Who seeks, finds

By Mathias Maurer, April 2016

Alcohol, drugs, the Internet and sex are its most prominent representatives. Less sensationally, there are computers, gambling or nicotine. In contrast, consumerism, caffeine, television and obsessive accumulation lead a veritable life in the shadows.

In socially desirable form it takes on the guise of non-stop working, ensures efficiency and optimisation, including of our own physical body: fit and youthful. In a more exotic and private form, but no less determining our behaviour, it appears in connection with zealousness, indeed revenge, but also as an innocent sweet tooth, mockery, enjoyment and pleasure. It feeds adventure, harmony, sensations, fun, frugality and waste as well as love and death in equal measure – addiction.

And it can be intensified – into greed: for power, new things, food, possessions or money, profit or fame – a desire that can even include murder and knowledge.

What is deemed to be a lapse from normality is socially defined and sanctioned by our surroundings in a correspondingly positive or negative way. Even if we cannot always escape the impression that the modern information society has not progressed that much beyond tribal society and a herd mentality – just think of social media swarms – the way in which the individual person reaches their independent judgement alone and out of themselves is more important than ever today.

The dictates of politically correct and normative sociality is omnipresent and tends towards mediocrity, fitting in and servility. What we need, however, is an unswerving affirmation of individuality and its freedom. Rudolf Steiner calls it ethical individualism. Our I is called upon to act, being under attack – more than at times of obvious external threat – with ever greater frequency at its core, not least through the things that carry the potential within themselves to control, manipulate and destroy us. That includes everything that can turn us into addicts.

The prevention expert Felicitas Vogt defines addiction as the surrogate activity of the human I. She describes addiction as an obsessive and permanent compulsion to suppress the voice of our own I through outer stimulation of whatever kind. In conflict situations in particular, she says, surrogate or evasive action is taken although such situations could really only be resolved through our own effort. We are all familiar with this in our everyday lives.

Addiction conceals the longing for self-efficacy and self-development – a longing which cannot, however, find any toehold in a human counterpart, which slips on the ice of the perfect way that others seem to cope with life, which cannot accept that things might also be abysmal.

Our task is not to let the search for identity slip into addiction and dependency on the stony path through loneliness and homelessness. Unity with ourselves and the world can only be found out of inner freedom.

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