Addictions as passions. Ancient wisdom for modern issues



In order to theologically explain the concept of addictive (dependent) behavior as distorting processes of self-determination and will (sinful passion), the author analyzed the classic work of the Eastern Christian Orthodox traditional school represented by Maximus Confessor (VII th century CE). It is shown that the ancient model of submission of the human will in the passions fits into modern concepts of nonlinear conjugate cognitive and affective complexes within the self-determination process and the formation of addictiveness, and moreover this model is required now. The results show the failure of one-sided considerations of the voluntary/involuntary character of addiction, when neglecting the dialectic of consciousness and unconsciousness in human volition. Healing or purification of the soul takes place by refo-cusing one's love upon her unique original purpose — especially the real love for God. It seems that a careful pro-active attitude to the passions also performs important environmental function, while reconstructing the ontological meaning of love. The author summarizes his study as evidence that the cause of addictive behavior today as well as the recovery from it are the same phenomena as in ancient times.

General Information

Keywords: Eastern Christian spiritual tradition; addictive behavior; passion; love; self-determination; the will; the dialectic

Journal rubric: Labour Psychology and Engineering Psychology

Article type: review article

For citation: Moldovan S. Addictions as passions. Ancient wisdom for modern issues [Elektronnyi resurs]. Sovremennaia zarubezhnaia psikhologiia = Journal of Modern Foreign Psychology, 2014. Vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 125–158.

Full text

Addictive behaviors are one of the most spread and researched issues within ill mental health nowadays. In spite of all efforts made in the past decades, a unanimously accepted definition is still pending. The professionals vary even in labeling the phenomenon as 'addiction' (before 1980), 'dependence' (DSM-III), or 'addictive disorders' (DSM-V). The classification of the proposed theoretical models is in itself a difficult task. The most recent taxonomy identifies 17 models classified in 7 groups [19]. However, five of them seem to be the dominant ones, namely the medical model (addiction as a chronic brain disease), the moral model (a choice, strong preferences, excessive appetites), the psychodynamic model (a maladaptive coping strategy), the social model (learned behavior, maladaptive relationship strategy), and the bio-psycho­social model, integrating aspects of the other models. Taking into account all the previous models, and what is known about the development of addiction and the recovery from it, Robert West defined addiction as 'a chronic condition involving a repeated powerful motivation to engage in a rewarding behavior, acquired as a result of engaging in that behavior, that has signi?cant potential for unintended harm [18].

Perhaps the most divisive issue in understanding addiction/dependence concerns its voluntary or non-voluntary character, or the capacity of the affected persons to control their behavior. Eitherwise, at stake is a sort of pathology of the volition. This is hardly a novel perspective. Aristotle, St. Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, the whole ancient and mediaeval Christian tradition before Alcoholics Anonymous and Dr. Jellinek have seen drunkenness, for instance, as a weakening of the will, a result of the conflict between two disproportionate "laws" or powers of the inner self (see Rom. 7:19) [5; 6].

The research dedicated to the intellectual history of addiction dealt almost exclusively with Western tradition, while the Eastern Christian spiritual tradition (hereafter abbreviated as ECT), so rich in 'soul- therapeutic' approaches, has been investigated only recently and rather superficially. Noted authors, like Jean-Claude Larchet and Cristopher Cook) do addressed the processes of volition and the meaning of addiction but in a non-detailed manner [5; 10]. In the same time, the growing research of the connection between addictive behaviors and various forms of attachment [7; 14] stimulate more attention to the central role played by the power of love in ancient psychology. For the ECT authors, it is this power of love that is self-enslaving in the passions, a notion the very etymology of addiction and dependence alludes to.

In this paper, I propose a model of human action, and its addiction pathology and therapeutics, based on the ECT anthropology and spirituality, especially on the concepts of volition, passion and dispassion of one of its most representative authors, namely St Maximus Confessor (VIIth century CE)

My argument runs as follows:

First, I provide a sketch of Easten Christian anthropology in several points as a minimum ideational and terminological background.

