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Related Words, Beliefs, Background for Choice #22

Worldview Theme #29A: The Self Restrained Person                                Worldview Theme #33B: Addiction

for a summary read these 5 entries in order: self control, delaying gratification, goal-oriented behavior, abstinence,  monasticism 

for a summary read these 5 entries in order: addiction, addiction consequences, nicotine, tobacco use health care costs, pusher 

abstinencevoluntarily refraining from doing something, often either the consumption of alcohol or having sexual relations.

addiction--a difficult to define term that generally connects with a person being out of control and unable to stop engaging in some activity known to be harmful but instead continuing to compulsively pursue it.  Some addictions can be traced to the physiological and / or psychological dependence on particular chemical substances--such as drugs, alcohol, or foods--which produce a craving for the substance. Others are connected with certain behaviors that involve rewards--such as gambling, sex, and shopping. Both involve withdrawal symptoms--continued craving, anxiety, irritability, and depression-- when the substance or opportunity to engage in the pleasurable behavior is unavailable.  In either case, it seems that an addicted person's brain fails to successfully send a "stop" signal.

addiction, consequences of and battle againstA World Health Organization (WHO) report dated February 8 2008 says, unless governments and societies act quickly to reverse current trends, tobacco use could kill more than one billion people around the world this century. This came several months after the WHO announced a global campaign against alcohol abuse to begin in 2009.  At the time (May, 2007)  it was estimated there were two billion consumers of alcohol worldwide, with Europeans consuming the most.  There, alcohol is linked to 3.2 % of all deaths, 20% to 30% of all cancer, and 1/3 of all auto accidents.  Three years later (May, 2010) the campaign was gathering steam with delegations from all 193 member states of the WHO reaching consensus at the World Health Assembly on “a global strategy to confront the harmful use of alcohol.”  The strategy identifies ten areas of policy options and four priority areas for global action.”  Six years later, in its November 30 2016 issue, a New Scientist article, after admitting “six years ago the WHO appeared to be picking a fight it was unlikely to win,” said “the campaign against alcohol abuse deserves two cheers.” One for falling alcohol consumption in western countries, and another that “their patient and largely consistent  messaging seems to be getting through.”  With respect to tobacco consumption, the news is also encouraging. According to, annual global cigarette consumption peaked in 2009 with an estimated 5.884 trillion cigarettes consumed, and by 2017 had decreased to 5.416 trillion. 

addiction and creativity -- In her book, Witness to the Fire -- Creativity and the Veil of Addiction, Linda Leonard argues that some parallel process (not a cause and effect relationship) occurs in the heads of both addicts and creative people like writers, artists, etc. About them she writes, “Both descend into chaos, into the unknown world of the unconscious. Both are fascinated by what they find there. Both encounter pain, death, and suffering. But the addict is pulled down, often without choice...the creative person chooses to go down into the unknown realm...Some creative artists descend with the help of drugs or alcohol and continue to create. Some find they must give up their addictions in order to create”

alcoholism -- a dependence on alcohol that represents a widespread addictive disorder. It is estimated that about 2.5% of the American adult population are seriously alcohol dependent, with another roughly 3.5% nearly so. Alcohol dependence begins with a social drinker developing a tolerance so that more and more alcohol is needed before intoxicating effects are evident. It progresses in stages, with the final stage often involving little attention paid to physical appearance, inability to control emotions, inability to hold a job, and aggressive behavior. Efforts to stop drinking typically bring withdrawal symptoms including severe shaking, convulsions, and delirious hallucinations. Serious long-term physical effects include liver damage, peptic ulcers, and gastritis. See the next entry.

alcohol or drug abuse treatment programs -- many of these programs include 1) treatment to help people physiologically deal with withdrawal, 2) arranging for fellow recovering addicts or substance abusers to provide each other with mutual encouragement and emotional support, and 3) counseling that typically involves lots of “tough love”.

ascetic--one who subscribes to asceticism; see also asceticism

asceticism -- a lifestyle emphasizing self-discipline and simplicity involving voluntarily abstaining from physical and sensual pleasures usually for religious, spiritual or moral reasons.

