately, we are faced with one that is just revealing itself. “According to one recent survey, the average white-collar worker spends about six hours a day on email. That doesn’t count time online spent shopping, searching or keeping up with social media.”[ii]
We can coin a new word for this latest and most widespread addiction— “screening” —not watching movies (its current meaning) but hooked by all sizes of screens with a variety of content. Screening takes place at work, at home, in our cars, on the street or subway, on planes, virtually anywhere we can take a smart phone. It is our most socially and legally accepted self-destructive behavior. Screening is a process addiction of as yet unknown power. We can begin to feel the influence of this ubiquitous compulsive behavior when we realize it is created by online shopping, socializing, gaming, learning, pornography, crime, etc. The possibilities seem endless, our false self is salivating.
What is the explanation that will help us understand this latest distraction? “The brain’s craving for novelty, constant stimulation and immediate gratification creates something called a “compulsion loop.” Like lab rats and drug addicts, we need more and more to get the same effect.”[iii] Notice that the modern intellect still doesn’t have the deeper insight that our suffering drives our flight into self-destructive distractions.
Tony Schwartz had to admit that he had become addicted to the Internet. This realization is no small thing since as all addicts know, the first of the “Twelve Steps” is that my life is out of control, I am powerless and I need help. Many addicts are not able to admit they have a problem because they don’t want to give up a central tactic of their false-self survival strategy, they don’t want to change what they have convinced themselves is working. “Denial is any addict’s first defense. No obstacle to recovery is greater than the infinite capacity to rationalize our compulsive behaviors.”[iv]
Back to our fundamental question, do our strategies, our addictive behaviors work to distract us from our suffering? They may seem to and “seem” is the operative and deadly word here. Ultimately, most of us come to realize that our choice has led to an addiction and in fact has made our behavior more self-destructive, our addiction worse, and in many cases caused us to add other addictions and even elbowed aside some of our formerly healthy behaviors. “Beyond spending too much time on the Internet and a diminishing attention span, I wasn’t eating the right foods. I drank way too much diet soda. I was having a second cocktail at night too frequently. I was no longer exercising every day, as I had nearly all my life.”[v]
Schwartz eventually began to achieve a healthier balance between his online and offline life. Simplicity, solitude and silence form the foundation of his approach as they will for any addict who wants to become “sober” by tackling an array of addictions one at a time.
Ultimately, our intuition, our True-self, will support us in arriving at the master practice of developing the will to choose response over reaction moment by moment, day by day. Living in the present moment is the only solution that brings a deep satisfaction and removes the cravings and aversions that tempt us to seek distractions in the first place. No distractions will ever work, nor do we need them.
Don’t believe the story that prevails on our planet today. Turn within for the Truth and Beauty of an authentic and satisfying experience of life.
[i] Schwartz, Tony. “Addicted to Distraction.” The New York Times. November 29, 2015, page 3.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry.