Addiction a Learned Behavior?
Behaviorism originated in the field of psychology, but it has had a much
wider influence. Its concepts and methods are used in education, and many
education courses at college are based on the same assumptions about
man as behaviorism. Behaviorism has infiltrated sociology, in the form of
sociobiology, the belief that moral values are rooted in biology. What are the
presuppositions of behaviorism?
1. Behaviorism is naturalistic. This means that the material world is the ultimate reality, and everything can be explained in terms of natural laws. Man has no soul and no mind, only a brain that responds to external stimuli.
2. Behaviorism teaches that man is nothing more than a machine that responds to conditioning. One writer has summarized behaviorism in this way: “The central tenet of behaviorism is that thoughts, feelings, and intentions, mental processes all, do not determine what we do. Our behavior is the product of our conditioning. We are biological machines and do not consciously act; rather we react to stimuli.”
The idea that men are “biological machines” whose minds do not have any influence on their actions is contrary to the biblical view that man is the very image of God – the image of a creative, planning, thinking God. In fact, Skinner goes so far as to say that the mind and mental processes are “metaphors and fictions” and that “behavior is simply part of the biology of the organism.” Skinner also recognizes that his view strips man of his “freedom and dignity,” but insists that man as a spiritual being does not exist.
3. Consistently, behaviorism teaches that we are not responsible for our actions. If we are mere machines, without minds or souls, reacting to stimuli and operating on our environment to attain certain ends, then anything we do is inevitable. Sociobiology, a type of behaviorism, compares man to a computer: Garbage in, garbage out.
This also conflicts with a Christian worldview. Our past experiences and our environment do affect the way we act, of course, but these factors cannot account for everything we do. The Bible teaches that we are basically covenant creatures, not biological creatures. Our nearest environment is God Himself, and we respond most fundamentally to Him. We respond either in obedience to or rebellion against His Word.
4. Behaviorism is manipulative. It seeks not merely to understand human behavior, but to predict and control it. From his theories, Skinner developed the idea of “shaping.” By controlling rewards and punishments, you can shape the behavior of another person.
As a psychiatrist, one of Skinner’s goals is to shape his patients’ behavior so that he or she will react in more socially acceptable ways. Skinner is quite clear that his theories should be used to guide behavior: “The experimental analysis of behavior has led to an effective technology, applicable to education, psychotherapy, and the design of cultural practices in general, which will be more effective when it is not competing with practices that have had the unwarranted support of these theories.”
In other words, Skinner wants behaviorism to be the basis for manipulating patients, students, and whole societies.
The obvious questions, of course, are: Who will use the tools? Who will pull the strings? Who will manipulate the technology? No doubt, Skinner would say that only someone trained in behavioral theory and practice would be qualified to “shape” the behavior of other persons. But this is contrary to the biblical view, which commands us to love our neighbor, not to manipulate him.
In summary, the ethical consequences of behaviorism are great. Man is stripped of his responsibility, freedom, and dignity, and is reduced to a purely biological being, to be “shaped” by those who are able to use the tools of behaviorism effectively.
Learning new skills and effective skill building requires time and repetition. By the time they seek treatment, users habits related to their drug abuse tend to be deeply ingrained. Any given routine around acquiring, using, and recovering from use is well established and tends to feel comfortable to the addict, despite the negative consequences of the abuse. It is important that counselors recognize how difficult, uncomfortable, and even threatening it is to change these established habi
ts and try new behaviors.
Our lives are a series of habits, held together in perfect sequence by our subconscious mind. Whether it is over indulgence or the task of typing on my computer keyboard, the subconscious takes me through the paces without having to think about results – or consequences. Over 90% of our daily living is an action of habit, systematically driven by our subconscious mind. Healthy habits like washing our bodies, brushing our teeth, driving a car or looking both ways before crossing the street are behaviors learned by the Subconscious mind and fed back to us without a conscious thought.
All habits are learned behavior. The subconscious mind receives the impress of our repetitive thoughts in order to set habit patterns. Begin to take stock of your habits.
Be aware of your thinking patterns. Each thought and word is an affirmation. See if you are thinking negatively. Do not judge yourself. Merely observe your thoughts. Trust in your words and thoughts to create a healthy belief system. This happens by consistently receiving categories of doctrine and internalizing the word of God to develop new thoughts and spiritual habits.
Only a small percentage of the brain is under conscious control. We are responsible for this part of our thought processes. The vast majority of brain function is Subconscious.” Moreover, they point out, only “twenty percent of our decisions come from the conscious, reasoning mind. The rest come from
What is Learned Helplessness?
Some Depressed people became that way because they learned to be helpless. Depressed people learned that whatever they did is fruitless. During the course of their lives, depressed people apparently learned that they have no control.
The marketing experts at Hallmark say that 15 million Americans now attend weekly support groups for chemical addictions and other problems. (Some “experts,” as we shall see, place the figure much, much higher.) Another 100 million relatives are cheering on their addicted loved ones. This means that half of all Americans are either “in recovery” or helping someone who is.
In a clear voice, we must deal with what we have done and why it was wrong. And we must use the word ‘I’ not ‘it’ or ‘illness.’ I did it. I. I.” Self-Esteem Is the reestablishing of self-esteem with. Is this a key to “recovery”? While I believe there is a biblical basis for the Christian’s sense of worth that is based on being created in the image of God and being the object of God’s love (as evidenced by Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross), I believe the answer to this question must be no. First, scientific studies have shown no cause-and-effect link between self-esteem and behavioral problems. Moreover, when self-esteem is given priority it can easily conflict with the development of traits which the Bible accords much greater priority: self-denial and genuine humility (Mark 8:34-35; Rom. 12:3; Eph. 3:8; Phil. 2:3; 1 Tim. 1:15; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).
Related to this, based on reading a representative sampling of Christian recovery books, I don’t think the doctrine of total depravity has received sufficient recognition in the recovery movement. Yes, Christian recovery leaders clearly acknowledge that people are infected by sin. However, more often than not the bad in our lives is presented as being more the result of unjust social conditions or growing up in a bad environment. As one critic put it, “in place of the idea of original sin, recovery experts put forward their own first cause of all our ills—the American [dysfunctional] family.”
We must emphasize that regardless of the attainment of self-esteem, people will continue to behave badly and suffer the consequences for their actions because they have a nature that is bent on evil. Feeling good about ourselves will not remove or alter this depravity. Hence, seeking self-esteem as a solution to inappropriate behavior seems misguided.
A past-present connection cannot be denied regarding how people behave. But I do question whether such an in-depth examination of one’s past history and “resolving” childhood conflicts is a precondition to correct or appropriate behavior. I cannot agree with the idea that “we are bound (or condemned, some would say) to repeat the family experience we remember” (emphasis in original), and that “unresolved issues in childhood doom the emerging adult to recreate, to repeat, the past.” Besides, experts tell us that person’ memories can and often do distort the facts to one degree or another. Hence, a detailed investigation into the events of one’s past may not yield an accurate picture of what actually happened in that distant time anyway.
“It’s a bit like trying to drive a car while looking only in the rear view mirror. You don’t get very far that way, and you run the risk of a crack-up. I prefer to check the rear view from time to time, making sure that the reflection is accurate, but concentrate most of my attention on the road ahead. Only if I see something gaining on me from behind do I stop to deal with it.”
The apostle Paul had a legalistic upbringing, and was guilty of severely persecuting the church prior to his conversion. But instead of focusing on the past, he declared, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).