A new José Stevens Article

Habits, Addictions, And The Ego

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Some time ago we issued a warning that this would be a period when addictions would tend to run rampant and unfortunately the evidence is everywhere we look. The most intense examples include the great opiate plague that is killing so many people and a resurgence of methamphetamine addictions in oil producing areas of the country.  In addition to these rather blatant examples are the usual suspects, alcohol, gambling, pornography, video gaming, smart phones, extreme exercise, food, hoarding, and the like. Human beings are strange creatures and indeed almost every one of us has tendencies toward extremes in one way or another, even if we deny that we are addicted. Most exercise freaks don’t think of themselves as addicted but they are, just as much as is the alcoholic, and the results can be equally as self-destructive. Many people are destroying their bodies along with their health by overdoing their sports addictions.

Behind every addiction are several dynamics that are universal. One is an element of obsessive compulsiveness that takes over and causes ritualistic behavior. This is the subject of whole books but let’s just say that it is a response to fearfulness, a false sense of being in control by repeating over and over a set of behaviors that seems to relieve anxiety however briefly in the moment. There is gratification that comes with brief relief in pain causing repetition compulsion, a desire to repeat the reduction in anxiety. The irony is that the addictive behavior can cause as much anxiety as it lowers because it brings with it all kinds of dysfunctional behavior.

Therefore behind every addiction is fear of lack, fear of being out of control, fear of loss of meaning. Addictions are of course fueled by stress. The more stress the more there is a tendency for the addiction to take over because that is what it feeds on, stress, and these are very stressful times indeed.

In other articles I have mentioned the two great fears that humans all have to various degrees, the fear of abandonment and the fear of entrapment. The stronger the fear the more vulnerable a person is to addictive behavior. Bear in mind that these are biologically based fears and do not necessarily come from nurture, but may stem more from nature, our genetics, and past life traumas, not just who your parents in this life are and how they treated you when you were young.

These two great fears divide themselves into the seven fear patterns that I have talked about many times, greed, self destructiveness, arrogance, self-deprecation, impatience, martyrdom, and stubbornness. Addictions may surround any one of these fear patterns. For example many people drink to cope with their sense of unworthiness or self-deprecation. Some people may feel so stressed by their impatience that they seek alcohol or opiates to slow down. So no matter which is your pattern or dragon, addictions may come in to cope with the distress only making matters worse.

Even though most people tend to focus on one or two of these fear patterns we all have the capacity to indulge in all seven and the ones that are at the core of addictions are greed and self-destructiveness. So even though you might have a strong case of self-deprecation, when addictions really take hold they stimulate the deeper patterns of greed and self-destruction which western culture and similar cultures tend to promote by their lifestyles and values. Let’s examine this for a moment.

Greed is the fear that there is not going to be enough to go around and that someone is going to get short changed and “I want to make sure it is not me that gets the short end of the stick,” even though at some level I convince myself it is going to be me. The culture promotes greed through advertising, for example, “Hurry, the sale ends tomorrow, get your device before they are all gone.” However that is just surface level greed. The deeper dynamics are the following: Keep in mind that this is not rocket science. It is very, very simple. As children, all we want is love. That is what we thrive on and we look to our families to bathe us in it. However families are stressed to the limit with both parents needing to work, or distracted by a million obligations and responsibilities of modern life. Even though they may want to be loving they might not have the time or energy. Add to this the fact that many parents have become addicted to drugs and are trying to medicate themselves and just don’t show up for the job of parenting. These conditions can be reinforced by the fact that the child may have a history of seeking love for many lifetimes and not finding it. Their expectations help to create the conditions of “no time for love yet again.”

The child learns quickly that love seems to be scarce and early on begins to seek substitutes for love in the form of attention getting bad behaviors, sugar cravings, desires for material things, and a whole host of cravings to make them feel better. For a time these things seem to gratify but in the long run they never do and then despair sets in and this leads to self destructiveness like cutting, overeating, bulimia, anorexia, and so on. This is the origin of addictions, a complete loss of meaning and purpose in life.

The greater the addictions one has, the more greed and the more self-destructive the lifestyle. Look around and you can see this everywhere and these are not bad people, just people caught up in ignorance, illusion, and various states of suffering. These people include our celebrities, our politicians, and our so-called role models. These are often the people who are running the government and the corporations and who are setting the policies for the entire nation. People watch them and feel strangely entertained by their self destructiveness, glad it is not they themselves that are off course, or in other cases they feel horrible inside because what they see is themselves projected out there.

This is the mirror that is being held up for everyone to look at during these times and it is not pretty. No one thinks of our leaders as suffering but that is pretty much all they do since there is virtually no love in their lives or no love they can let themselves feel. This is why politicians and movers and shakers can be so cruel and insensitive to the suffering of others. They distract themselves with self-gratification but no matter how much power they accrue and no matter how many riches they acquire it doesn’t ameliorate their own desperation for love and their despair that they will ever find it. In other words they are lost in the proverbial temple of ten thousand demons.

