An acquaintance referred to a man we were collaborating on to help as “a drug addict.” It was meant to be a catch-all for his problems. I understood in the moment what he was saying as “this man is unreliable, and of poor judgement.” He chose to diagnose this condition as “drug addict.”
I believe this not a useful usage of the term, and is even damaging and disrespectful.
One is not a drug addict, more accurately said one is hurt, scared, traumatized, and in difficult circumstances, and may use drugs ~ in dangerous, and irresponsible ways ~ to attempt to survive. I would rather refer to this person dealing with life like this as hurting, or overwhelmed.
To look at the strategy one uses to cope with life as the problem itself is disrespectful to the sufferer. It says I do not see you, but only what you do. I only care about how you effect ME. It is self centered and self protective. It refuses to employ empathy of the other, or to accept him. It says change and then I will see you, until then you are a drug addict.
It is similar to telling a child in pain “do not cry”, as a dentist recently told my daughter “you are a big girl, why are you crying?” She is crying because it hurts!
Please do cry, feel! I hope she can always cry when things are truly painful. I hope no one’s hearts ever again become sealed to feeling their pain.
When one shuts themselves to the pain inside themselves they shut themselves to all emotions. We only have one pipeline for emotion; the vibrantly joyful, and the awfully terrible feelings only have one heart. Do not crush the pipeline of emotion.
Of course it is incredibly vital to learn to act responsibly and usefully. To feel in full HD color, and to know how to live as well. This is the proper training we must give people. I was recently listening to an audiobook on negotiation technique, the author introduced the idea of labeling. Essentially label your partner’s feelings and they become more manageable. I used this with my son, when I brush his teeth he often cries, I now take a few moments while holding him and the toothbrush to label his fears “you are afraid it will hurt?” He does not respond, but afterwards he is much calmer.
This is just one simple tool from the toolbox of emotional intelligence available, and the truth is you are already an expert. I know you are an expert in emotional intelligence, because every child is an emotional intelligence genius. Children can cry fully, then laugh with their whole belly a moment later. They do not over process their negative feelings or attempt to control the positive ones.
I bless you and bless me too that our hearts be fully open to the vibrancy of life, and that we see others as whole people.
Rabbi Dovid Baars