"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Addiction - Universal, Versatile, And Unsurprising; We Are All Addicted To Something

Lindsey Fowler had what the psychiatrist called ‘an unhealthy dependence on his mother’ – in a somewhat dated term, ‘tied to her apron strings’ seemingly forever.  As much as the psychiatrist tried to ‘unpack’ the relationship, to disaggregate oppressive motherlove from filial dependency, he could only come up with a ‘practical paradigm’.  Whatever the dynamics between mother and son, Lindsey would have to put his early years past him and move on. Easier said than done, of course, and Lindsey’s doctor, a committed, lifelong Freudian, found it hard to put his patient aside so easily.  The Master himself had suggested that finding the kernel of truth amidst a thicket of emotional brambles and layers of subterranean caves and crevasses would take a lifetime’s work.

Sons and Lovers, D.H. Lawrence’s first important book, a thinly-disguised autobiography of the author’s unhealthy relationship with his mother, is all about mutual dependency.  Paul Morel could no sooner escape from his mother’s clutches than she could resist extending them.  They needed each other, could not do without each other, and were willing partners in a destructive relationship.  Paul was addicted to his mother, and no matter how much Paul resented her calculating and selfish domineering of him, his brothers, and his father, he could not break away.

Image result for images d.h.lawrence

As with all addictions, the drug of choice is pleasurable and satisfying; and while the addict may understand how unhealthy and ultimately destructive his dependency is, he cannot resist.  For motherlove to be a drug, it had to be intimate, sexual, dominant, and essential.  Even Mrs. Morel’s stifling, choking, and complete selfishness was never considered as such by the naïve, persistently immature Paul.   For him his mother was not only his parent, not only responsible for his birth and upbringing, but somehow psychically irreplaceable – the sine qua non of his life.

As he grew older, Paul tried to compromise his growing sexual interest in women with his complete dependency on his mother.  There might be a way, he reasoned, to accommodate the two – to satisfy his mother’s insatiable demands and to work out a more mutual relationship with others. 

His addiction was deep-seated, established from his first suckling and even before – some random combination of bits of ancestral genes gave him a proclivity to addiction.  Neither one of his brothers suffered from the same affliction, and each were quite easily able to make their own way.  As much as their mother tried to keep them closeted and close, she was unable to rein in children who were so temperamentally and  biologically different.

Coriolanus is a play about the same perversion of mother love.  Volumnia, Coriolanus’ mother has even more control over a son who is not simply, like Paul Morel, one of many but one of Rome’s anointed, a military hero, and destined for imperial greatness.  Coriolanus is addicted to his mother, dependent on her love, her support, and her loyalty; but because of his addiction he cannot see her manipulative devices, self-centered and selfish motives, and willingness to see him die if it means her success.

Image result for images poster coriolanus movie

Other men of Lindsey’s generation were addicted to other less personally emotional things – movements, causes, good works.  Enlistment in the environmental movement meant far more to them than simple membership.  It provided such a measure of self-worth that the most passionate adherents could not possibly trade it in for something more prosaic and ordinary.   Belonging to a movement which was existential if not spiritual in nature conferred a sanctification, a holy mission, and an extraordinary promise.  Doing without this sense of vital self-worth, the camaraderie and brotherhood of fellow members, and the accolades of those not on the front lines would involve the worst kind of withdrawal.

Image result for images environmental armageddon

Many evangelicals who believe in Christ’s imminent Second Coming, who have established a personal relationship with him, and who rely on him for every one of their needs, cannot possibly be convinced of the mythology of faith – the very likely possibility that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, are powerful, transcendent myths and nothing more.  They have become addicted to Jesus, and without him and his promise of redemption, salvation, and heavenly glory, they would be not only lost but as painfully removed from this divine drug as any heroin addict.

Image result for images parousia

It is human to be addicted, although historically mediated.  There was no such thing as romantic love before Petrarch and his love sonnets written in the 14th century – no pining for maidens in the tower, no longing, no chivalric heroism, no desperate, inconsolable loss of love.  The drug of romantic love, introduced by a Medieval Italian poet, has been one of the most successful, popular, and addictive of any. 

There was no such thing as romantic love before the days of heraldic chivalry, and then only in the royal courts.  Peasants who led short, nasty, brutish, and solitary lives, had no time for romance.  Marriage was a social and economic affair, sex and desire a matter of procreation or satisfaction; and so it has continued for centuries.  But as wealth and leisure expand exponentially, so does demand for the drug of romance.  We cannot do without it, feel deprived, lost, and anemic.  Once we have tasted it, we can never again do without it.  It is a signifier of existence, nothing less.

Image result for images petrarch

The more common and better-known addictions to drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, are nothing compared to the dependency on love, purpose, and mothers.  Although such physical addictions lead to disease, crime, social dysfunction, and disorder; withdrawal from them is painfully difficult; and recidivism high, they are but extreme examples of human dependency.  Most people keep their unhealthy dependencies in check, or simply live with them.  A man immoderately attached to his mother will be distraught when she dies and the withdrawal symptoms will last until he dies.  In other words he, unlike recovering drug addicts, can never recover.  Emotional dependency is a lifetime affair. 

Even the moderately addicted – those dependent on social movements, progress, and utopian promise – refuse to examine any new facts that may suggest a less potent argument for climate change, global warming, or the destruction of the earth’s resources.  Such consideration would be to dilute the drug, to lessen the rush, and to feel the beginnings of painful withdrawal.

It is no shame to be addicted, for we are all addicted to something, to someone, or to some idea however far-fetched.  It is very human to need pleasure and satisfaction; and it is rare indeed to find individuals whose desires are helter-skelter, unformed and undirected; individuals who are not addicted to anything but take what comes their way.

Most of us want to be addicted to something, to be less responsible for living in a directionless even valueless world.  The dope addicts only serve as a warning.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.