This week we talk to Maia Szalavitz
Maia Szalavitz is one of the premier American journalists covering addiction and drugs. She is co-author of Born for Love and The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, both with Dr. Bruce D. Perry. Her book, Help at Any Cost is the first book-length exposé of the “tough love” business that dominates addiction treatment. She writes for TIME.com, VICE, the New York Times, Scientific American Mind, Elle, Psychology Today and Marie Claire among others.
Her latest book is Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction
In This Interview, Maia Szalavitz and I Discuss…
- The Wolf Parable
- Her book, Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction
- That your brain becomes what it does – that the more you repeat an activity, the easier it becomes
- How addiction is a developmental disorder
- That learning is critical to addiction
- The problems with discussion about addiction as a disease
- Arguing that addiction is a disease and then treating it like a moral failing
- How addiction resets your priorities and therefore you’ll make very different decisions
- Addiction = compulsive behavior that continues despite negative consequences
- How illogical it is then to try and address addiction by focusing on implementing additional negative consequences
- The complexity of addiction, genes + culture + timing
- The developmental history that gets you to addiction
- How the drug isn’t the problem and our efforts to simply get rid of it isn’t a helpful solution
- Addiction as a learning disorder that is characterized by a resistance to punishment
- The problem with “rock bottom” is that it can only be identified retrospectively, it’s not helpful scientifically, and it implies a moral component of having to reach a point of extreme degradation before you can stop
- What the motivation is that turns people to recovery
- How addicts keep using because they can’t see how they can survive any other way and recovery begins when you start to see that there are other options
- That people with addiction are living at a point of learned helplessness, so the role of hope and other ways of managing their life is critical to recovery and it can start before they quit their drug(s) of choice
- Addiction as a coping mechanism
- The pleasures of the hunt vs the pleasures of the feast
- Wanting vs Liking
- Different motivational states
- Addiction as escalating wanting
- Stimulants and an escalating cycle of never being satisfied and chasing that satisfaction
- 12 Step Programs: are they effective? are they useful?
- The role of medicine in a developmental disorder
- Looking at addicts as students who need to learn better coping skills rather than sinners who need to be forced to repent
- That people who are addicted are PEOPLE and we need to treat them that way
Maia Szalavitz Links
A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.
One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.
The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”
The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed
The Tale of Two Wolves is often attributed to the Cherokee indians but there seems to be no real proof of this. It has also been attributed to evangelical preacher Billy Graham and Irish Playwright George Bernard Shaw. It appears no one knows for sure but this does not diminish the power of the parable.
This parable goes by many names including:
The Tale of Two Wolves
The Parable of the Two Wolves
Which Wolf Do You Feed
Which Wolf are You Feeding
Which Wolf Will You Feed
It also often features different animals, mainly two dogs.