Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Addiction and Comedy: Both Stem from Incomplete Stories

Addiction and comedy have one thing in common-- they derive from incomplete painful emotional stories.

Some would call them ‘unresolved feelings,’ but that places too much emphasis on just the internal emotion. There is an event that takes place which triggers the emotions I am referring to. The activating event is almost always a loss of some kind; a death, divorce, destroyed reputation, unfulfilled expectation, betrayal and many other kinds of losses, real or imagined. Our emotional reaction is unpleasant. We are sad, angry, hurt, confused, depressed, etc. Rather than move through the emotional story, we find ways to avoid the pain. Substance abuse [including sex, money, religion and fame] and humor are great ways to avoid moving through the experiences.

After we experience any painful event in life, a story begins. The human mind is constructed to create stories. We remember. We review. We replay the images over and over. That reactivates the pain; this is called resentment, which literally means to ‘feel again.’ What we do not realize is that there must also be a middle and an end to the emotional story. Often telling jokes, being sarcastic and getting loaded are ways to postpone "feeling through" the event in order to complete the story. The more adept you are, the easier it is to postpone the process. Usually the more educated and intelligent person can postpone the process the longest. They take great pride in being able to control their emotions and avoid the story.

But the human being is made to get back, eventually, to the story. And if we live long enough, we will. But why? Why do we have these emotions? Why are there tragic events that trigger them? Why so many painful events in life? Why does the mind review and create stories? Is it just an evolutionary fluke? Why do mice and roses have such predictable lives, and we humans lives of so much drama, pain and chaos? There must be a reason for such a process. I think there is, and that it looks something like this:

HHumans are making an invisible self, a 'soul' if you will. Our bodies and the material world in general comprise a kind of embryo or womb for souls. The soul is parasitic in this sense, living off of the experiences of the body and mind as they interact with the various phenomena of the external world. That is why we often feel like an observer in our thoughts, and especially dreams. At moments we can actually watch our selves as detached witnesses. We may even speak to our self, “You are such an idiot!” Or, “Why did you do that?” Etc.

The invisible soul is being made by all of life’s events. Just as the body feeds on physical food, the soul feeds on psychic or emotional food. We must ingest, digest and metabolize the various emotional meals we are served through life. That is why we love stories. They are emotional meals that feed our souls. That is why Jesus said that a human doesn't live by bread alone, but by words or stories, and some stories are more effective than others.

The human body and mind are clearly made to experience pain. We have nerve endings and innate mental categories for anxiety, grief, fear and confusion. We get depressed and disappointed. From a strictly evolutionary point of view, these seem to be useless and debilitating features of the human species. Cattle and trees seem better equipped to deal with the difficulties of earthly existence, largely oblivious to pain and suffering. But, these pains, specifically human emotional pains, make souls. Like a freshly sprouted pumpkin, a human must detach from the life sustaining umbilical cord, be stabbed in the head, opened up at the top by a sharp knife, hollowed out and made ready for a light in order to become a jackolantern. The analogy of the butterfly is often used to exemplify human transformation, and for good reason. The worm uses the material of its existence to form a cocoon, hibernate in the suffocating chamber and transform into a very different creature. The Greek word psyche means night moth or butterfly. The Greeks understood that the psyche, or soul, was being made through the events of life.

Addiction and comedy have one thing in common-- they derive from incomplete painful emotional stories. The story must be completed in order to progress. If the addiction and sarcasm are still enjoyable, by all means have fun! These are part of soul making too. Addictions and chronic humor not only alleviate the pain, they simultaneously aggravate the pain. After each delusional diversionary attempt, another layer of emotional pain is added to the already unresolved pathology. Eventually, a person will go irreparably insane, die or complete his/her story. There is no right way to do this except to resume where the initial activating event took place. Find someone you trust, and tell the middle part of your story, feel the emotions that were set aside. Many find this by going back to or joining a religious organization, some find it in 12 step work, some in therapy, some with a trusted friend. The important thing is to resume and complete the story.

Just a quick word about religion and therapy: Sometimes religion and therapy become a substitute for ones story, or teach a person 'helpful' ways to 'transcend' or control their story. These are really just more forms of avoidance. Both religion and therapy can be of much assistance if they help guide one through his/her own emotional narrative experience, eventually uniting the sublimated raw unconscious psychic material with the conscious soul.

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