Being with.... addictions and beyond

It is easy to become mired in the present moment and lose perspective on what this moment means in the context of a larger timeline.  But stepping back and looking at our present situation in the bigger picture offers the opportunity to see trends of what has happened and potentially forecast what will happen.

Right now we live in a very peculiar time.  The information age has offered access to so much data and content that we are swimming in brain fodder all the time.  This is not without its consequences of course and still, the level of connectivity offers opportunities for global advancement and unification that simply were not available ten to fifteen years ago.

All of this comes none too soon. Individually and globally we are crying out for solutions to fundamental issues and an ability to come into right relationship with our own lives and our environment (whether social, cultural or biological).

We are in the age of exponential growth.  We have a larger population than ever before in human history, computing power, speed and ability is racing its way towards what futurist Ray Kurzweil calls “convergence” – the time where man and machine become integrally linked and inseparable.

And still we have epidemics, addiction being one.  Addiction is an issue that is continues to plague the human experience. Fundamentally, addiction occurs when a person becomes biochemically dependent on a substance or activity and the chemical “hooks” in the substance make them deeply crave it.  Or so we thought.  That has been the classical view of addiction – the drug is the problem.  That view is a bit myopic, it looks at the drug and the user in a vacuum, which is also what the treatments tend to do, isolate addicts. 

The theory that substances are so addictive comes from a study where rats were left in a small cage with two water bottles, one with an addictive substance and the other was pure water.  In this experiment the rat will drink from the water with the substance in it until the substance kills the rat.

In the 1970’s Bruce Alexander, a psychology professor in Vancouver critiqued this experiment and ran his own.  He theorized that without social interaction and environmental stimulation the rats would tend to seek stimulation in the addictive substance. 

In response Alexander built “Rat Park”.  Rat Park had lots of social interaction with other rats, the ability to play with balls, lots of space and varied places.  What Alexander found is that when the rats were happy and socializing they consumed just a quarter of the water with addictive substances and none died.  

In another area we are seeing a trend of healthcare that is steadily declining in the United States.  In 2013 The Atlantic reported on a studythat found the United States was last in the industrialized world in preventable deaths.  These deaths may occur due to drugs, car accidents, or disease.  America also had the highest likelihood of a child dying before age 5 and of mothers dying due to complications with childbirth.  

In data from the 2002 (most recent year available) the World Health Organization reported that suicide rates are up 60% in the last 45 years.  If that is not an indication that we are not handling our environment then what is?

When we pull back and view all of these factors from a wider time lens we can see the convergence of many things all happening at the same time.  Life is getting faster, the world is getting smaller, stress is increasing.  The amount of evolution that happens in a matter of years now would have taken generations or lifetimes in the past.

We are being called to be a more aware, responsible, dynamic and integrated global society.  This is going to demand individual resourcefulness as well as communal resourcefulness.  Reorganizational Healing is one lever that can be used to help bridge this gap between where we are and where we must be as individuals and as a global culture.  

The inherent underlying issue here is a state of being energy poor.  In addiction for example, a person that becomes addicted to a substance is really addicted to checking out of their own experience.  The substance is just a useful and exceptionally efficient biochemical mechanism for doing that.  But this fundamental ability to “be with” the vexing situation and allowing it to transform their sense of who they believe to be is missing.  

The American health crisis is also stemming from the same fundamental issue.  People overwork to prop up their sense of self.  Achievement, safety, identity and externally derived value become their drugs.  They overeat to suppress the stress of a work, family, social or other relationship issue they cannot fully be with.  They check out with electronics, alcohol, entertainment or even exercise – all as a way to run from the “being with”.  

As our global culture becomes more unified and we move into what Ken Wilber calls “the second tier” of consciousness, the ability to be with any situation in life is going to be critical.  There is no electronic device, superfood, prescription, or vacation that will give you that, it is a fundamental life skill that must be developed.  This being with is the cornerstone of Dr. Epstein’s AAA.    The awareness that something is happening that is leading us to want to check out, the acknowledging that it is true, that it is now and that we are in it and the acceptance of that being our reality in the moment.  This is formula for being with.  One of the real gifts of this process is that the stressful event will transform our sense of self.  This fundamental change also exists in all the Stages of Healing, we come to embody the rhythm of the energy we are encountering in that very moment, understand how to match it and let the resistance collapse.

In Stage One we learn to be with suffering, Stage 5 allows us to be with multiple rhythms as they merge and Stage 11 allows us to be with all things, each Stage gives us a new tool for allowing “what is” to truly be, without pretense, without fear, without pushing away.  

Energy Richness is the cornerstone to transforming any less than ideal situation.  The ability to “be with” created in AAA, SRI and the rest of the Epstein Technologies offer a critical missing link that is natural solution to many of the world’s issues that have been brought about by a racing forward without an integrated ability to bring the “self” along.

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