Addictive tendencies begin when we consume our first soother. The result of instant gratification sets the stage for future attempts to reduce stress in one’s internal environment.
The soother is a substitute for the thumb as a self-controllable method of managing stress.
As our psyche evolves we discover other alternatives to our thumb, namely sugar and candy and playing with toys. Some children discover that they can manage their stress through destructive behaviour, and if uncorrected in early children, become our adult deviants.
Adults still resort to using sweets to soothe anxiety as demonstrated by the presence of ‘mints’ in dentists’ and lawyers’ offices.
There was a televised study which tested children by leaving a bowl of candy on the table and monitoring how long children would take to consume a candy once the adult left the room.
This was a good case in point to measure how many children were able to resist the tendency towards ‘instant gratification’ to relieve stress in an unknown or unfriendly environment.
The result is that most children took the candy within various amounts of time after the adult left the room.
Those who didn’t take the candy were in the minority and were probably resisting to take the candy because of prior socialization of being told to ‘ask before taking’ as a principle of behaviour.
Some may have resisted taking the candy out of a deeper instilled ‘fear motive’ somehow knowing that some adult was watching even when left alone.
The invisible ‘God’ principle may have been active in deterring some children from taking the candy.
Would you have resisted taking the candy or would you have been quick to indulge once left alone?
I would definitely fall into the second category.
Fortunately, for most of us, as we develop cognitively our ability to resist urges and tendencies to self-gratify becomes more selective and we do develop some resistance to instant gratification urges.
However some of us, because of poor cognitive conditioning, never develop the ability to resist urges and tendencies to self-gratify.
So those of us in this category constantly take advantage of opportunities to self-gratify, perhaps at first with sugar, candy, food (sweet, salty,caffeine,chocolate), masturbation, alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling,work, etc.
The likelihood of succumbing to addictive tendencies behaviour is dependent on repetition and access to gratifying substances. Take the candy and alcohol away and the psyche will have to find something else with which to self-gratify. The psyche will want to find a substitute to self-gratify.
I believe that it’s important to differentiate between addictive substances depending on their physiological and psychological addictive qualities which reinforce the frequency of urges.
The occurrence of increasing obesity in our society highlights the increase in over-eating as the method of choice to relieve stress in our societies, manifested as response to fear or anxiety.
This increase in insecurity about the future is causing the increase in obesity and over-eating, alcoholism, and self-medicating with pharmaceutical drugs and illegal drugs.
The relatively steady rate of smoking in society varies modestly depending on the frequency of smoking-cessation promotion by the health authorities and is at around 30%. However the rate of smoking has been relatively gender-constant in the past at 50/50, there is a current shift towards more young girls smoking than boys indicating that they handle stress less well than boys, and/or they are exposed to more peer pressure to smoke than boys because they are generally more interactive socially than boys. The modern incidence of predominantly male use of virtual video war games may contribute to explain its use as a substitute of gratification replacing cigarettes.