Why is just about everyone you or I know taking a pill or some other substance to suppress emotional pain? Why is everyone numbing themselves, and why is it accepted as normal? What is the common denominator here?
A slow but steady detour away from the independent values that made our country great two hundred years ago has landed us in a nation addicted: land of the numb, mind-controlled, programmed masses. As a people, we have lost our consciousness, and with it a tremendous amount of wisdom. We have confused what is considered desirable with what is life-generating. We have lost touch with our true emotions—that voice within which speaks for inner balance and self-knowledge. Too many of us sleepwalk through life following a set of socially programmed norms that can only lead to ruin: physical, mental, and emotional.
The hard fact is that just about everyone is an addict today because a sinister social conditioning has quietly snuck its way into “normal” living: the consumption of foods unfit for the human body. These foods are profoundly harmful and highly addictive. That’s right: the most insidious addiction today is not to recreational drugs, but to grains, sweeteners, food additives, and preservatives (including hormones and antibiotics, just for starters) in the mainstream diet. Addiction, therefore, is a problem not only for the drinker, the smoker, and the drug abuser; it is a problem for every human being who is not aware of what he or she consumes.
But here’s the gem: the cause and cure of addiction hinge on the same all-important factor—consciousness. We can understand addiction as a loss of consciousness, and it’s ubiquitous in today’s diet-lifestyle, which in myriad ways poisons the biochemistry of the blood and ravages the intestine, cells, and tissues. Yet, we keep eating and living according to the customs that have been programmed into us by the so-called authorities, the media, and the influence of our peers. We have thus become little better than a nation of addicts.
When our inner voice knows better, when our spirit rises up to question the status quo and to resist the whole program, we are quickly labeled “depressed” or “chemically imbalanced” and written a prescription. In the meantime, the dictates of mainstream culture urge us to silence our distress with “comfort foods,” alcohol, drugs, and other mind-numbing diversions.
How long will we slap names on diseases without truly understanding them? How long will we continue suppressing the symptoms so that more virulent forms of illness crop up? How long will we blame the imbalance rather than its source? After all these millennia of medical achievements, we have missed the obvious universal law of nature: when there is pain, it is a call for change, not a call for suppression!
Social norms dictate not only how we should live, but also how we should feel. We are taught to avoid “negative” emotions and embrace only the “positive” ones. Over the generations, we have completely lost touch with the wisdom of our emotions. We have learned to repress undesirable emotions without even knowing that we are doing it. These repressed emotions become the harbingers of addiction.
All the spiritual leaders and great minds of history—including the Buddha, Christ, Socrates, and Jung—emphasized the importance of awareness. And contemporary teachers like Eckhart Tolle have made the concept more familiar to people today. However, there is still a great chasm between the desire to practice this virtue and the practical application of it. For so many people, living in the present is so hard to do. Nonetheless, it is the single most essential tool of personal liberation available to us. Once we start to live with awareness, we gain clarity about ourselves and the world around us. We see through the clutter of social expectations to hear our own authentic voice.
Any set of social expectations that fails to honor a person’s spirit and allow for its honest expression is an agent of repression, and is therefore antithetical to life. The emotions of pain, anger, and fear arise to tell us to pay attention. They come to us as friends, to pull our hand away from the flame. In heeding rather than repressing them, we can let them go, and also let go of our addictions. Soon, we can bring awareness to any situation, ideology, or question with a penetrating power of discernment. We can ask ourselves: “Is that a social conditioning or is a life-generating truth?”
We are a nation of addicts because we have been living in the dark. Too many widely accepted norms are destructive to our bodies, minds, and spirits. Our authority figures perpetuate the madness by creating more drugs for more illnesses and building more infrastructures to keep the vicious cycle alive. Frittering away personal power, we get ever more lost in the quagmire, blind to the road signs of our emotions. Addiction feels like a normal life experience rather than an aberration of nature. The modern ethos is to pacify feelings with all that glitters and sells. “Don’t feel this,” our culture whispers in our psyches. “You don’t need to feel sad. Here, take this instead. Have a donut and a latte. There, there. Now, isn’t that better?”
The cure for depression, obesity, and even cancer may be far simpler than we ever realized. It is time we (a) correct our biochemical imbalances through cleansing, and (b) expose destructive social norms for what they are and cultivate the power of conscious choice. It’s time we wake up to what we are really made of—as fully empowered human beings who know our own authentic needs and desires, not mindless automatons of an addiction-fueled society.
We all want to lead great lives and achieve wonderful things, but a great outer life is only possible through a healthy, balanced, and beautiful inner life. Let us feel deeply and let our emotions nourish our personal growth through smart, life-enhancing choices.