What is your understanding or experience of addiction? The word addiction is representative of an intrapsychic understanding or experience. In asking this question, there is the imaginal and rational underpinnings of what addiction means, and how we as a collective have encountered commonalities from the experienced addiction as an addict or the other. As individuals we also may represent elements of a collective understanding, an experience representative of various archetypes, which may purge our emotional recognition of the word addiction. When discussing the word addiction there appear to be no exclusions as we might all present an interpretation of the word addiction, and the independent interpretation is an element of the collective. So I invite you to explore your thoughts on how you might interpret the word addiction.
By focusing on addiction as a word I am not seeking to delve into the history, or phonetic constructs, but to discuss addiction as a word of meaning to the individual and to a more expansive collective. When we discuss addiction, there are varying understandings and definitions of what the word addiction defines, just as there is a voiced difference in whether addiction is purely a physical disease. Again, I am not attempting to discern my stance or understanding in regard to these terms, yet I am wanting there to be a deep consideration as to how we have come to interpret and interact with such a term as addiction.
What lead me to write on the meaning behind the word addiction began from a statement by Winicott (1989) who explained:
“we get so used to words through using them and become so dulled to their usage that we need from time to time to take each one and to look at it, and to determine in so far as we are able not only how the word came into being through the poetry of etymology, but also the ways in which we are using the word now” (p. 233, 1989).
When I observe addiction as a word, there are varying images made available to grasp at what and how these experiences can construct meaning. From this intrapsychic meaning there is a narrative, the imaginable and rational to remain in dialogue. To provide more depth to the discussion on words, to discuss meaning through the use of words, here I am observing both the rational and imaginal aspects of introspection; both of which are important and significant. The imaginal and rational aspects are found in how we can conceptualize, and, psychologically or philosophically, find a personal meaning in conceptualizing addiction as a word and experience.
Poetry may be fashioned from what could be interpreted as an artistic application of words, which can be woven into a meaning of depth and beauty. From the artistic expression of language we can express and possibly experience an image of emotion, which illuminates a significant element of poetic, metaphoric expression. It would appear that emotions can be expressed and experienced through language, the utilization of words. Though we can be artistic with the use of words there is the acknowledgement of how one might lose the meaning of a word; how one might become entangled within the uncertainty of a particular word’s application.
Might you observe words and their influence as an artistic medium? What symbolism might then arise if one were to acknowledge that the word addiction is emotionally charged with individual experiences through assumptions, observations and a personal quest for wholeness. I was drawn to a statement made by Foddy (2010) who explained that philosophically “we want to know whether and how our desires can rob us of control or of rationality” (p. 106). Foddy brought my attention to the concept of meaning, a meaning of how one may interpret or define addiction and how one can explore interpersonal understanding of addiction. The meaning “arises out of the interaction between a subjective inner event and an outer objective one. So it is only the event that is objective, not the meaning” (Colman, 2011, p. 478). Furthermore, “if cognitive word use is associated with the meaning-making process, then we would expect cognitive word use to increase in the wake of a stressful or traumatic event” (Boals, et. al. 2011, p. 380).
Colman (2011) informed “rational knowledge depends on a form of meaning in which causal chains and logical links are paramount, imaginal meaning is generated by forms of congruent correspondence” (p. 471). The deceptive element of rational knowledge is in the constellation of emotions that hinder a concise, rational state in regard to an experienced addiction. When I state experienced addiction, I then am speaking to the individual who is addicted and of those who experience the addiction. I spent a fair amount of time discussing how emotions hinder a rational stance specific to the experience addiction. “This process is distinctively different than the outcome of meaning making, or the specific meanings made” (Boals, et. al. 2011, p. 380). Psychologically then, we could argue that there is a wealth of knowledge in the uncovering of an imaginal meaning that will foster a rational stance towards addiction. I have discussed the effects of stressful events which may “shatter one’s view of the world, which can lead individuals to engage in a search for meaning to repair and restore their self-esteem and schemas of the world” (Boals, 2012, p. 394).
The question that appears to arise here is what addiction signifies in an individual’s life. I acknowledge that we could extend this question beyond the person, though the attention here is to the individual experiencing addiction, subjectively or objectively. When engaged with the metaphor, the literary intrapsychic expression of meaning, an individual views how others have come to identify and understand the term addiction. From the observation of how others interpret an experience, there is an experience nestled within an individual’s understanding of addiction. Just as with the addict, in metaphor there are the individual words, the pieces of the statement that we identify with from our personal experiences.
Boals, A (2012). The Use of Meaning Making in Expressive Writing: When Meaning is Beneficial. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 31(4), pp. 393-409
Boals, A., Banks, J., Hathway, L., & Schuettler, D. (2011). Coping with Stressful Events: Use of Cognitive Words in Stressful Narratives and the Meaning-Making Process. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 30(4), p. 378-403.
Colman, W. (2011). Synchronicity and the meaning-making psyche. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 56, p. 471–491.
Foddy, B. (2010). Addiction and its sciences—philosophy. Society for the Study of Addiction, 106, p. 25–31.
Winnicott, D. (1989). Psychoanalytic explorations. Harvard University Press.
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Erik J. Welsh, PhD
– Author of The Addiction Complex