The original meaning of the word belief relates to the notions of love and desire. Any break up with a loved one, even if the relationship doesn't serve you anymore, is a very unsettling event. Usually it takes time to make up your mind, sometimes you need to reach the rock bottom where no other option is possible. We know that something isn't good for us but we can't stop doing it no matter what. We keep on believing because we don’t see another option, fearful of the unknown and let's admit - there is also a bit of pleasure in self-destructive behaviour. The mechanism of such a behaviour can be compared to an addiction and is applied to any type of relationships we find ourselves in. Whether it is a person, or an object or an idea or belief system. No fixed relationship can escape the danger of becoming an addictive comfort zone, an excuse for non-action that cultivates laziness and fatigue. Without ability to move and wonder, eventually we are bound to be caught into a spiral of addiction defined by Marc Lewis as: “a learned package of desires, actions and expectancies that keep leading back to the same reward”.
I am an addict with years of experience, mastering addictive behaviours in different fields. From physical like picking at dry skin around my cuticles, to more serious psychological obsessive behaviours I explored the full rainbow of immediate reward gratification principles. Some of the addictions left me with scars, some stayed and we became friends, some come and go, never ending movement through like. I know the feeling when I become rigid, and obsessed with one thing, my world narrows and as the world narrows, self becomes even more rigid. Recently I discovered that this vicious circle has a name, it's called the process of reciprocal narrowing starts to happen. Simply put, instead of noticing things around me, I focus on what is in front of my nose losing the grip of reality. The more time passes the more shrinking happens and the less options to get a reward is accessible to our attention. Gradually other rewards fade in availability. They evaporate. But the desire is still there. To make things even more complicated on top of that, the fewer options remain, the more fear, anxiety and entrapment join the party. In order to satisfy the desire we choose safety and familiarity confirming its effectiveness again and again, learning ourselves and forming a habit. But by doing so we are limiting the opportunities for pleasure, fulfilment, new experiences and most importantly cutting our abilities for self-actualization aimed at cultivation of meaning. The difficult part is how to raise our heads and look around and then reverse the process of narrowing turning it into expansion.
The good news is that, if, we can close down we also can open up. And perhaps this realization changed my personal relationship with my own addictions. I shifted perspective and could experience expansion rather than closure, it was a right moment when I felt strong to do the salto. That’s when everything flipped and turned upside down from self-constructive practice rather than self-destructive behaviour.
On a pure physiological level our brains don't care how we get our dopamine and serotonin candys of pleasure. But looking at ourselves as a network of neurons embered in flesh is rather reductionist. The opportunities for care, belonging, knowledge or self esteem can be found everywhere around us, they are ready to use at all times. Shrinkage, defensiveness and withdrawal limit our resources to engage with the wild beauty of reality. Keeping us from realizing that we already live in the candy shop. Look around, can you see it?