“To thine own self be true.” — William Shakespeare
We are all pleasure seekers. There are pleasure centers located in the human brain which, when activated, are associated with feelings of euphoria. This happens to us every day. During the day we go through naturally occurring periods when we feel comfortable, secure, happy, and fulfilled-and this is followed by periods when more negative feelings are aroused (anxiety, insecurity, discomfort). We humans are highly reinforced by positive feelings of pleasure. We want to experience euphoria again and again. Fortunately, that’s not all there is to life.
Addictive behavior can be seen as an attempt to control our daily cycles by maximizing pleasurable feelings and decreasing the frequency of negative feelings. At first we may even succeed for a while in doing this, but our basic nature has a way of catching up with us. We probably need our down phases of the daily cycle as much as we need the more positive ones-if for no other reason than that the negative parts of the cycle help us appreciate the positive ones even more. Our negative experiences strengthen us and help us to become survivors. They assist us in learning wisdom and integrity. There are few things in nature which are not cyclical. Attempts to find constant pleasure through addictive behavior are usually futile. The negative phase always revisits us and brings balance back into our lives. There is no escaping our basic nature. And there is no escaping the escalation and debilitating results of the quest for constant pleasure. In future articles I will continue on this vein, adding a deeper dimension to the parts of us we feel we need to medicate, verses work with.