Craving Seen As “Hope”

December 28th, 2011 | Posted by Michael Taleff in Uncategorized

Daniel Kahneman is a psychologist and a noble laureate. He was awarded his prize (in part) because he discovered several ways the human brain makes thinking errors.

He recently wrote a book, Thinking Fast and Slow, which is pretty much the story of his career, and the discovery of many human thinking errors. The book, however, rarely addresses addiction theory or treatment per se, but if you read it carefully it is filled with an assortment of addiction ideas.

One topic that struck me was his discussion of emotional learning. Kahneman indicated, and supported quite well, that of all the negative emotions out there fear is the one emotion humans most easily acquire. To confirm this argument even more, he invoked Pavlov’s famous dog experiment. That’s how dogs were trained to salivate to the sound of a bell. His point was that as we experience something frightful, the experience becomes pretty much hard wired in our brain like a bell going off.

But, the main point I want to make is that Kahneman indicated that Pavlov’s dog experiment could just as well be described a learned hope. The bell goes off and the dog automatically “hopes” some meat is on its way.

That got me to thinking about cravings and hope. Perhaps when a client sees or hears something that has been conditioned to his/her past chemical of choice, the resulting craving is not merely an unthinking automatic response. Perhaps there is an element of hope that is elicited as well. Like, “Hope I’ll get my drug soon.”
The thought has made me change the way I tackle a client’s cravings. These days, I discuss the possibly that hope might be associated with the craving. If so, then try to find ways to take the air out of that hope, and redirect that hope to something more positive.

This whole learned hope thing was the main point of this blog.

A second point is – don’t simply limit your reading to addiction topics. You might miss a host of things you could otherwise use.

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