Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Poisons in the right doses

Posted on December 03, 2006 by jimparedes

Humming in my Universe
Philippine Star
December 3, 2006

When we were young and immature, maturity seemed like some far-off place that we would never reach. When we were growing up, big people would dangle the word before us like it were some special state of being to aspire for, and when we attained it, doors would open for us. Maturity was the ticket to driving, drinking, having a serious relationship, earning our own money, living on our own and being left largely alone to be ourselves and make our own decisions.

Now that I have been legally an adult for many years, I realize that the descriptions of maturity forced upon me as a kid were both overrated and underrated.

As an adult, I miss being carefree and irresponsible. I miss being immature and reckless and sometimes I allow myself some latitude to be a bratty kid again who must have instant gratification.

I have largely controlled my gadget hunger for the ‘latest’ and the ‘best’. And I don’t always enjoy making decisions about my life. Sometimes, I just want fate to take over so I have someone to blame if things don’t work out.

I found this take on maturity in Ken Wilber’s writings. In his view, maturity has something to do with how well we can relate to, control, balance and handle the following topics: sex (including love, affection and relationships), food (and all other substances we use on our bodies), work (including ambitions and preoccupations), God (including religion, art and the unseen but ‘felt’ spiritual states) and money (including desire for all material things).

These are areas of human activity that every adult must deal with properly to be able to live functionally. In life, all these ingredients add up to a powerful, potent brew. Not being able to handle even just one of these well can lead to a lot of trouble, not to mention major dysfunctions in one’s life. But it happens more commonly than we think.

We aren’t always on top in our own lives. Who hasn’t ‘lost it’ even once? I am talking about being overwhelmed or shortchanged because of unreal expectations, deception, not being committed enough to a type of work or taking on too much work, not knowing how to handle money (like losing it over a bad purchase or a reckless investment), abusing one’s body with food and substances, indulging in liaisons we shouldn’t be in, etc. Yet there is no escaping these ‘poisons’ in our life.

Who was it who said about women—‘can’t live with them, can’t live without them’. This applies as well to all of the above ingredients. And even when you take vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, you will still have to deal with them—probably more so–since, as Carl Jung said, what we resist persists.

We must find some modus vivendi with these ‘poisons’ so that we can use them for our own ends and not be consumed by them. We must be skillful and know how much or how little to indulge in them. We must utilize them in dosages that are not only manageable but helpful and appropriate. When we do not, they can be addicting or even lethal.

We’ve all heard of people going down the deep end with sex and gambling addictions, people who are workaholics, bulimics and anorexics, alcoholics and drug junkies, people who are blinded by money, compulsive shoppers, people hooked on power and a distorted sense of superiority. All these are manifestations of mishandling or misuse of one or more of the above.

What about addiction to religion? Is there such a thing? Actually, we can be addicted to anything.

John Bradshaw describes addiction as anything or any activity we do repeatedly and obsessively with the end purpose of altering our moods to escape reality. This includes the use of substances, including food and drugs, that we take into our bodies with the same end in mind.

If we engage in an activity just to feel good and then use it repeatedly to escape our problems so that we become dysfunctional without it, then by Bradshaw’s definition, it is an addiction. I remember hearing a Jesuit compare religion to salt. One must have it in the right doses. Too much or too little is not good. I listened to him with some incredulity then. But he wasn’t the first to express a similar view. Karl Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar criticized Jesus’ followers as having ‘too much heaven on their minds’. Who was it who said that saints are hard to live with?

Moderation is the key. Basically, I think what the definition of addiction also implies that we do not really need anything from the outside to be happy, and that putting ourselves in a situation of needing and obsessing on anything or anyone to the point that we need a constant fix makes us lose our autonomy and opens us to the feeling of being incomplete. Then before we know it, we are hooked. We are not enough. Our happiness and reason for living has become dependent on something outside.

When we find ourselves in this situation, even the world will not be enough. We discover that we are devoid of creativity and the capacity to be happy just by being ourselves. When the Dalai Lama first came to know about anorexia, he was astounded that anyone could actually be like that. And then he cried realizing the suffering and self-loathing that anorexics go through.

The idea, I believe, is to indulge in these poisons with full attention and mindfulness. Because being mindful makes us aware when what we are doing is already bad for us. Mindlessness gets us hooked. Mindless actions can easily become addictions while conscious ones make for good practice. We become aware of the difference between our real needs and our wants.