Confucianism -- an ethical system / agnostic practical philosophy based on the teachings of the 6th century BC Chinese sage, Confucious. Its key teachings include: 1) Ultimately the happiness of society rests on sincere investigation that produces relevant knowledge; 2) Happy societies are built on a foundation of disciplined individuals in disciplined families; 3) Respect for and fidelity to natural obligations, most notably to parents and family, is essential. 4) The right relationship between individuals is important, one based on sympathetic “fellow feeling”, treating those subordinate to you as you would like to be treated if you were the subordinate -- ideas which provide the basis for a Confucian Golden Rule; 5) Avoiding extremes and embracing moderation --finding a Golden Mean -- is important.

conscience--a sense of 1) what is morally / ethically right or wrong, and 2) which actions a) will produce more pleasure and happiness vs. more pain and suffering, b) will be praised vs. blamed, c)  potentially promise benefits vs. involve risks and potential liabilities.  When conscientious behavior and actual behavior diverge, guilt and feelings of remorse can result.  H.L. Mencken referred to it as "the inner voice that tells us that somebody might be watching." Some connect conscience with religion: it has been termed "God's voice."  Others make no such connection.

delaying gratification--the ability to postpone receiving some reward and control impulses pushing for instant gratification.  Those possessing this are believed to be more emotionally mature than those lacking it.  

dharma--a concept central to the religions of India, symbolized by the wheel, it refers to the underlying principles / inherent order in nature and belief that it is one's duty to live in accordance with them.

discounting the future -- doing or having (consuming) something now, rather than waiting , or rather than investing the money you would have spent and getting a high return on the investment.

drug dependence -- when an individual has a strong, compelling desire to continue taking some drug. It has both physical and psychological aspects.

drugs and the brain -- drugs that affect the human nervous system or brain typically work by promoting or inhibiting the production of neurotransmitters or by blocking the associated receptor sites. Cocaine effectively increases dopamine by blocking a mechanism that gets rid of it; LSD stimulates serotonin production; morphine and heroin fit into the receptors there to take up endorphins and enkaphelins--the brain's natural opiates.  

ecological conscience--a term popularized by Aldo Leopold who connected it with treating the land right--in accordance with his land ethic.  More generally it involves feeling obligated to treat the natural habitat where one lives right: 1) not making a mess of it, and  2) not incurring ecological debt.  

fix—a term originally (and still) used to refer to solving some sort of problem, in later slang use it came to refer to the addictive drug needed to solve the addict’s problem of having to deal with the craving / withdrawal symptoms if something wasn’t done.  

food, calories from– some facts:  The average adult needs 2000 calories per day on average to fully function and not lose weight.   In poor parts of the world many people face a challenge to get them. In contrast, in affluent countries, many worry about consuming too many calories, and many of these folks engage in dieting. In this regard eating one gram of carbohydrate or protein provides 4 calories, but eating one gram of  fat provides 9 calories. Based on these numbers dieters might follow this advice: “Minimize the amount of fat you eat, since you get over twice the number of calories from an equal weight of it versus either equal weights of carbohydrates or protein!”

gambling, pathological -- the Association for Psychological Science defines this gambling addiction as recurring, persisting behavior “that disrupts personal, family, or vocational pursuits.” It represents a higher level of addiction than mere “problem gambling”. It is estimated that about 1.2% of the American adult population are pathological gamblers, and another 2.8% are problem gamblers.

goal oriented behaviorrefers to the clear envisioning of some outcome, objective, or purpose, and then diligently working toward making this a reality.  Debate centers on whether certain individuals make such repeated use / are so preoccupied  with this behavior that it constitutes a character trait, or whether people occasionally go through states where they have an extreme focus on just one particular goal but are otherwise not so inclined.                              

guilt -- an emotional state produced by knowing that one has committed a breach of conduct or violated moral standards. If one accepts society’s version of acceptable behavior, the punishment guilt produces is self-administered. From a different (equation based) perspective, guilt can be considered to be: guilt = conscientious behavior — actual behavior

heart of darkness and lack of self restraint—perhaps more than any character in Western literature, Mr. Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness has come to represent the evil that people totally lacking in restraint are capable of doing. And ,as Kurtz ascents the Congo river in the greedy quest for ivory, he increasingly becomes, as one reviewer put it, “an active sharer in the demonic practices of the savages.” .                                              

Hobbesian view of human nature -- According to 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, human beings were selfish, aggressive, fiercely competitive, highly acquisitive creatures who were incapable of self restraint. With this dim view of human nature, he felt that the authoritarian state offered the only way to keep human beings from killing each other in constant warfare and destroying civilization.

