It's in my DNA

"Alcoholism is in my DNA"

Describing something as being in your DNA is another way of saying that it is in your nature. You are describing your shape, as a square might say that it is in its DNA to have four corners. It is the fashionable way to say this, so that people understand you and take you seriously.

We all have a certain shape, or pattern, which leads to certain tendencies. When some people's shape is put into certain environments it will lead to certain outcomes. Put, for example, an extreme idealist into an extremely pragmatic environment - Martin Luther King into 1950s America - and he will 'cause trouble.'

Alcoholism - and indeed, all addictions - stem from certain types of people being put into environments that do not suit their shape. Within these dysfunctional environments they are unable to manifest their shape properly, much like a bird in a cage. This restriction comes to light in the form of dysfunctional - yet adaptive - behaviour: an addiction.

It is true then - in a roundabout way - to say that 'alcoholism is in my DNA' (or that you have a 'genetic pre-disposition toward addiction'). But such fashionable concepts only serve to fog the picture.

What you are really saying is that you are born to manifest a certain pattern -  a perfectly functional and vital one - and that in your current environment you are unable to manifest that pattern properly: you are unable to flourish. The addiction is a coping mechanism, to allow you to survive in your current surroundings.

To go back to the example of our square. Let's put him in a world of circles: everything is rounded, flowing and smooth. Being used to straight lines and severe angles it is a strange environment to him, but he does his best to fit in. Soon enough, however, his corners cause problems: he catches on things, prods, punctures and tears. He attempts to smoothe off his corners and to become more circular, but he knows in his heart that he is fighting a losing battle. In the end he hits the bottle as a way to make it through the day. He tells himself: alcoholism is in my DNA. What he really means is: corners are in my DNA (and corners do not fit here).

The problem could be with your immediate environment - your job, your relationship, your social scene and so on; or with the general environment - you may feel at odds with the ideas and values that your society places importance upon.

In this sense, there are no 'addictive' things: there are merely things that are very effective in distracting us or comforting us; in altering things substantially enough so that we do not feel the rub. They take us out of it, make us forget it; balance it out for a while.

Addictions always point towards a friction between the individual and their environment
. For things to flow smoothly, either the individual adapts to the environment or the environment adapts to the individual. Something must give.

The current fashion is to make the change in ourselves - to make a circle of the square. Yet in doing so we sacrifice our shape. We hold a part of ourselves underwater in an attempt to drown it, to stop it from surfacing and causing trouble. Yet at the same time we are stemming a vital energy. If you are meant to be a square then you ought to be a square. You just need an environment in which being a square is okay.

It is down to us to decide whether we look to make the change in ourselves - with whatever sacrifices this entails - or whether we look to make it in our environment. Perhaps being a square isn't okay. In which case, too bad for squares.

In truth, there are no universal right or wrong solutions. There are merely a choice of outcomes. We must decide which solution best answers the problems we currently face, as individuals and as a collective.

Which leads us to ask: when addiction is such a widespread phenomenon, does it serve us to continue to look for individual solutions? Or are we, in taking such a close view, missing the bigger picture?

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[...] any behaviour that alleviates pain without healing its source can become addictive. We should therefore hesitate to cast judgement on anyone exhibiting addictive behaviour (a category that probably includes nearly all of us).

What we see as greed or weakness might merely be fumbling attempts to meet a need, when the true object of that need is unavailable. In that case the usual prescriptions for more discipline, self-control, or responsibility are counterproductive.

[Charles Eisenstein]
The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible, p.19

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Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections.

It's how we get our satisfaction. If we can't connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find -- the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about 'addiction' altogether, and instead call it 'bonding.'

A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn't bond as fully with anything else. So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.

[Johann Hari] 
'The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think'


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It is a good idea to pant when you arrive at a high altitude and a good idea to learn not to pant if you stay long in the high mountains. 

It is a good idea to have a physiological system that will adjust to physiological stress, even though adjustment leads to acclimation and acclimation may be addiction.

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p. 199

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Related posts:-
The Colour Wheel 
Small Part/Large System
You ought to be more like me
Flip-side
Digging Deeper: Addictions
A Healthy Environment
Addiction: the long and short of it
Still Waters
Go Your Own Way
Live the Straight and Narrow

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