Illusion: (Oxford English Dictionary)
- An instance of a wrong or misinterpreted perception of a sensory experience.
- A deceptive appearance or impression.
- A false idea or belief.
Even though I can’t remember most of them, it would be dishonest of me to argue that my first (few hundred) times taking drugs weren’t some genuinely mind-blowing experiences. They just tended to lead to some seriously good times, didn’t they? The social, the visual, the auditory, the sensual, the sexual (OMG) and even spiritual experiences were all part of the journey, depending on what drug you were taking. Little did I know that all of these experiences, one by one, were planting a jungle of seeds into my unconscious mind, establishing ‘getting high’ as the number one pastime, whether I was with friends, with family, alone at home watching TV, at work, before and after breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or just going out to the shops to buy some toilet paper.
It had to be done high. Those little seeds had over the years grown and grown into a dense and almost impenetrable jungle!
An eco-system consisting of huge trees of false beliefs, lakes of rationalisations, and surrounded by Granite Mountains of justifications – a jungle of illusions! Addictions illusions!
The Reality Tunnel
Trevor Silvester (founder of Quest Cognitive Hypnotherapy) teaches us about an unconscious process which he calls our ‘Reality Tunnel’. (Very briefly explained) our ‘Reality Tunnels’ are made up of our past and present experiences, what they mean to us, and our presupposed futures based on those experiences. Lived experiences that were significant enough to establish or reinforce ingrained thought patterns, ideas, beliefs, fears, etc. run on a constant loop within this ‘Reality Tunnel’ and play a massive part in how we perceive and make meaning of the world around us and, as a result, how we respond to it. Trevor Silvester calls this process of our ‘memory reflecting our presupposed (imagined) future’ as our ‘Memoragination’ (creative, I know). Memoragination describes an almost simultaneous process of our memory (along with its established beliefs, values, fears, phobias, etc.) and our imagination, working together, to form a prediction (conscious or unconscious) of how our future will play out in any given situation.
Take a grown 45-year-old man, for example, still terrified of dogs because he was once bitten by his auntie’s dog at age 8. 37 years later, walking down the high street and suddenly spots a Chihuahua walking towards him in the distance. Chihuahua + Reality Tunnel + Memoragination = danger (belief), fear (response) and our man quickly (but subtly) crosses the road (consequence), so he doesn’t get ravaged again. Poor guy.
Similar to how negative or neutral events in our lives can establish beliefs and values to protect us, the positive events also establish many of our beliefs and values in order to keep us happy, even if those beliefs are false beliefs which do more harm than good.
But what has this got to do with addiction?
Quite a lot, actually. What is addiction if not a set of false beliefs and promises? Of course, the mechanics of addiction goes deeper than a set of false beliefs; there is the neurological process which drive our cravings, to consider (another article perhaps). Even so, how do those neurological processes lead us to eventually caving in, and justifying or rationalising use “just one more time”? By feeding us with the sweet fruits from the trees of false beliefs, by momentarily baptising us with the cool and refreshing blue waters of the lake of rationalisation, and keeping us safely closed in with those mountains of justification.
So, let’s have a look at some of the unconscious, false beliefs (Addictions Illusions) Maybe you will relate to some of these. I know I do!
False unconscious belief: I’m too weak to stop my addiction. (A belief likely created through past experiences of failing to quit using willpower alone).
Reality: You are not weak! If you were genuinely “weak” then you probably wouldn’t have been able to continue your addiction as long as you have. Using willpower alone doesn’t always work because Will and Power are both finite resources, they will eventually run out (hello addictions illusions!). Maybe allowing yourself to be weak and vulnerable at times would be a good start.
False unconscious belief: Only my addiction makes me the person I want to be.
Reality: If you already have an idea of whom you want to be, then great! Why not be it without harming yourself, your loved ones, and your pocket? Imagine how much better you could perform in the world as that person, without an addiction clouding your mind and judgment!
False unconscious belief: I’m not harming anyone, I’m just living my life.
Reality: You are harming those who love you. Sometimes even more than you are harming yourself. They can see the changes in you, and somewhere deep down inside, you know this, and it is harming you in ways that are more damaging than any comedown, hole in your pocket, or hangover ever could. Even if they don’t always show that they know, remember this, denial is a powerful thing.
False unconscious belief: life is just boring and stressful without…X.
Reality: It is actually your addiction that’s making life seem boring and stressful. Once it’s time for your fix, your brain lowers your serotonin levels to give you the illusion of boredom or stress and begins raising your dopamine levels to motivate you to act out the thing which it thinks (reality tunnel) is the cure to your boredom or stress. How can life be boring? Remove the haze of addiction, and I bet you will see, feel, hear, the world around you with so much more clarity, that even a funny shaped cloud would elevate you for a time.
False unconscious belief: This addiction keeps me social and connected with my friends.
Reality: Just because you are sitting in a ditch with someone, doesn’t mean that you have a healthy human connection. They are doing what they think is best for them, and you need to do what is best for you. If they are truly your friends, they will let you out of the ditch, maybe even give you a boost out.If you are in there with them because you think you are somehow supporting them, you are not. If you want to help somebody out of a ditch then, the best place to do that from would be from the outside it.
False unconscious belief: Someone else made me like this.
Reality: that might be so… but, now you are keeping yourself there.
False unconscious belief: My addiction helps me forget my problems, and covers up my pain.
Reality: Some wounds need more than a sticking plaster to heal. There is better help available than a drug dealer, a shopping cart, a screen, a bottle, a bedroom door, food, or an abusive relationship.
Where do we go from here?
Like I say, these are just some of the more common illusions that I come across in my work, if you have anything more you would like to discuss with me, then I would be more than happy to have that conversation with you.
It’s not my job to give you the “correct” thoughts or beliefs to have. Everyone lives within their model of the world and with their own sets of values and beliefs. In fact, to tell you what to think would be to push my model of the world onto you. What I can do instead, is give you a glimpse of your unique reality tunnel, to help you see how those negative thoughts and ideas may have begun, how they operate within your own life. Just imagine how different your life could be once those old and unhelpful beliefs are updated to thoughts and beliefs that will help create a mindset more attuned to the life you do want.
One can only imagine what a powerful process breaking down these ‘problem-patterns’ would be, and how much potential change this could create in our lives.