Second, I present in slighter detail the central psychological issue within ECT, that is, the human power of love and its manifold dynamics.

In order to examine the alienation of love in the slavery of the vices, I thirdly pursue the task of clarifying the mechanisms and pathology of human volition according to the ECT in the writings of St. Maximus Confessor[2]. During this inquire we find out his definition of passions.

Then, I compare the drawn ECT model of volition with some modern psychological theories.

Fifth, I argue for the identification of addictive behaviors as passions and I consider some merits of this, before I address its therapeutic consequences.

Finally, I join the ECT model and attachment theory as both love-centered and increasingly important health gain promoters.

Principles of Patristic anthropology [6]

Eastern Christian anthropology is rich, but for the purpose of the present discussion, we can abstract these principles:

1.    The 'image-likeness' of the Theanth- ropological Principle (theos + anthropos): "God and man are paradigms one of another, that as much as God is humanized to man through love for mankind, so much is man able to be deified to God through love." (Maximus Confessor, Ambiguum, 7)

2.    The human being is a cosmic center, a complex adaptive/self-determining system interfacing between the Creator and the created, self and others, intelligible and sensible, freedom and determinism ("microcosm and mediator").

3.    A three-dimensional constitution, consisting in person, nature, and powers or faculties.

4.    A dual nature, intelligible (soul, psyche ) and sensible (body, soma).

5.    The faculties belong to the nature in a hierarchical continuum and have differentiated, intelligible or sensible, forms according to the various dimensions of the human interface.

6.    A 'state space': Each faculty has a divinely predetermined set of actualizing possibilities and a divinely predetermined teleology (raison d'etre, logos tes physeos), defined by the Theanthropological Principle.

7.    Self-determination: The person activates her faculties, selecting (opting-in/- out) by her modes of being (tropos tes hyparxeos) a subset in the 'state space' of her possibilities. The successively selected subsets generate a "phase space", path-dependent trajectory, which is the inner evolution of the person, from birth to death.

The major human faculties recognized by the Eastern tradition are the intellect or mind (logos, nous, to logistikon), whose functions are cognitive ( perception, rational analysis, reflection, contemplation, prayer, etc.); the appetitive faculty (epithymia, to epithymetikon), which orientates the person through aspirations; the incensive faculty (thymos, to thymetikon), which provide the energy to mobilize the person in attaining what she aspires for or keeping what has been already attained. While all of them are original, after 'the original sin' they function defectively, in a condition deeply affected by mortality, called the passible character (to patheton). In this highly weakened situation, Intellect is mostly occupied by ignorance, doubtful knowledge, disordered thoughts; the appetitive and incensive faculties, which I futher designate together as the affective disposition, are agitated by numerous emotions (pleasure, desire, pain, fear, anger, sadness, etc.).

The dynamics of the power of love

According to the ECT, all the powers of the human being are teleologically construed such that they should function united in pursuing the communion with the Creator and the Source of Life, and for that ontological aim the humans are endowed with a most deep, irrepressible aspiration towards fulfillment, meaning, and life everlasting, which is called love (see the Theanthropological Principle above). The proper or improper function of the power of this aspiration generates and embraces the whole Theoanthropological drama of falling, salvation, and restoration. In St Maximus words:

"The rational and intellectual soul given to man is made in the image of its Maker so that through desire and intense love (eros) to hold fast to God and [...] become godlike through divinization; then, by caring for what is lower and because of the command to love one's neighbor, to make prudently use of the body and gain for it familiarity with God like a fellow servant. [...] Our forefather Adam, however, used his freedom to direct his desire away from what had been permitted to what was forbidden [...] Out of wisdom and love for mankind, God who works out our salvation, fixed as a suitable punishment to the irrational movement of our intellectual faculty the death of what our capacity of love turned onto. As a result, when we have been taught by suffering that we love non-being, we return the capacity to love towards what is." (Ambiguum, 7).

