See the addicted not as demented or degraded but as tormented

Suppose someone becomes addicted to drinking and keeps drinking despite being urged to give up and despite even promising to give up.

We may naturally tend to view such drunkards as demented or degraded.

Demented: We may think, “For the momentary pleasure of a drink, who will risk losing their reputation, relationships, wealth, health, even life itself? Only someone insane.”

Degraded: Alternatively, we may think, “For such fleeting pleasure, if someone is ready to trample over sacred values and inflict immense hurt on those who love them, then such people are reproachable, maybe even reprehensible.”

But these assessments are unhelpful. Why? Because when we fix such labels on people, we start behaving derisively or dismissively toward them, thereby making them unreceptive to whatever help we might offer them for overcoming their addiction.

Additionally, these assessments are inaccurate. Why? Because despite their demented or degraded behavior, their inner reality is that they are tormented by goad-like desires.

If someone started goading us externally, we would try to push them away or run away from them. But we can do neither when we are being goaded internally; we can only helplessly bear the pain till it becomes unbearable, and we succumb, desperate for some relief, however short-lived.

Voicing this universal human predicament, the Bhagavad-gita (03.36) raises the question: what impels us to wrongdoing, as if by force, against our will? That inner tormentor is the self-destructive desire of lust (03.37). The Gita equips us with spiritual knowledge and practice. These spiritual resources act as both our inner armor and inner elevator: initially, they protect us from lust’s goads and eventually, they raise us beyond lust’s reach.

When we learn to see the addicted as tormented – not as demented or degraded – we can empathically equip them to protect and elevate their consciousness.

Think it over:

  • Why is seeing the addicted as demented or degraded unhelpful?
  • Why do the addicted relapse, despite knowing that they shouldn’t?
  • How does the Gita equip us against our inner tormentor?

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