So, I haven’t been able to post here as much as I’d like (especially on the monster Ego thread I created–who knew the can of worms I was opening?). However, the topic of addiction has been on my mind lately, especially given I live in Chicago.
Anyone who takes the train / bus or just walks down a sidewalk downtown will notice that at least 50% of people are staring at their phones. In fact, it actually creates problems on the train when you’re getting off at busy stops because the phone-starers are “zombie walking” out the train and not really watching where they are going (I’ll own my massive frustration with that particular behavior!).
If this isn’t addictive behavior, I’m not really sure what is. Does Western society have an addiction problem? I think we do, and not just with our phones. I used to live in Wisconsin, and–sadly–alcoholism seems to be a badge of honor (I even had friends who would brag about how well they could drive under the influence, or about the strength of their hangover after a particularly boozy night). Everywhere I turn, it seems as though people are trying to disconnect from reality in some sort of unhealthy, addictive way. I even see this in the spiritual sense–check out some of the work by John Bradshaw and Robert Augustus, where they cover people who use religion to escape reality. I have met people who use their spirituality to escape reality, and it’s very sad to witness.
Now, escaping reality isn’t necessarily a bad thing; sometimes we need to collect ourselves away from the general messiness of the world. But our current Western society seems to be designed to make us escape reality. In The Hacking of the American Mind, Robert Lustig talks about how corporations create “dopamine experiences” because they want us to be addicted to their product (he’s especially harsh on Facebook for this). The challenge is these addictions do not lead to happiness, and actually make it harder to experience happiness because excess dopamine shuts down our serotonin receptors, which are directly responsible for happiness.
I normally would ask at this point what we feel the Integral approach would be to the addiction situation, but part of the problem is that I think the addiction situation is blocking the further evolution of society toward Integral. How do we heal addictive tendencies occurring for such a large population of people? I see at least 50% or more folks zombie walking off the train with their heads buried in their phones; heck, I even see Chicago tourists on my walks downtown staring at their phones rather than the amazing parks and architecture. And I haven’t even started on the Netflix & binge phenomenon (of which I have also indulged, if I’m being transparent).
I have seen 12 step provide positive results in some cases, but in many instances it replaces one addiction for another (the latter being spiritual addiction). A lot of people get stuck in 12 step, and while it’s good that they’re not drinking any longer, I don’t see them progressing past the Blue/Amber level of their 12 step group. They become obsessed with the Big Book and their community.
Anyway, I certainly don’t see solutions at this time (even Integral ones), which is why I’m posting now. Thoughts?