“My definition of addiction is this: any behavior that gives you temporary relief and pleasure but in the long term causes harm and has negative consequences but you can’t give it up despite those negative consequences… and from this perspective, you can understand that there are many different kinds of addictions- to drugs, work, consumerism, sex, relationships, the internet, food. The Buddhists have this idea of hungry ghosts. Hungry ghosts can never get enough. They can’t fill the emptiness from the inside. So many of us in this society are hungry ghosts, and the addiction is all about trying to fill the emptiness from the outside, and if you want to ask the question of why people are in pain, you can’t look at their genetics, you have to look at their lives.”
-Dr. Gabor Maté
In my private practice and within the Let Go & Grow program, I take a holistic approach that encompasses and takes all aspects of each unique individual’s life experience into consideration. This includes mindset, diet, lifestyle, your unique systems, relationships, environment, etc- all factors that can be changed through your own power of choice. When we focus on changing the landscape in this way and building out a solid foundation from within, with a focus on fundamentals, symptoms can resolve spontaneously, disease labels can be removed and true healing can happen.
The Rat Park Study
Certain studies stand out like gems, like a notable story, able to paint a picture, bring principles to light and make them far more tangible. So when I found this one in particular, I knew I had to share it.
Cue the Rat Park Study- which illuminates the power of community and its ability to influence behavior.
In the late 1970’s, psychologist Bruce Alexander tested the hypothesis that drugs do not cause addiction. The study design included a “rat park” where rats had a community based environment which allowed them to freely socialize, play and have fun- basically like rat heaven. The rats were given the choice of regular water and drugged water. The rats hardly ever chose the drugged water over the regular water in this environment.
Other studies have been conducted which involved rats in confined cages and the option between drugged water or regular water. In this setting, the rats almost always chose the drugged water due to the fact that they had no one to bond or socialize with- aka rat hell.
This opens up new possibilities and questions around addiction and suggests that having the ability to bond with others and being involved in a community could be healing in it of itself and perhaps more powerful and fulfilling than drugs.
From an evolutionary standpoint, this makes complete sense.
Why is this study important?
Understanding this study can shine a light onto the importance of connection, support and a loving community- as it goes to show how a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle can be the driver of or a potential antidote to addictive behavior, amongst many other disease states. This challenges the idea that biochemistry alone influences our behavior- once again, illuminating our power of choice and the exposome.
With a proper foundation and a focus on the fundamentals, you can unlock your own power to heal. We are not meant to travel this path alone, and there are places where you can breathe, show up as yourself and feel the presence of a community that has your back.
For more information, community support and a tried and true springboard that can help you address the fundamentals and put these principles into practice, feel free to check out the Let Go & Grow program. We would love to have you in there! This is the exact process I teach my patients and apply in my own life, and have seen time and time again become a catalyst for radiant health, freedom and a life lived true to you.
Alexander, B. (2010). Addiction: The View from Rat Park. Retrieved November 25, 2018, from Addiction: The View from Rat Park.
Alexander, Bruce K., (2001) “The Myth of Drug-Induced Addiction”, a paper delivered to the Canadian Senate, January 2001.
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