instant gratification -- the thrill that comes when you immediately get a desired something. Driving this is a childish “I want that now!” force. For some, this force is powerful enough to overcome the opposing force: a rational, restraining adult attitude that questions whether the desired something is really needed and whether there is money to pay for it.


instant gratification -- the thrill that comes when you immediately get a desired something. Driving this is a childish “I want that now!” force. For some, this force is powerful enough to overcome the opposing force: a rational, restraining adult attitude that questions whether the desired something is really needed and whether there is money to pay for it.

intoxicant--a drug or chemical agent that produces intoxicating, stupefying,or drunken effects 

masochistic personality—refers to a person whose exhibited behavior seems self defeating or self hurtful.  Some have suggested expanding the characterization and recognizing it as a personality disorder. 

measured–refers to behavior that is deliberate and calculated, not rash and impulsive

meditation--employing techniques to regulate one's attention and produce an inner state of clarity, serenity, and even bliss. Some meditate to calm one's inner self, using it as a sort of mind / body medicine; others to experience higher states of consciousness (even cosmic consciousness) in a mystical / religious quest.  Some techniques--called concentrative--involve narrowing one's mental focus to a pre-selected object or process such as one's breathing; others--called mindfulness --expand one's inner vision in non-critical way to include a whole background or field without thinking or dwelling on any of it.

military conduct and discipline--fundamentally involves obeying orders and consequences for not doing so.  While it includes military courtesy (formal address, salutes, standing at attention, etc), ultimately military training seeks to instill unquestioned obedience, reinforce discipline and respect for the chain of command.

moderation--characterized by not excessive or extreme but within reasonable limits; restrained

monasticism--the religious practice, typically accompanied by 1) belief that the world is evil and 2) vows (of celibacy, obedience, poverty, etc.), where one renounces worldly pursuits and withdraws to seek higher / spiritual truth. 

neuron-- the specialized conducting cells of the brain, nerves and spinal cord--they consist of a cell body, dendrites, and an axon.

neurotransmitters--short-lived chemicals released by one neuron and received at a receptor site of a second neuron: an event which triggers a nerve impulse. They relay, amplify, and modulate signals between neurons--often leading to simultaneous activity in millions of such interconnected cells.  While a few are chemically simple, the rest are typically peptides, amino acids, or monoamines (including dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin.)   

nicotine -- a poisonous and addictive substance that those who smoke and use tobacco products subject their bodies to. It is a stimulant with properties similar to cocaine and heroin. (See drugs and the brain.) It increases dopamine levels in the “reward circuits” of the brain. Thus from a biochemical point of view people keep smoking to maintain high dopamine levels -- although smokers themselves would refer to associated feelings of pleasure. Efforts to stop smoking bring withdrawal symptoms including headaches, anxiety, irritability, anxiety, mental disturbances and sleep disruption. The symptoms peak two to three days after the last cigarette, and are completely gone after two to six weeks.

Noble Eightfold Path, The--a practical prescription for behaving ethically, gaining meditative discipline and wisdom. The Buddha taught that following it was the way to end suffering.    

non-aggression principle–the idea, as expressed by Ayn Rand, that coercive physical force or the threat of such force against person or property should never be used first, and that its only legitimate use is for defensive purposes by individuals or by governments to punish law-breakers

obsession -- an idea, feeling or emotion that persistently haunts or disturbs one’s consciousness and leads to what becomes, either through its repetition or otherwise, inappropriate, unreasonable behavior. Many obsessions are beyond willful control, even with the recognition of their inappropriateness.

personal responsibility, accepting -- Before an individual can overcome some personal difficulty or solve a personal problem, he or she needs to acknowledge that the difficulty or problem exists, by saying something like, “This problem is mine and I must solve it”. In this context, taking personal responsibility means that you don’t ignore difficulties or problems, expect others to solve them for you, or shift the blame to others. In a family or social context, taking personal responsibility can mean voluntarily limiting your choices or restraining yourself for the good of the family, tribe, village, community or whatever. Richard Critchfield refers to this as “the freedom to choose self responsibility”.

prisoners of consumerism-- a derogatory term referring to those who have unthinkingly succumbed to the all pervasive advertising messages of multinational corporations and adopted a consumerist lifestyle based on wanting, valuing, and continually spending money on things that they don’t really need.

