[Written around 2004.]
The root of addiction is unresolved emotional trauma. When traumas, be they extreme or mild, are not resolved they leave behind a slew of painful, unprocessed feelings in the unconscious. These feelings are never content to remain silent and instead clamor for release. When they express themselves openly and without disguise this activates the healing process. The healing process, however, is so painful and potentially discombobulating that very few people, unless they have a great deal of mature external support and internal self-understanding, can dare undertake it.
But a person’s inability to heal does not stop his unresolved feelings from needing to express themselves. Lacking healing as an option, these feelings instead express themselves as symptoms, of which addiction is just one subset. The purpose of addiction is to divert and assuage painful, upwelling feelings into a seemingly comfortable alternative without allowing them to become conscious. In the short-run this feels much more placid than healing, but in the long-run it only prolongs underground psychic misery and adds new consequences to an already troubled life.
The scope of addictions vary in their intensity, side effects, and degree of societal acceptance. Some are clearly weighted toward the conventionally negative end of the spectrum, like heroin addiction or gasoline-sniffing. Others, like workaholism or membership in a cult or cult-like group, are not so definitively negative in society’s eyes, and can receive societal approval and even perks. And some addictions, like having children and being in unenlightened relationships, are so pervasive, accepted, and even lauded that they are rarely even considered addictions at all – and thus form the backbone of society as we know it.
At present our society, and most of our society’s healers, treat conventionally-accepted addiction by simply helping “sufferers” find milder substitute addictions or other milder symptoms. Alcoholics Anonymous is a great example of this: its members are encouraged and even pressured to learn dissociative techniques whereby they can replace their alcohol addiction for the addiction of membership in the cult of AA. Although this might make life more consciously peaceful for the addict – who has to admit that he remains an addict in order to maintain his membership in AA, which suggests that at least AA is honest in that realm – it falls far short of helping the human race optimally evolve, or helping the individual find any deeper or more honest peace. There is no substitute for the resolution of trauma, and symptom or addiction replacement is nothing but a substitute. Emotional wounds that are not grieved poison the psyche, poison the species, and ultimately poison our world.