If addiction is an answer, then what was the question? Towards a cultural and a theological understanding of addiction.

  1. Lemma
  2. If addiction is an answer, then what was the question? Towards a cultural and a theological understanding of addiction.
  3. English
  4. Delli, Eudoxie
  5. Scientific theories and disciplines > Psychology-Psychoanalysis - Orthodox Anthropology - Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Premodern _modern_ postmodern - Orthodox theological tradition and practice - Complementarity
  6. 17-11-2018
  7. Τhermos, (Protopresbyter) Vasileios [Author]. If addiction is an answer, then what was the question? Towards a cultural and a theological understanding of addiction.
  8. European Journal of Science and Theology
  9. Addiction - concepts of Self - cultural history - pastoral care - Philip Cushman
    1. <p>Thermos, V. (2013). If addiction is an answer, then what was the question? Towards a cultural and a theological understanding of addiction. <em>European Journal of Science and Theology</em>, <em>9/1</em>, 7-15.</p>
    1. In his article Father V. Thermos considers the wide range of addictive behaviors (illegal substances, smoking, alcohol, food, and spectacle [TV, web surfing], digital communication [chatting, social media], video games, gambling, sex.) as an impressive contradiction of the postmodern subject, a voluntary alienation of the person. In order to study this phenomenon, the author focuses firstly on a general macroscopic research on the subject of addictions as an undivided collective problem, so as to determine its cultural and psychological causes.

      In the first part, he treats the psychodynamics of the problem from a social and epidemiological perspective. Then, he investigates the clinical significance of addictions as seen from a psychiatric perspective and following the clinical experience.

      Despite its diverse forms and objects, addictive behavior is considered by Fr Thermos as a unitary disease given that all types of it are characterized by the same psychological laws, combined with other non-clinical conditions which act as “organizers”. Those conditions are contemporary cultural and existential factors such as the fear in front of freedom, the need for undoing the existential void or even chaos which ends up to techniques of pseudo-filling; the organization of the anxiety about hope along predictable and safe “ axes”; the illlusion of control on a “central tank of unlimited possibilities”, a control that provides with a fantasy of omnipotence; and finally, the remedy of the “empty self” that was created by a decreased social continuity.

      Moreover, Fr V. Thermos brings light to the cultural roots of the addiction phenomenon and its current peak in the passage from the modern to the postmodern era. While Modernity is linked to the society of abundance, Postmodernity has become synonymous to the society of spectacle and cyberspace. The combination of these two social and cultural developments has led to a seductive alienation, which makes an alteration of human psyche. Despite the efforts made by contemporary Psychiatry and Psychology to think basically from a biological point of view, addictions unfold their true nature when they are being treated as issues stemming from the complexity of the human nature.

      Father V. Thermos emphasizes two core issues closely related to the psychodynamic background of the addiction phenomenon: the idea of control or more precisely on the illusion of control, as it is incompatible with relationship; and the role of the desire in the middle of false accomplishments. According to the author, the addicted person emotionally invests in the process itself of searching and finding the desired object, while the real openness of being coincides with a persistently pending desire which is the same to say that the other is meaningful for the subject and not reduced to an instrumental object. The lack of any gratification of desire, namely its refusal to be fulfilled with anything offered in this world, indicates its capacity for openness to love for real persons, God included.

      The author points out that postmodern era, related to the collapse of ideologies, led to the emptiness of the self (Ph. Cushman) and the emergence of a new superego. The global capitalistic network, in order to preserve itself and expand further, needs to create that void into as many as it can, so that the tendency to buy useless goods or services may become prevalent. Consumerism seems to be the dominant answer of society to hopefully fill the void. Any form of addiction is at the same time a distortion of desire assuming both a full subject and a universe made of easy, manageable objects.

      In the last part of the article, Fr Thermos proposes the principles for a meaningful ecclesiastical response to the addictive culture. Theology, must definitely be relational as a result of Incarnation and should also promote real selves in the believers because only a real self is able to be offered as a “first matter” to be sanctified. Negative attitude is not pastorally effective any more, while even an inspired asceticism is for sure indispensable but it is not adequate. People cannot implement abstinence from addiction pleasures without being simultaneously strengthened by meaningful healthy bonds with other people and God. In this perspective, he suggests three principles of pastoral care carried out in a positive way: love, healthy interpersonal relationships and embracement of reality instead of imagination. Furthermore, the pastoral praxis has to develop strategies that will make the ecclesiastical organization itself a real self, a source of inspiration and encouragement instead of a mechanism investing in illusions and creating disillusionment.

      Fr Thermos concludes that addiction is a both a psychological and a spiritual disease, as well as an illness of our civilization and of the communitarian climate that we belong to (family, Church, etc.), which undermines human nature and leads it to impoverishment. Thus the urge to rediscover an authentic spiritual life rings particularly true for the Church, as it is fundamentally true that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (II Corinthians 3.17).