Whether it is a part of the general human condition, or the conditioning of our materialistic oriented society I am not sure of, but humans appear to be programmed to seek pleasure and avoid pain. My best guess is we have a primal instinct of self-preservation that orients us in these directions on the physical plane, but our societal conditioning maps this onto our emotional and mental plane too. Our survival instincts steer us away from physical pain and when we experience it, like touching a hot stove, our conditioning takes note. Our prime directive is to survive, and physical pain is a teacher.
On the emotional and mental dimension, we also hope to avoid pain, but things are much more complicated and less straight forward here. Emotional pain arises from our own minds, and there is not an obvious hot stove to avoid. The teaching of the pain is obscured, although there is a lesson to be learned, so we offset it by pleasure seeking. We go shopping, eat, drink alcohol, take a substance, engage in lust, lose ourselves in physical exercise, become workaholics, etc. That is just how it is. That is how the world goes around, and for most people it is good enough because they have impulse control to the degrees they will go to seek pleasure and avoid pain.
There are some, however, that lack this impulse control from an early age, and if not treated, they succumb to addiction and other related self-destructive activities. But what about the people that seem to have this impulse control most of their lives and then lose it out of seemingly nowhere?
The Religiosity Impulse
Carl Jung believed that imbedded in all of us, is what he termed the religiosity impulse. An impulse that drives us to want to connect to a Higher Power. It can lay dormant forever or it can be become active in an individual to varying degrees. When activated, however, it triggers an intense emotional pain of loss, loneliness, yearning, abandonment, and despair that is almost unbearable. This pain throws the pleasure-seeking and pain avoiding impulse control out the window as the individual is lost in an intolerable and undiagnosed pain. This can lead to an almost overnight personality change in an individual as they lose themselves in trying to fill the void in them that is growing wider and wider.
This is very much what I went through a few years ago. I did not have a religious upbringing nor was I even slightly spiritual in anyway. I was a happily finding my way through the material world when the ground fell out from underneath my feet and nothing that I was doing made sense or had any meaning anymore. I couldn’t make any sense out of how I was feeling nor could any of the professionals I was seeing at the time. My impulse control went out the window and my life fell apart until I was introduced to the concept that I had a spiritual malady.
The idea that I had a spiritual problem that required a spiritual solution is clear to me now but total obscured to me at the time. It is food for thought for you or anyone you know who is struggling. Maybe consider it and reach out if you need help.
Spiritus Conta Spiritum – Carl Jung