By Jim Selman | BioAnyone familiar with 12 Step programs knows that the literature generally characterizes the ‘ism’ or addiction as a disease of ‘self-centeredness’. This is basically a way of saying that the behavior (that is, the alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc.) are symptoms—not causes. The nature of the problem is that people become trapped in a ‘self-referential’ relationship with the world, live in various states of denial, and pursue increasingly self-destructive behaviors until they ‘hit bottom’. At that moment, they can begin the process of recovery—assuming they will take the first step—to acknowledge that they are out of control and powerless and that their life is ‘unmanageable’.
I suggest that the relationship between the ego and the individual (the self-centeredness) is similar to the relationship between culture and an organization or society. They are both manifestations of a paradigm that creates self-referentiality. Self-referentiality, in itself, can be useful: it is what allows us to learn from our past experiences and allows us to choose what is meaningful to us. But it can become dangerous—even fatal—when reality changes and we find that