I heard from several people the last two days about the connection between feeling inadequate at levels three and four and how that creates fertile ground for addiction.
I decided that it was a very interesting idea that deserved a deeper dive...so here we go.
All humans and some may argue animals have a base level need to belong and love. And all beings need to feel accomplished whether that be in their careers, financial wherewithal or at the top of the mating chain.
Feeling inadequate and insecure in these areas is certainly not something that is limited to alcoholics and drug addicts. And I think that it is frustration at any level that creates the need to disassociate or numb out. I don’t think it really matters whether you are frustrated by your lack of success in meeting basic needs, psychological needs or self-fulfillment needs, what I think the addict personality brings to the table is a level of immaturity in HOW they handle this frustration.
All people get frustrated when they are not able to gain some proficiency at life. And I think all people have a tendency to work hard (there is a continuum) to get over that frustration until they hit a certain point, then they just stop. The effort becomes too great for too little reward. So people in general turn away from the life task at hand and turn toward things to make them feel better: alcohol, drugs, food, sex, money, shopping, gambling, collecting, hoarding. I think we all reach out in this manner. If you take a quick look at our world, we do it all the time and are often the last to know it is an issue.
But with true alcoholics and addicts, there is also this allergy. This thing that happens to us and for us that doesn’t happen to everyone else who is seeking a way to numb out. Once we put the shit in our systems, our physiology takes over and says “
"YOU MUST GET MORE OF THIS RIGHT NOW AND THIS SHOULD BE YOUR ONLY GOAL IN LIFE. GETTING MORE. WORK REALLY FUCKING HARD TO GET MORE, EVERY DAY FOREVER.”
So we do.
Sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly, we realize that there is never enough. Alcoholics are born a quart low and once the phenomenon of craving kicks off, we will chase that missing quart into jails, institutions and the graveyard.
So I think addictive behavior is what we all do, all the time. Everyone I know does it, regardless of whether or not it is really a problem for them. What makes addicts different is in their ability to stop doing it. We can’t. Even when given compelling and good reasons to stop. We can’t. We won’t. We have minds that magically make our behavior not our fault. Instead, it is your fault, society’s fault. That guy over there in the red shirt's fault. Our parents’ fault. It comes with the addictive personality, the ability to blame everyone else and completely miss our part in it all.
I think that addiction is the natural result for all of us. When achievement and success in the levels becomes too hard or too stressful, I think we all turn toward things that make us feel temporarily better. The issue really comes in when we see that living life on life’s terms is really quite a lot of work. So we descend into finding ways to make ourselves feel better rather than just dealing with whatever shitshow life has dealt us and we forget that everything is always and forever shifting and changing. There is nothing in life that is permanent, not even life.
The addict can’t handle this most basic fact which really just means they are human. But addicts and alcoholics, seem to have this magic mind that makes them believe that somehow and someday they will be able to accomplish finding certainty and permanency in this life. And, in a weird way, they succeed. They are able through their addiction to remove all other options except death in the end. How is that for certainty?
For me, on my journey, what I realize is that my frustration and insecurity on the first four levels resulted in me making really immature decisions about my life. I thought as any adolescent does in absolutes because I was still young enough to be so arrogant. What failed to change for me was growth. When I picked up the bottle I stopped emotionally growing. So at 25, I had the maturational sophistication of a 12 year old. And this was who was making all my decisions for me. I have met people who get sober at 65 and it is no different for them. I can see the 12 or 13 year old that is still running their life.
So I think the pyramid has to be worked from the top down for us. We have to start off working on self fulfillment and helping others immediately so that we can go back and address all that we missed while we were fucking up our lives chasing shit that didn’t matter to protect and insulate our fragile egos.
What I have learned about myself and others is that we are all born with assets and defects. Where we end up is largely based on which ones we practice more. And that we lack the power to ever rid ourselves of either. It is like each asset/defect coin is weighted depending on how much time and energy each of us spends practicing the asset or defect. For me, I need some divine guidance to show me that I was wholly out of balance and due to my sincere commitment to the defect side of the coin, that fucking coin was getting so heavy on just the one side, I lacked the proper strength to ever right it. When I tried, I usually over shot the mark and ended up leaning too far in and then the coin just flipped right through the asset side and back over to defect with alarming speed. I need some universal will to help me cease the self destruction practice of defects long enough that the coin could be righted in a more balanced state. I need something greater than me to do that...
For me, what I needed (and I think what the top of pyramid is trying to teach us all) is that each of us by ourselves without some sort of divine intervention is forever going to get it wrong. But if we seek to align our will with universal will, all of the stuff that was so painfully hard before becomes much easier and when done over time, actually is joy producing.
I think the most important lesson I have ever learned is start wherever you are. Meet yourself right there. Be gentle with this person you are likely seeing for the first time. The war with yourself can be over. All that is required is surrender everything you think you know...allow the pyramid to become your greatest journey...learning who you are and loving yourself anyway.
Thank you Mr. Malsow...what a long, strange, beautifully painful path it has been.