No cookies. No chocolates. Even the hidden stack of wafers and nuts is finished.
Exasperated, you search the back of your bare cupboards and finally locate the ingredients for a cheese sandwich. What is at the root of your urge? A part of the answer lies in the brain’s reward system. This network of neurons, or nerve cells, is activated when we perform functions that help us stay alive, such as eating. It provides rewards and associated pleasurable feelings, which lead us to repeat the activity.
Scientists are researching the brain areas that release neurotransmitters called dopamine. Normally, when the brain experiences something pleasurable, it releases more dopamine.
Dopamine can be released not only by gross addictive substances like alcohol, or tobacco or caffeine; it can also be released by psychological addictions.
Researchers have found that most abused drugs stimulate our brain system, and can even induce greater feelings of pleasure than natural functions. Addictions do not depend on the thing people are addicted to; it has something to do with the sensations in the brain, and that typical human desire to be unconscious. Yes, unconscious!
Life is so painful that a thick layer of unconsciousness is needed between us and the daily experiences of life – as a shock absorber. The latest data from inside the brain may offer a better idea of how the brain monitors its behaviour and how that monitoring system might go askew.
Neuroscientists Joshua Berke of Boston University and Steven Hyman of the National Institute of Mental Health, US, have found that a major part of addiction may be governed by the same brain systems involved in normal learning and memory. The fact is: researchers have always been fascinated by the complex structure of the brain, but in spite of more than half-a-century of research, they have not been able to nail down the cause of addiction and find a cure for it. The answer, perhaps, is not hidden in the brain. The brain is just a machine; it uses the mind as an apparatus to function in the world. And, there is consciousness behind this operation which makes the brain and the mind come alive. What we know about the brain, at this stage, is infinitesimal.
But, who knows, in the future, scientists may find a different kind of dopamine, the source of inner pleasure which is generated by meditation, relaxation and the joy of solitude!
Mystics have, of course, experienced it and called it the inner juice, or rasa.
The remedy for all kinds of addictions may sound very simple, but it is effective. The remedy is active meditations. Active meditations are scientific methods devised by Osho for the modern man. They involve breathing, dancing, catharsis, and sounds – all integral parts of their structure. After you go through these exercises, silence and relaxation follow like a shadow. Once you find your own reservoir you need not hanker after a boost of energy through addictions.
According to Osho, all our compulsive habits are addictions. Whether it be addiction to learning, or misery, psychoanalysis, or spiritual experiences.
Relationships comprise a major part of our addictions. It is useful to watch closely whether you are addicted to your girlfriend or boyfriend, or you really love them.
It is only when you watch and act will you come to a deeper understanding of addiction.
Watch & act
What is most needed to beat addiction is creating a distance between our desires and ourselves. This distance can be created by being watchful in our activities. After doing active meditations, it is easier to watch the mind and bring more consciousness in small acts. The more we become conscious, the more happiness springs from within. It makes us self-sufficient. The constant need of the other and the outer is finished.
An unconscious mind keeps clinging to things outside of itself instead of finding the innate source of strength inside. To an average human being, it seems to be a natural tendency to cling to anything it experiences. With meditation one can be a master of oneself, and not necessarily be a slave of one’s habits. When the brain works as a whole, it imparts deeper coherence and synchronicity.
The remedy to each and every clinging is: watch with relaxed awareness. A watcher is always distanced from what it watches. Watching is something like standing in the balcony, and observing the traffic on the road.
As the watching grows roots, you are centred within and detached from the outside. Addiction ceases to have any hold over you, sooner than later.
What happens when food [or, whatever the addiction] becomes your salvation, and then your enemy? The psychological effects of addiction can be divided into those that relate to feeling and those that relate to thinking.
These thoughts and feelings may bear a close relationship with addictive behaviours that can result from, and/or lead to, thoughts and feelings.
For instance, an addicted person may avoid others. This leads to a feeling of isolation. S/he may also feel ashamed of feeling unable to cope with the addiction that’s causing this. To deal with the feeling, s/he takes more of the drug. The relationship with the drug excludes people, so people avoid the addict. The result is increased isolation – a vicious circle.
It’s important to realise that the psychological effects of addiction aren’t only experienced by the person who misuses, but also by those who are personally involved with them, such as families, friends, and colleagues.
Behaviours tend to reflect the consuming relationship with the “drug of choice.” Addicts often postpone positive change and facing up to reality. They are usually self-defeating. In many instances, behaviour is simply about avoiding the discomfort of withdrawal. Typical behaviours include:
- Avoiding – isolating and not taking responsibility
- Betrayal – anyone can be sacrificed because the drug comes first
- Controlling – including various kinds of manipulation and even violence
- Deceiving self and others to keep ahead of the consequences.