The Personalist Project

Lately I've been reading about co-dependency. I'm impressed by how "naturally personalistic" so much of the literature around addiction and recovery is.   It's put in plain terms, of course, but its practical wisdom very much embodies many of the deep philosophical principles formally worked out by great thinkers like John Paul II.

Here's one line (among dozens I might have chosen) from The New Co-Dependency, by Melody Beattie.  "Suffering is how we feel about how we feel." In other words, it involves the kind of reflection and response that is only possible in a free and responsible subject, a self.  Physical pain considered alone doesn't quite qualify.  

This is why suffering is so deep a mystery.  It makes sense of its incorporation into the mystery of redemption.  Just reading that one line, I have a better grip on the relation between "freely-accepted suffering" and the overcoming-of-evil.  It is, quite literally, the antithesis of death.

Comments (5)

Marie Meaney

#1, May 20, 2013 3:12am

On a side-note: I haven't read much about addiction, but I've always thought that its treatment requires an awareness of man's supernatural vocation. I'd be tempted to say that we are all addicts, so to speak, that we all try to fill the void in ourselves (which St. Augustine captured so well in saying that our hearts are restless until they rest in God); Pascal delineates with great psychological finesse the ways in which we throw ourselves into pleasures, the pursuit of glory, the bustle of work in order to fill that void. This, it seems to me (not being a professional pscyhologist, I don't know the medical definition of addiction), is addictive behavior; for some it gets out of hand and becomes more apparent to the world, especially when linked to drugs or alcohol which are addictive on a physiological level and destroy the person in a very visible way. Hence battling those addictions or idols means for all of us accepting the emptiness in oneself; the experience of the desert or of a dark night therefore seems essential in the spiritual life and necessary for God's descent, to use S. Weil's terminology (who was very influenced by Pascal).

Katie van Schaijik

#2, May 20, 2013 8:38am

I've noticed Pope Benedict and Pope Francis both mentioning the problem of addiction as a serious threat to persons in the modern world.  And I agree with you, Marie.  The problem is much wider than we usually think.

Marie Meaney

#3, May 20, 2013 12:04pm

I find therefore the approch of Hagiotherapy and of an Italian sister (I think her name is Elvira) interesting; trying to heal the problem primarily on a spiritual level. I could imagine, however, that with some (or perhaps many) that might still not be enough, since the addiction also takes place on a physiological level, but hagiotheraphy addresses something about the root of addiction which, I assume, the average rehab doesn't. 

Sam Roeble

#4, May 20, 2013 3:56pm

The man with the lizard on his shoulder in Lewis' Great Divorce, captures addiction best in my view. 

Of the handful of NA groups that I've sat in on, the addicts describe "stinkin' thinkin'" as a kind of rationalizing voice in their heads that convinces them to sabotage their sobreity.  Particularly in times of family reunions or very stressful situations, the voice seems irresistible to them.  They lose the ability to be responsible, and sabotage all for the sake of "getting a fix".

In Lewis' book, the man defeats the lizard with much difficulty--and promptly transforms into a much greater version of himself.  This is the case too with the few instances of addicts I've seen who "kicked the habit", and were able to gain employment/independence/accountability for staying sober.  They literally improve their posture/thought patterns/speech/etc.  From vice to virtue--a very difficult road w/ drug use--and a desperate need for God's unmistakable grace.

Sam Roeble

#5, May 20, 2013 4:10pm

Gollum too, is a fitting example of addiction.

His 'precious' literally annihilates his personhood--splitting his personality into 2:  such that he can no longer say 'me' but only 'we'.

In other words, he is not free to exercise an "I-Thou" relationship of persons, but pitifully, "we-it"

 I argue that addiction does precisely this: objectifies the personal dimension of reality, such that everything to the addict can only be viewed in relation to the object, "it".  Persons themselves are merely means to the end of possessing "it".  It is nothing short of slavery to the "precious" 

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