Here, as in other several places, St Ma­ximus recognizes an ontological passibility (pathos) of humankind (ho pathos means the one who suffer), which means the non-vol- untarily movement or destination (like a throwing) from 'being' to 'eternal well­being'. We can also say humankind is onto­logically dependent upon its Source of Life and Fulfillment. However, each person is free to respond to and really fulfill its aspiration by actual love towards God, in communion with Him and the others, or not to do that (see first row in Fig. 1).

Failing to respond to the loving initiative of God and attempting to live one?s own life autonomously, without communication with God, so to say 'on my own' engages humans in a life-depriving, necrotic life, characterized by a new kind of 'natural' (because also universal, unavoidable, yet post-lapsarian) dependence, and therefore a new passibility expressed by the non-voluntary attraction and voluntary attachment towards everything seems to bring fulfillment to the needs of survival, defense, and validation (see Maslow's hierarchy), through consumption of various goods, and relationships with the self and the others (see second row in Fig. 1).

However, it is a matter of experience that fulfilling these acquired, secondary needs provides in the best cases provisory substitutions to the ontological fulfillment, but generally proves to be highly unsatisfactory. All too often what follows are attempts to compensate and 'self-medicate' the deep and painful dissatisfaction through satiation and/or escape by possessing a large variety of surrogates (substances, behaviors, activities, events, situations, people). The power of love narcissistically concentrates on oneself (philautia) and on the would be possessed entities, which are quasi-idolatrized in compulsive-obsessive attachments which are the passions (see third row in Fig. 1).

Summarily, the power of love has a manifold dynamics expressing three possibilities of dependence and their corresponding voluntary attachments (ontological, natural, and pathological). Although there are three different stages from a logical and historical point of view, these are rather coexisting paradoxically as both concurrent and mutual supportive, in various degrees of actualization during our life. St. Maximus refers to these three forms of love in the following passage:

"Men love one another, commendably or reprehensibly, for the following five reasons: either for the sake of God, as the virtuous man loves everyone [...]; or by nature, as parents love their children and children their parents; or because of self-esteem, as he who is praised loves the man who praises him; or because of avarice [...]; or because of self­indulgence [...]. The first of these is commendable, the second is of an intermediate kind, the rest are dominated by passion" (Capita de charitate, hereafter CC, II, 9].

We have thus also identified three kinds of passibilities: the ontological one (topathon), the passible character (to patheton) and the passions (ta pathe, ta pathemata) or vices (ta kakia) as such. It is by focusing on the last ones that we can find out more about love and its manifestation as passion, which seems to imply pathological dependence, that is addiction. We turn now to them to complete our understanding of the emergence and function of the third stage in the dynamics of love, and of the human volition, into the bargain.

Fig. 1. Forms of dependence and love and their transformations

The ECT model for human volition and its pathology

To start with, let us consider the following description of another stage-based process, namely getting evil thoughts, deciding to do bad deeds and then realizing them.

"Povocation (probole) is simply a suggestion coming from the enemy, like 'do this' or 'do that' [... and] it is not within our power to prevent provocations. Coupling (syndiasmos) is the acceptance of the thought suggested by the enemy. It means dwelling on the thought and choosing deliberately to dally with it in pleasurable manner. Passion (pathos) is the state resulting from coupling with the thought [...]; it means letting the imagination brood on the thought continually. Wrestling/strug- gle (pale) is the resistance offered to the impassioned thought. It may result either in our destroying the passion in the thought [.] or in our assenting to it. [...] Captivity (aich- malosia) is the forcible and compulsive abduction of the heart already dominated by prepossession (prolepsis) and long habit (hexis). Assent (synkatathesis) is giving approval to the passion inherent in the thought. Actualization (energeia) is putting the impassioned thought into effect once it has received our assent." (On the virtues and vices, ascribed to St. John Damascene).

