The Universal Addiction

Although we talk about addiction to alcohol, drugs, food, fame, money, sex, pain, etc., these aren’t the real addiction. They are just signs that point us to the true addiction.

We are addicted to not being here now. I don’t want to feel what I’m feeling; I want to feel something else. I don’t want reality to be what it is; I want it to be something else. I don’t want to be where I am; I want to be somewhere else. I don’t want to be the way I am; I want to be some other way. I don’t want to be in this moment; I want to be in the next one. I don’t want to be in the present; I want to be in the past or the future. We are addicted to not being here, feeling the way we feel, in this moment. Thus, we are addicted to an imaginary time, an imaginary me, an imaginary other, an imaginary experience, in the future when “all will be well.” This is our basic addiction. Food, drugs, alcohol, sex, fame, and food are just tools we use to run away from the reality of our inner life now to an imaginary experience always receding away into the future.

We imagine if we could just be different, feel different, and think differently than we are, feel, and think in this moment, that we would finally be calm, at rest, and at home. And yet, this addiction to imagination, the future, to the not me, and the not you, keeps us eternally away from home. We remain frantic wanderers rushing to the next moment, hoping to find a different me, a different experience, a different you, a different feeling. We end up running our entire lives, living a life on the run, away from ourselves in this moment.

Strangely, in our rush to find rest, calm, and home, we run from the only home we ever have, the home that is always here, the home that never has left us: our inner life in this moment.

We run and run, seeking the experience that we think will complete us. In fact, we are already complete. It’s just that we don’t like the completeness of who we are, what we feel, and what we think in this moment. The experience we fear in this moment we think we need to run from. In fact, fear is a sign. It points us to where we need to dive: into ourselves now. When we bear who we are, what we feel, what we resist in this moment, the healing begins. The marriage between the inner you and outer you begins, only to be repeated again and again in every moment.

The surprise is that everything inside ourselves that we have run away from has always been reaching out to us for our love and acceptance. We thought we needed to race to an imaginary experience in the future rather than sit down and be transformed by the experience of our feelings now. We thought we needed to be different rather than bear how we are now. We thought we lacked wholeness we could find in the future rather than bear the uncomfortable, yet pregnant, wholeness of who we are in this moment. We thought we needed some special, amazing external experience in the future to be reborn, not realizing that the messy pain and confusion of our feelings could be the womb in which we would be reborn. We thought we were far away from home and had to race to get there, not realizing we have always already been home in this moment, with all the feelings and struggles within us that are necessary for our healing and growth.

We thought we had to rush to find wholeness, calm, and a home. We forgot that trees are in no rush to grow; they just grow. The sun does not rush to have a sunrise; it just rises. A rose bud does not rush to blossom; it just blossoms. Every one of us is a bud, with this internal urge to blossom. We experience that urge to blossom in the form of feelings, anxiety, and defenses (we are very messy flowers!). We would never tear a rose bud apart to make it grow. A rose bud never says it should be different, it should be farther along, it should already be a blossom. It bears the inner pressure of life which causes the bud to grow and push those petals out to finally form the flower. Can we sit with that internal pressure of our feelings and anxiety? Can we let ourselves blossom?

What will happen? a patient asks. Can we bear not knowing who you will blossom into? Can we accept that you are a mystery, the unknown? Can we accept that we are all addicted to not being here, now, as we are? Can we accept that we are all terrified of becoming someone whom we don’t yet know yet? Can we accept that we make awful predictions about who we will become, who we will find inside us? Can we accept that we seek awful certainty to avoid the unknown you who is about to be born?

How can I judge addicts? I am one. We all are addicts. We are all addicted to not being in this moment, not feeling what we feel, not thinking what we think, not being who we are. We are addicted to imaginary images of ourselves in the future: the real drugs! Oh, if I could only be like that imaginary image! That would be a fix!! That would be a high!!

But then reality keeps showing up in the form of me, my inner life. Ever faithful, it rises every day for my attention, my love, and my acceptance. It keeps asking me, “Are you willing to love me now in this moment, so this reunion of us can begin the healing journey?” “But I feel so addicted to this beautiful image of me that I wish I could be.” And my inner life keeps asking, “So can we accept your addiction too? What if your addiction to an ideal image in the future is not the problem? What if your rejection of yourself in this moment is the doorway to the calm, rest, and wholeness you have been seeking? What if how you are in this moment is precisely what we need to accept?”

Every day we are addicts. Every day we are overcoming our addiction to not being who we are and what we feel in this moment. That is the universal addiction underneath all the others.






2 responses to “The Universal Addiction”

  1. Juliana Kunz Avatar
    Juliana Kunz

    This reminds me of Pema Chodron, which is a compliment coming from me 🙂 Do you consider yourself influenced by Buddhist teaching, or did you pick up these ideas somewhere else?

    1. Jon Frederickson Avatar
      Jon Frederickson

      I’ve been very influenced by many spiritual traditions, including medieval Christian mystics, Buddhism, and Sufism.

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