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Drug Addiction

William Dubin, Ph.D.
Helping people cope with Addictions and Impulse Control Disorders


William Dubin, Ph.D. Updated: Feb 10th 2010

Doing Mode refers to interacting with the world in a goal directed way. The OPEN Path exemplifies Doing Mode. You notice a discrepancy between the way things are and the way you want them to be so you develop a plan to achieve your goal, execute it, and observe how it worked so you can modify your actions accordingly. In contrast, Being Mode refers to experiencing the here and now without trying to accomplish anything.

woman sitting in the sunSuffering naturally evokes Doing Mode to solve the problem and end the suffering. When you attempt to solve a personal problem, your attention will often focus on the difference between the way you are and the way you want to be. If you are not careful, this perspective can be a seductive trigger for ruminative self-focus. Ironically, intending not to fall into this trap can set up a self-critical reaction when you catch yourself ruminating, "I'm ruminating again, after I told myself not to."

Pathogenic rumination can be evoked by almost anything, and overcoming it requires that you recognize that you are doing it, so that you can disengage from it. But this, of course, implies Doing Mode, which is likely to trigger self-evaluation and ruminative self-focus, and the recognition that you have fallen back into it again.

This is an extraordinarily destructive trap, but it is so compelling. One approach to escaping it is to develop the meta-cognitive ability to intentionally switch from Doing Mode to Being Mode, and thereby awaken yourself from autonomous problem-solving and the state-dependent phenomena it engenders, and instead experience the here and now without interpretation.


Mindfulness is a mental discipline that promotes awakening and may be defined as: Sensitivity to present experience with non-judgmental acceptance.

Much of our behavior occurs autonomously in the service of one goal or another. As we go about our daily lives, we are typically preoccupied with the past or future while our actions in the present are generally mindless sequences of behavior in the service of some local goal, such as driving to the store. In contrast, mindfulness involves keeping attention in the present moment without judging it as good or bad-calmly and consciously observing and accepting whatever is happening in the here and now.

Thought Experiment: Mindfulness Meditation. Focus your attention on the sensation of the air as it passes in and out of your nostrils with each breath. Each time a thought or feeling arises, notice it, but don't analyze it or judge it, and return your attention to the breathing. Don't approach this exercise with the expectation that anything special will happen (that is the very trap we seek to escape through this exercise). As you follow your breath you will notice that a range of thoughts, images and sensations arise in your consciousness and elicit reactions. Your task is to intentionally suspend the impulse to characterize or evaluate what you are experiencing, and instead to experience the here and now directly without filtering it in any way.

Meta-Cognitive Awareness - the appreciation that subjective reality is the state-dependent creation of a biological creature at a particular moment (not necessarily an accurate reflection of the objective truth) can free you from the Soul Illusion. The understanding that thoughts and emotions are not necessarily valid and may be distorted in perverse ways when local conditions elicit pathogenic trances, makes it possible for you to exercise your will. When local conditions influence your appraisals and response tendencies in ways that promote relapse, your task is to recognize this and to re-capture your attention so that you operate the vehicle in accord with your core motivation.


The exercise of will often involves a meta-cognitive shift from the perspective of the creature to the perspective of the operator of the creature. For example, when the spouse abuser recognizes that he is in one of his angry Mr. Hyde trances, he has learned to consult the reminder card [described in the next section] that says: "I am probably reading this because I want to act out my anger, but that would be a mistake. Instead I will practice reducing my anger and acting in accord with my interests and principles." Developing the ability to awaken from the Mr. Hyde trance and act according to his core motivation-stay out of jail and re-establish a rewarding lifetime partnership-is a non-trivial challenge. This same challenge of awakening from a pathogenic trance faces the individual with an incentive use disorder. In both cases, good outcome requires a meta-cognitive shift from the state-dependent perspective that would motivate destructive behavior to the detached perspective of an interested but uninvolved spectator.

Thought Experiment: Meta-cognitive perspective of a conflict. During a high-risk situation see if you can detach from Doing Mode so that you can observe your sensations and thoughts with acceptance. Use language to describe, the two conflicting forces: Cravings or urges that pull you toward the incentive, and the forces which pull you in a different direction. After you finish, it is recommended that you write about your experiences, describing as best as you can the details of these motivations-your experience of them, their priority now, their priority then, and any conclusions you may have about your core, or true, motivation.

The critical component of the exercise of will is the meta-cognitive shift.


William Dubin, Ph.D.William Dubin, Ph. D. is licensed by the state of Texas as a Psychologist, and is specialized in the treatment of addictions, having received the Certificate of Proficiency in the Treatment of Alcohol and Other Psychoactive Substance Use Disorders from the American Psychological Association. Readers in the Austin, Texas area dealing with psychological issues (such as depression, anxiety or anger) or "incentive use" issues (otherwise known as addictions) may contact Dr. Dubin for face-to-face consultation and treatment through his practice, Psychological Assessment Referral and Treatment Services, online at Dr. Dubin's PsychARTs office may be reached via telephone at 512-343-8307

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