Suppose we asked, what are his purposes in the course, what does he wish to learn, how can we facilitate his learning and his growth? A very different type of education would ensue. An educational program -- whether at the elementary, college, or graduate level -- which had the facilitation of learning as its clear and definite and primary operational purpose would be a program vastly different from the ones with which we are most familiar. A person learns significantly only those things which he perceives as being involved in the maintenance of, or enhancement of, the structure of self. However, we don't hear stories of addiction from that era. If addiction were purely genetic, it couldn't explain the disparity between the high rates of addiction among Indigenous people today relative to the low rates among early Native Americans. Instead, the high levels of addiction in Native American groups today reflect trauma and disempowerment. Colonization and its follow-up deprived people of access to meaning and dignity. The trauma is passed on from one generation to the next both because the conditions persist and because coping styles are passed down. This sociohistorical perspective does not deny that differences in vulnerability are built into individuals' genes and experience. It shows the relative unimportance of individual differences in the face of societal determinants. Addiction is much more a social than an individual problem. Addiction theory for decades relied on the now-discredited assumption that drugs--or behaviors--themselves are the problem. Researcher Bruce Alexander conducted a study that on first look suggests that exposure to cocaine leads to addiction for rats. I choose to work on this skill because: The activities and pursuits I want to have more of in my daily life are: The icebergs around work that I need to melt are: I will melt those with these ice breakers: The icebergs around work that I want to embrace but shave off the trouble spots from are: I will use this mantra to do that:

The icebergs around work that I need to steer around are: I will steer around them by: Get Unstuck The Payoff: Release from the knots and problems that confound you Here is an hypothesis which is basic to personality theory as we have come to understand it. Many would differ with it, and point out the degree of learning that takes place in subjects which surely have no relevance to the self. Perhaps the meaning of the hypothesis can be illustrated by referring to two types of student in, let us say, a course in mathematics or statistics. The first student perceives this mathematical material as being directly relevant to his professional purpose, and thus directly involved in his long-range enhancement of self. The second student is taking the course because it is required. For the maintenance and enhancement of self he regards it as necessary that he stay in the university. Therefore it is necessary that he pass the course. Can there be any question as to the differences in learning which take place? The first student acquires a functional learning of the material. The second learns how to get by in the course. Almost all rapidly became addicted to cocaine to the point of death, which seems to suggest that the coke itself was problematic. Then Alexander considered the rats' circumstances. They were in tiny, individual sheet metal cages without much stimulus. They couldn't even see one another. He set out to test whether their living conditions influenced the outcome. He created a study space he called Rat Park, filling it with rat delights like climbing platforms, tin cans to hide in, wood chips to strew, and exercise wheels.

He also allowed the rats to be together rather than isolated and alone. This time, when given the water choice, the rats shunned the coke version. The difference was dramatic: from a rate of almost 100 percent for isolated rats in dreary conditions, overdoses fell to almost zero in socially connected and comfortable living conditions. The real issue seemed to be the conditions of the rats' lives. Where are you stuck? Almost everyone has at least one problem in his or her life that feels unsolvable. What's the one that comes to mind for you, that's recurring or chronic? Maybe it's friction with your coworker or a repeated standoff with your child or a financial issue. Whatever it is, it's likely causing you significant stress. So let's help you break free of it. Today you're going to learn a powerful skill to unravel most--if not all--of the seemingly fixed knots in your life. An Explanation . A slew of data shows that when human beings are struck by any kind of adversity, we are hardwired to spontaneously seek the cause. We immediately ask, Why is this happening? Or suppose that the information which is being given is in regard to the topography of a certain region. How different will be the learnings of a group listening because this is a required course in geography, and a platoon of infantry who are going into those hills and valleys to seek out the enemy! The maintenance of self is very little involved in the first group, and very deeply in the second. Experience which, if assimilated, would involve a change in the organization of self tends to be resisted through denial or distortion of symbolization. The structure and organization of self appears to become more rigid under threat; Experience which is perceived as inconsistent with the self can only be assimilated if the current organization of self is relaxed and expanded to include it.

These hypotheses have to do with the fact that learning, particularly if it is significant, is often a threatening thing. There are times when the new material of education is immediately perceived as making for the enhancement of self, but in a great many other instances the new material threatens the self or, more exactly, some value with which the self has become identified. This is very obviously true in the social sciences. To learn the objective facts about prejudice may threaten prejudices which are valued. If you're bored, lonely, or dissatisfied with your life, coke is a good distraction. If you're living a good life, your body's natural cocaine-like chemicals usually work, making cocaine less interesting. Human experience seems to bear this out. Consider the Vietnam War, where a fifth of American troops used heroin. Detailed research later showed that 95 percent of them stopped when they returned home. Such studies led Professor Alexander to revise his understanding of addiction. It's the cage, he learned, not the chemical. Addiction is simply a response to your life circumstances. This is true, too, for imprisoned people. Many incarcerated individuals become addicted to drugs while in the bleak conditions of prison. We also reflexively answer that question. The problem is that we don't answer it objectively. We respond through the lens of our explanatory style. An explanatory style is our way of making sense of what happens in the world. These styles were identified by a team of psychologists--Lyn Abramson, Lauren Alloy, and Martin Seligman--while studying depression risk at the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. One style was Me, Always, Everything (which loosely translates to It's my fault, and this character flaw affects all elements of my life, all the time), which clearly, even to a nonexpert's eye, is a thinking style that would put people at risk for depression.

Then there was Not Me, Not Always, Not Everything (which translates to Not my fault, this is a one-time occurrence, and it doesn't affect anything but this one thing), which buffered a person against depression. EXPLANATORY STYLE: The causes we habitually point to as explanations for what happens to and around us in the world. Andrew discovered that two subsets of these styles have the greatest impact on our ability to manage stress, because they hamper us from effectively solving problems. People with an Always/Everything explanatory style can make a situation seem less solvable than it really is, so they give up prematurely. To learn about the distribution of intelligence in the population may disturb beliefs with which the individual is identified. To perceive certain facts relating to our economic system may threaten middle-class values with which the student has identified. But the threatening character of new learning holds true of the physical and biological sciences and the humanities as well. To learn a new mathematical method may imply inferiority in the old method with which the learner is identified. To learn an appreciation of classical music or literature is likely to imply a negative judgment on appreciations already developed at a lower level. We should doubtless be considerably surprised if we knew the proportions of individuals in any student group at any given time whose basic set was a skeptical, resistant, Oh yeah? The reader can to some degree measure this in himself by thinking back over the last five lectures or classes or sermons he has attended. To how much of the material did he find himself inwardly resistant? The educational situation which most effectively promotes significant learning is one in which (1) threat to the self of the learner is reduced to a minimum, and (2) differentiated perception of the field of experience is facilitated. The two parts of this hypothesis are almost synonymous, since differentiated perception is most likely when the self is not under threat. Certainly, the cage here matters more than the chemical. We need to take responsibility as a culture for the conditions that lead so many to addiction. If we want people to give up their addictions, we need to make their lives easier, to support them in making the changes they need. Easy enough to say, you might think, but how to make it happen? What kind of happy juice or universal lever could make everyone's lives suddenly easier? In fact, ordinary human tools--no divine intervention needed--can help minimize addiction, starting with legislation.