Protestant work ethic -- an ethic based on self reliance, hard work and frugality being the path to salvation that has been important in shaping post Reformation western (especially American) society of the last five hundred years. Thus, ingrained in my people’s heads, since their earliest childhood, were sayings like “God helps those who help themselves”, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop”, “A penny saved is a penny earned”, etc. Only recently has a consumption ethic begun to seriously compete with, some would say replace, this work ethic.

pusher -- a derogatory term referring to someone who consciously makes an effort to hook someone on an addictive product or behavior -- including a consumerist lifestyle. With respect to this latter possibility, one can argue that the most massive pusher effort in history involves the nearly impossible to escape advertising messages of multinational corporations trying to hook individuals on wanting and continually spending money on things that they don’t really need. Before a law was passed in 1970 in the USA banning TV and radio ads for cigarettes, tobacco companies  spent a fortune on advertising their addictive and deadly product. See also prisoners of consumerism. 

recreational drug use—Wikipedia defines this as “the use of a psychoactive drug to induce an altered state of consciousness for pleasure by modifying the perceptions, feelings, and emotions of the user.” Recreational drugs include alcohol, cannabis (marijuana), nicotine (tobacco), caffeine, prescription drugs (such as pain-killers), and controlled substances (cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, LSD, psilocybin, etc.)  The money spent on recreational drug use is staggering!  A 2019 report by the RAND corporation estimated USA annual spending on just four of these illicit drugs—cannabis, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine—to be $150 billion/yr. This can be compared with the $158 billion Americans reportedly spent on alcohol in 2017,  $13.6 billion in 2016 on coffee, and $80 billion on cigarettes in 2011) 

self control -- generally this refers to exercising restraint over one’s impulses, desires and emotions. Often it can involve deferring a reward or delaying gratification. -- an ability that many cite as a sign of emotional maturity or even intelligence. Some see the process of exhibiting self control as involving a battle between different parts of the mind. 

sobriety--sedate, calm, sober—the latter often denoting abstention from use of alcohol

stoicism--in modern, popular conception this term means indifference to pleasure or pain, but its classical meaning connects with a whole philosophy. Ancient Greek and Roman stoics taught the importance of self-control, reason,  and courage in maintaining clear judgment --especially during tumultuous times when one might otherwise succumb to destructive emotions.  In general,  stoics seek to maintain inner calm, have their lives flow smoothly and evenly.  Like Buddhists, they believe that life is potentially full of suffering brought on by passions and desires.  They stress that removing these--especially distress, fear, lust, and delight--is the key to having freedom. 

tao / Taoism--the former is a concept from ancient China that can be thought of as the way of nature and, as related to human behavior, the path of virtuous conduct in accordance with nature; the latter refers to the Chinese mystical philosophy or folk religion built around conformity to the tao. Founded by Lao-Tzu in the 6th century BCE, Taoism is polytheist / animist / shamanist in a traditional Chinese way. Ethically it values compassion, moderation, and humility.

temperance--moderation in actions or thoughts, self restraint—often used with reference to use of alcohol

thrifty (or frugal) orientation -- making do with less, saving money and resources by finding creative ways to solve practical problems and maintaining one’s current possessions, thereby improving their functional efficiency and extending their useful life.

tobacco use, health costs ofaccording to the CDC, the USA annually spends $170 billion per year --around $500 per every person--on medical care to treat smoking-related disease in adults.  Despite its and others’ efforts to point out that “tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States…Nearly 40 million US adults still smoke cigarettes and about 4.7 million middle and high school students use at least one tobacco product, including e-cigarettes.”

voluntary simplicity -- a simple, typically environmentally sound and ecologically grounded, non-consumerist lifestyle that people voluntarily choose, typically for ethical, environmental or spiritual reasons

wanton--excessive, undisciplined, unrestrained, often with respect to lewd or immoral behavior

weight gain, avoiding -- the bulk of the human diet will be comprised of fats, protein, and carbohydrates and the energy they supply can be measured in calories. Calories consumed per day should be within a certain range to maintain a healthy weight. Since fats contain 9 calories per gram, and both protein and carbohydrates only 4 calories per gram, consuming lots fats leads to relatively lots of calories. This is not a problem in “hunter and gatherer” societies, where lots of physical activity (i.e. exercise) burns lots of calories, but in western sedentary societies it typically is! In general, if one is currently at a healthy weight, if the calories consumed vs. calories burned are roughly equal, one’s weight will be maintained. If calories consumed typically exceed calories burned, weight gain is inevitable. See books with charts of caloric contents of foods and calories burned by different types of physical activity for the details -- which are important!


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