Then we can begin to live a real life in the real world.

Write to jim_paredes@yahoo.com if you want privacy.

10 to “Poisons in the right doses”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Sir Jim. I’m new here. I have to agree with you. I’ve seen a lot of teenagers became drug addicts. I don’t know the real reason why they do that. A lot people are workaholics, shopaholics, and what I despise most are the Drug Addicts.

    I’m still a teenager, and my peers say I act too old for my age. I also get the same complains from my parents saying I keep myself lock up in my room with my books, pens, and paper. I have fear that I’ll become oone of those workaholic people. That’s why some of the teenagers my age call me ‘boring.’

    Back to your blog now. You mentioned that Judas told the followers of Jesus ‘too much heaven on their minds.’ (I was once a part of that play when I was 7, and I’m somehow ashamed I’m the only person below 18 there) Well, I think he thinks was too worried about what was happening around them, with the pharasees plotting and such, and the rest of the disciples were so focused on Jesus and heaven.

    I for one disagree with, though I often wonder is there an addiction to religion? By the way, I like yout blog entries, thinking of starting one for myself. And my favorite scholar in PDA is Panky. She’s pretty talented.

  2. sachiko says:

    what we resist persists…Jeez,a big,silly grin on my face on this one!

  3. Jim says:

    tricia–Yes Panky is really talented. Yes, we CAN be addicted to religion as well as anything if we are to believe John Bradshaw. He claimed he was since he was hiding behind his religiosity ( he was a priest) to cover his alcoholism.

    Sachiko–ha ha. I knew you would like that. As Truman Capote said it (paraphrased), ‘the only way to deal with temptation is to succumb to it.’

  4. Neve says:

    Hi, Sir Jim! Wala lang. Gusto ko lang po i-share na nakita ko po sila MICHELLE, JOAN, AND GEMMA at Promenade in Greenhills last Friday, and they were sooooooo nice! I had pictures with them. Basta po, they were very amiable, everybody almost crowded them but they remained very friendly. So admirable. I just wanna say, you’re great! I mean, you’ve done so well honing and molding these ladies into better individuals. I’m sure they’re gonna go even farther than they and anyone could ever imagine. And that’s because of you and the rest of the teachers! Ang galing-galing niyo po! 🙂

  5. Bass Poet says:

    Hi Sir Jim,

    Wow, this is the second time in a row you’ve strike a deep chord in my heart. I’ve been dealing with addictions on a daily basis at my work with the homeless men in Toronto. Addictions can come in any forms, shapes and sizes affecting every aspects of a person’s life. What fascinates me about addictions is that society in general tends to focus more on alcohol or substance abuse addictions with a medical, psycho-social, economic and political approach. I believe that any addictions are to fill in or substitute a void in your soul. The solution to every addiction is holistically a spiritual solution…have been and will always will be. As you said earlier in your blog, we are born in a perfect state. All we have to do is to acknowledge and practice our perfection.

    Your books, Sir Jim have been my constant Bible and spiritual source for my homeless clients. They love the Modern Day Beatitudes from your book, “Between Blinks”. Sir Jim I wish one day you will see the smile in my clients faces. Your positive ness is extremely infectious.

    I hope one day people with addictions would all be addictions free. All I can say is any singular experience of human joy, happiness, and support and comfort ness from my homeless clients is a fresh starting point towards recovery.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Sir Jim, this article is really good reading, I can only agree that moderation is key to living life.

    Unfortunately, I just read some lines of the Qohelet (or Ecclesiastes) that
    gives a pessimistic overview of life: its meaninglessness.

    Please keep on writing and I’ll keep on reading. TREU

  7. Edong says:

    i know of one addiction that is healthy – addiction to your blog sir Jim… 🙂

  8. Anonymous says:

    …but what about if someone gets addicted to loneliness. or worse, emotional pain?

  9. rose says:

    yaaaa!! pag tumatanda tayo gusto nating maging bata ulit.. ang mga bata naman nagmamadaling tumanda.. !! hayy!!

  10. Jim says:

    treu–glad you enjoyed it.

    edong–hmmm… If you suffer withdrawal symptoms if I stop writing, then it is toxic. ha ha

    colord purple–the thing of it is, some people actyually do get addicted to melancholia. It is strangely enough, a comfort zone of sorts.

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