“We tend to imagine that we can only become addicted to a few sorts of things. But real addiction is about using something, anything, to keep our real emotions, fears and hopes at bay. There are many more addicts among us than we think,” writes Alain De Botton in the The Book of Life.
Botton’s sagacious insight on addiction is brought to life by Yan Dan Wong’s colourful, visual animation (above) for The School of Life, an organisation dedicated to developing emotional intelligence.
People have preconceived “stock images of the addict”, associated with drinking, smoking, or habituated drug use. These ideas alienate us from the idea of addiction, and from sympathising with conventional substance addicts. They also provide a false sense of reassurance and righteousness to people who associate addiction solely with substance abuse, and fail to evoke self-awareness of their own addictions.
Wong portrays conventional addicts and how they’re perceived in black and white, dissociated from the colour of the world.
“Addiction is the manic reliance on something, anything, in order to keep our dark or unsettling thoughts at bay,” explains the narrator, “What properly indicates addiction is not what someone is addicted to, for we can get addicted to pretty much anything. It is the motives behind their reliance on it – and, in particular, their desire to avoid encountering the contents of their own mind.”
Addiction purveys a lack of self awareness or introspection, an unwillingness to be with one’s thoughts, and can be manifested as excessive reading, nervously checking the news, drowning oneself in work, and addiction to smartphones or social media.