Hunger of the Soul: Sensitivity, Intelligence, and Addiction
By Jacklyn Janeksela
Peck observed that it is our sensitive/creative nature and intelligence that make us more susceptible to alcohol, drugs, and other addictions.
What happens when addiction becomes a part of our identity that goes beyond the physical body or choice?
Being human means having attachments. On some level, we’re all addicted to something. We’ve been addicts for ages. Coming to terms with this truth means we’re changing our perception of what being an addict means.
But where does addiction start?
First, let’s go back, way back, into our ancestor’s DNA to figure out how and why these addictions started.
Alcohol has a long-standing role in history. Even in prehistory, too –humans were imbibing alcohol long before we invented writing. Consuming substances has promoted the development of language, the arts, and religion throughout history. And it wasn’t just humans who found pleasure in mind-altered states. Even animals learned about the effects of ethanol from overly ripe or rotting fruit. Primates could have been the first alcoholics; and this makes modern human preadapted to consume spirits.
Anthropologists Roger Sullivan claims we are disposed to drug-consumption as a survival strategy: “Stimulant alkaloids like nicotine and cocaine could have been exploited by our human ancestors to help them endure harsh environmental conditions,” Sullivan says. So we sought out plants with potent alkaloid content in order to live another day. Not out of pleasure. At least, not yet.
Scientists cite brain evolution as the cause for addiction. The synaptic link for addiction gets set up rather easily. It’s as if the brain—specifically the prefrontal cortex—appears to be designed for addiction. “Increased dopamine flow cultivates more and more synapses in the orbitofrontal (lower/prefrontal) cortex, and in the nearby ventral striatum—synapses that represent all the details, value, and importance of the thing you crave.” The brain’s desire for dopamine guides behavior and action towards the pursuit of good feelings and creates a circuit. This goal-pursuit circuit is flexible. It learns quickly. We’re ready to try new rewards, and pursue them even if they’re not as noble as anticipated, even in the face of shame and guilt. The goal-pursuit circuit is a bit too flexible, actually.
But what happens when addiction becomes a part of our identity that goes beyond the physical body or choice? What happens when addiction is embedded in the soul?
Some say addiction starts before the body is formed, that it’s embedded in the DNA of our parents when their sperm and egg joined. As the fetus develops, something else happens between mother and baby. Women worry about health risks while pregnant, but they should also consider their mental health. The baby’s well-being depends on balanced emotional state. In vitro, the baby experiences the world –more specifically, through the umbilical cord. If the mother is wrought with anxiety, depression, or codependency issues, the baby becomes the recipient of those emotions. And later, they can play out in a series of unexplained fears and habits.
Addiction isn’t just genetic, it’s imprinted on our souls, believe it or not. We can heal through understanding the past and use that to empower our future.
Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck has his own theory about the soul, trauma, and addiction. Separating from source (god, or universal love) is traumatic. It drives us to reconnect without understanding why or how. We don’t have a map to show us how to get there or a plan for how to start the process. But we’re forever searching.
When we become addicted, what we’re really aiming for is to reconnect to the source. Without that awareness, we seek out other avenues that bring us close to a feeling of euphoria and transcendence. Nothing can substitute re-merging with source.
During a lecture he gave in 1991, “Addiction: The Sacred Disease,” Dr. Peck explained his thesis:
“At birth, humans become separated from Source, from God. We are all aware of our separation, but some of us are more sensitive to it than others. We sensitive souls feel an emptiness, a longing, what many of us refer to as “a hole in my soul.” We sense that something is missing but don’t know what it is. We long for relief from the aching void inside … but we’re confused about what will ease our existential dis-ease.”
When we become aware of this missing piece, our natural inclination is to fill the void, the one that only a higher power can embody. Since awareness or awakening hasn’t come into our consciousness yet, we seek ways to ease that longing. And many times, those behaviors can become toxic, even addictive.
Peck says that compulsive/addictive people, as a group, are more sensitive, more intelligent and more creative than the general population. He observed that it is our sensitive/intelligent/creative nature that makes us more susceptible to alcohol, drugs, and other addictions.
It is a deeply spiritual hunger — a longing to go home, back to Source. Addiction is a soul disease where the spirit wars with the flesh.
Once we begin to understand this, we can open channels into healing and destroy stigmas around what it means to be an addict.
Substance abuse is a buzzword on the lips of so many people today. It’s such a common phenomenon that it’s no surprise to learn there are thousands who are secretly addicted. It’s like a cult of the addicted. And no one is shying away from the subject matter either. People talk candidly about substance use disorders and write books about their struggles.
Being open about addiction allows us to see who we truly are. Whether we believe it’s through genetics or epigenetics, the fact remains: we have not shied away from addictive behavior during our time on planet Earth. So if anything, it looks like it’s our destiny. The birth of human comes with trauma and that alone is enough to push us into cravings.