Jean Pollack Ph.D.

Creativity as a Way of Life

Have We Become Comfortably Numb?

Are we in chronic psychic pain

Posted Jun 01, 2011

Are We In Chronic Psychic Pain?

The rate of addiction to food, cigarettes, alcohol, pornography, video games, texting, personal items is growing rapidly. One in four people in our culture are taking prescription pain medicine. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that overdose fatalities from prescription painkillers have increased from fewer than 4,000 in 2000 to more than 11,000 in 2007, the last year for which statistics are available, reports a Times Free Press article. By comparison, cocaine deaths rose from about 3,000 in 2000 to about 5,000 in 2007. The number of heroin deaths remains unchanged, the report indicates, at about 2,000 annually. The statistics are old, but officials believe that the number of deaths related to prescription painkillers continues to rise at a faster rate than those attributed to cocaine and heroin.

Are we comfortably numb in our addictions? Is it easier to take a pill than to control our impulses and take responsibility for what we are doing than to wake up and allow ourselves to feel the pain, sadness, fear or anger that resides in our heart our soul? 'Hello Hello Hello is there anybody in there? Nod if you can hear me. I feel you're feeling down. Can you show me where it hurts?' (These are timeless lyrics by Pink Floyd).

Why are we in such pain? I recently attended a conference on Chronic Pain. The irony is worth mentioning. I walked into the conference at 8:30 am and there was enough food to feed an army or more. The hotel supplied doughnuts, muffins, fruits, yogurt, cereals, juices and every other food you can imagine. I noticed many of the participants were overweight or obese. They were filling their plates to the top -- not only one plate but two and three which they took to their seats with them. Are people afraid that they are going to starve before break?

I know that in the health care profession of psychology, counseling and medicine we are stressed by the many challenges inherent in the work that we do. But I see this more frequently where ever I go, obesity and other addictive behaviors. Two hours later at break, another feast was presented. Again, people filled their plates as if we hadn't eaten in a week. Just two hours later, a buffet lunch was served and again I noticed the piling of food on people's plates. I couldn't help but notice that most of these people must be in their own chronic pain and we as a society are in a type of chronic psychic pain. The hotel catered this unreasonable amount of food that they anticipate is expected. Why is everyone eating so much? They can't be hungry, the body requires a certain amount of calories for optimum maintenance and health. Is our society in chronic psychic pain? Are we comfortably numbing ourselves with food drugs, porn and other stimulants that give our brain an instant reward? Why do we need a reward?

According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, seeing a milkshake can activate the same areas of the brain that light up when an addict sees cocaine, U.S. researchers said on Monday.
"These findings support the theory that compulsive food consumption may be driven in part by an enhanced anticipation of the rewarding properties of food," Gerhardt and colleagues wrote.
The hypofrontal area of the brain is related to inhibition and decreased size/activity of the frontal lobes. It is associated with a loss of ability to control impulses coming from the brain's limbic system. This condition (hypofrontality) is found in drug, food, and sex addictions.

We numb ourselves from the pain, frustration and anxiety of our lives. Addicting substances and behaviors achieve their effects by imitating the functions of our natural hormones and neurotransmitters.

If our lives are so stressful that we need to numb ourselves, then we need to learn how to live more creatively. Creative living can change our brains and bring a sense of calm and peaceful rhythm. Addicting substances and behaviors achieve their effects by imitating the functions of our natural hormones and neurotransmitters. Ongoing stress and trauma can are responsible for dissociated states of amnesia and numbness which are symptoms of addiction. Mind Body therapy can help a person reframe memory mind and behavior which can result in less need for instant gratification and rewards. This takes a commitment to change our life to a simpler less complex more creative way of living. See more on Mind Body therapy: www.jeanemdrcoach.com

*Copyright(Jean Pollack)