Do not believe for a second that addictions and overindulgence in unhealthy practices is confined to self serving younger souls because it is truly not so. Many mature and older souls struggle with bad habits and addictions and sometimes to the degree that it causes them to overdose and die in the many thousands. It always amazes me that people who pray, meditate, do spiritual practices, do yoga, go on pilgrimages, and are very sincere in their practices, given the slightest opportunity overindulge themselves in alcohol and other distractions right after their spiritual practice to undo any progress they have just made. Given the slightest permission to have a celebratory drink leads to excessive consumption to the point of slurring and being unable to walk normally, even to throwing up. Why? Sometimes it is just the desire to rebel, to be bad after being so “Good.” Sometimes it is the dark side trying to make up for the light side having its time in the sun and at times it is just fear of succeeding.

The truth is, it is always the false personality trying to assert it’s dominance over the overall personality, the ego enslaving the person once again after they have made gains to become free of it. The ego of course operates on fear, feeds on fear, and tries to increase fear so that it has dominion. Fear only begets more fear. This continues to drive the circle of suffering, good-bad, good-bad, good-bad in an ever revolving program of feel good, feel bad, feel guilty, punish self for being bad etc. Let’s face it’, in the long run, this consequence of duality is very boring. There is nothing new here, lifetime after lifetime. We’ve seen it all before and there is no news here. It will go on and on for lifetime after lifetime until we handle it, each individually. We all keep falling for the same old lies over and over and the false personality has a good laugh at our tendency to fall for them and at our expense. The good news is that these illusions will all pass as we mature, it just takes a long time to grow up. With the sun transforming, climate change, the frequency going up every day, and people freaking out everywhere, the vice is tightening now and we are being forced to grow up quickly. This is why everything is so intense on the planet right now.

The secret is not to resist what is happening, not to try to fix it with more band-aides that will only perpetuate current problems. The secret is what in shamanism is called “Seeing,” What the Buddhists call “Compassion,” what Jesus called “Forgiveness,” all basically the same thing.  You have compassion for the world and you forgive yourself for you imperfections. You see the old worn out activity of the ego and simply turn your attention to it and say, “I see you. I see who you are and what you are.” You are not who I really am. You are not true. You have no power over me. Leave now. “  This is not resistance, it is being proactive and taking charge of choosing something different. Repeat this hundreds if not thousands of times. Stop resisting and you will make progress in ending suffering, ending addictions, ending the apparently unsolvable problems.

If you play by the rules of the ego you will fail over and over. It wants you to get frustrated, get angry, be fearful, hate and act out. Simply stop, look, and then make a new choice. If you are too far under the false personalities’ control, you may need to ask for help from all your sources of support be they internal or external.  Help and support are everywhere but if it seems absent from your life, you will find an endless supply from your allies and helpers within. Ask and you shall receive the help you need. That is an ancient understanding that is as true today as ever.

We will bumble through this rough time. It may seem that all is lost and that the bad guys are winning but that is just part of the movie. As Ghandi said, “There will always be tyrants but in the end they will never prevail. Never!  These tyrants try to gain control by promising the younger souls a list of much sought after gratifying presents and then they turn the tables on them so that only a few elite friends profit  as they have always done. This is the oldest game in the book. They do their best to disenfranchise the older souls but for the first time in many thousands of years there are too many older souls to silence. They are now outnumbered and no matter how hard they try to cut them out of the deal, they they will be unable to do so. Be patient and watchful. Work on yourself and open your heart. Bless the earth and it will bless you back. The earth will recover because it has its own intelligence. Nature is aligned with Spirit. Anything not aligned with Spirit will be toast before long.  Oops! The toast is burning. Next.



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José Stevens

José Luis Stevens, PhD is the president and co-founder (with wife Lena) of Power Path Seminars, an international school and consulting firm dedicated to the study and application of shamanism and indigenous wisdom to business and everyday life. José completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol (Wixarika) Maracame (Huichol shaman) in the Sierras of Central Mexico. In addition, he is studying with Shipibo shamans in the Peruvian Amazon and with Paqos (shamans) in the Andes in Peru. In 1983 he completed his doctoral dissertation at the California Institute of Integral Studies focusing on the interface between shamanism and western psychological counseling. Since then, he has studied cross-cultural shamanism around the world to distill the core elements of shamanic healing and practice. He is the author of twenty books and numerous articles including Encounters With Power, Awaken The Inner Shaman, The Power Path, Secrets of Shamanism, Transforming Your Dragons and How To Pray The Shaman's Way.