There’s a point that arrives, when I’m helping someone think about their struggles with addiction, that goes something like this:
Them: ‘I wish it could be like that.’
Me: ‘Why can’t it be?’
Them: ‘I don’t want to get lost in all of those fantasies, those dreams again. That’s when I go crazy.’
Me: ‘Maybe you wouldn’t, now.’
People need to wish for things without being obliged to have them, or to feel devastated when they can’t find what they are looking for. Addiction happens when ‘I can’t survive without this’ somehow gets encoded within ‘this is what I want’. It’s the nasty little ghost that haunts desire, and which whispers irresistibly, but so softly it can barely be heard: ‘get it, get it now.’
If you do something, and you keep doing it, and you can’t stop doing it and it’s ruining you, that’s probably addiction.
So while you find out how to curb your dependency, to unhook yourself from that intensity, you may give up a little on wishing.
One day you’ll need to cross the line again and see what happens now.
A Very Bad Atmosphere
It was a wet morning, a cold one and a grey one. I wasn’t prepared, however, for the prevailing bad mood this morning – jostling on the train, angry comments about people getting in each-other people’s way. The Brexit dividend.
I’ve listened to this government and the previous one repeatedly block, obfuscate and deny its way through one session of parliament after the next. If there is a problem with austerity it appears that this is only because the questioner or interviewer is misinformed, unaware of some statistic relating to another matter which occasionally sounds relevant but rarely ever is, or attacking ‘ordinary’ people. John Crace’s ‘Maybot‘ joke is so sinister because it is so mind-bogglingly true. She’s the prime minister!
Denial is so absorbing. A capacity to deny the truth expands in relation to a capacity to swallow it … and if I swallow the truth it becomes poisonous, as if it wants to eat its way out of me.
People with addiction problems rely on drink, drugs, food, exercise, work, money, sex, love, shopping, whatever they can find, to shore up their denial and avoid being accountable for what they have done, or think they have done. This government has become lost in Brexit so it, we, whoever, will forget about austerity. As the Brexit disaster plays out austerity re-enters conversations. Funny that.
It’s about lack of character. I can think of governments with less talented members. But this lot? Nobody will remember a member of the cabinet apart from, perhaps, Michael Gove, who becomes more memorable every day as he struggles with his conscience to square the lies he inflicted on us with their consequences.
If the government had more character – more characters in it – there would be less denial because there’d be more ego around … and ego does not like to look like a twit. This lot don’t care how stupid they look or sound. Their careers are bound up in Twitter.
I’m sitting in Pret listening to some kind of 80s mix of music, and realising that in the 1980s none of these tunes would have sat side by side like this: they’d have sat like a cat and a weasel. History without the necessary intensity … it happens all of the time. Disorder.
I was listening to Transmission, a piece of music by Joy Division, and as usual it sent a shiver through me. If I listen to Ceremony, by Joy Division becoming New Order, straight afterwards, then I shiver even more. Music in many ways kept me sane before I was 20. It gave me a shivering space where I could really feel something, and know that I’d felt it, when all the rest of everything seemed like a conveyer belt to narcolepsy. It kept me awake, sometimes all night; or when I was awake it helped me come down again. Nick Drake, although I can barely listen to him now, it’s too painful and too almost sincere. Thank God I kept clear of macho self-pity. There’s no hope in that.
I was thinking about whether or not psychotherapists care about people. Many don’t, I suppose. They’re rather introverted but they still seem every able to help other people become more themselves – which, in my mind, is all you can do.
But it strikes me that there is a difference between caring for people and looking after them. There’s a certain kind of psychotherapist I have often met who seems vey invested in something about who their client should be. These people don’t care. They look after people.
Looking after people, in the sense I am describing here, usually involves inhibiting them in ways that are not available for discussion. It’s often done secretly or coercively and has a relationship with what has become called ‘co-dependence’. In a way it treats them as mad while the person doing the ‘looking after’ is somehow removed from having to look into their motives with the help of someone else. We are not transparent to ourselves: never.
It doesn’t have to be like this. I might ‘look after’ myself, for example; but even in that there’s a sense I am somehow divorced from myself as I do this. I’m selfish to a point that might extend beyond reason.