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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Role of Defiance in Breaking Addictions

Before a lifestyle change about six weeks ago, I was addicted to overeating.  On a typical evening some hours after supper, I would sit before the TV and eat a whole box of high caloric crackers or bag of chips.  An apparent motive for this behavior was that it “felt good.”  I was getting pleasure from the experience of eating food.  But, a more challenging question is: what was the implicit reason supporting the explicit one?  The consumption of food in excessive and unhealthy amounts must be seen as a symbolic act.  The basic question is, not what did the practice feel like as much as what did it mean?  What was basically driving the behavior?  On this most fundamental level, eating badly symbolized blatant rebellion—I could willfully act against all common sense and my doctor’s advice and warnings to boot.  I could take charge and not accept things as they are.  The key to a healthy lifestyle change is the redrafting of meaning—becoming defiantly in charge in a different way.  Both stances are underwritten by blatant “highs” based on defiance—one thrills to defiance of facts and warnings, the other thrills to defiance of delusions and falsehood.  Both are strong affirmations of personal will and thus bring pleasure.  It is life changing when it can be seen that we are not reluctantly caving in to facts and reality, but deliberately embracing them—not weakly accepting truth, but defiantly doing so.  The end of addiction occurs when we stop rebelling against reality and start rebelling against delusion and phoniness—when positive lifestyle changes can bring the thrill of defiance as surely as negative ones. 

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