We can find a very similar text, but with some notable differences, is St. Maximus:

"First the memory brings some passion- free thought into the intellect. By its lingering there, passion is aroused. When passion is not eradicated, it persuades the intellect to assent to it. Once assent is given, the actual sin is then committed. Therefore, when writing to converts from paganism, St Paul in his wisdom orders them to first eliminate the actual sin and then systematically to work back to the cause. The cause, as we have already said, is greed, which generates and promotes passion."

At a first glance the difference concerns the number of the stages, eight versus six. In another context, dealing with the human volitional process, St. Maximus enumerates no less than ten stages, starting with the natural 'volitional capacity' (thelesis, thelema), through 'determined will' or 'wish' (boulesis), 'inquiry' (zetesis), 'consideration' (skepsis), 'deliberation' (boule or bouleusis), 'judgment' (krisis), 'disposition' (diathesis), 'choice/ decision' (prohairesis), 'impules' (orme), to the completed action or 'use' (chresis). These stages are usually not very carefully addressed in the literature, and most of the authors seem to suppose linear causal relationships between them, although St Maximus and other sources offer variations not only in the number of the stages but also in their ordering. A closer reading and comparison of the impassioned volitional processes, the strategies aiming at dispassioning volition and the general descriptions of volitional stages suggest also some parallel and circular connections. Using a few passages from St Maxi­mus, we illustrate here the following psychological connections: 1) the thought — action/action — thought connection; 2) the thoughts-affectivity connection; 3) the passion — thoughts connection. On this occasion, we shall find the definition of the passion in St. Maximus? view:

1)    The outward action comes from the inner process thinking and is also reflected back in it.

"Things are outside the intellect, but the conceptual images (noemata) of them are formed within it. It is consequently in the intellect's power to make good or bad use of these conceptual images. Their wrong use is followed by the misuse of the things themselves." (CC, II, 73)

"As the world of the body consists of things, so the world of the intellect consists of conceptual images. [...] For what the body acts out in the world of things, the intellect also acts out in the world of conceptual images." (CC, III, 53)

We can interpret the bivalent link between conceptual images and the things or realities they represent, as a cognitive circuitry connecting the inner and the outer volitional stages of the action process (circuit C1 in Figures 2, 3, 4).

2)    The thoughts are either simple or impassioned representations of realities

"A thing, a conceptual image and a passion are all quite different from the other. [...]; a conceptual image is a passion-free thought of one of these things; a passion is a mindless affection or indiscriminate hatred for one of these same things." (CC, III, 42)

"Some thoughts are simple, others are composite. Thoughts which are not impassioned are simple. Passion-charged thoughts are composite, consisting as they do of a conceptual image combined with passion..." (CC, II, 84)

Here, St. Maximus distinguishes between outward reality, its cognitive projection, and an affective attitude towards that reality he calls passion, and whose definition I will address below. What can we infer now is that thoughts are always affectively charged, either with passionate or unpas- sionate feelings. Thus, the thinking process in Ci is influenced by processes at the level of affective facilities of the soul. But there is a reverse influence, too: "First the memory bring some passion-free thought into the intellect. By its lingering there, passion is aroused" (СС, I, 84).

Further on, composite or impassioned thoughts emerge as follows:

3)    The impassioning of thoughts derives from passions.

"If you wish to master your thoughts, concentrate on the passions and you will easily drive the thoughts arising from them out of the intellect." (CC, III, 13)

"Just as the intellect of a hungry man images bread and that of a thirsty man water, so the intellect of a glutton images a profusion of foods, [...] that of an avaricious man financial gain, that of a racorous man revenge on whether has offended him [...], and so on with all the other passions. For an intellect agitated by passions is beset by impassioned conceptual images whether the body is awake or asleep." (CC, II, 68)

4)             What are passions?

In order to fully understand this basic connections, we have to elucidate how St. Maxim define passions and find their proper place within the volitional stage, and the next passages are crucial for this task:

"Passion is an impulse of the soul contrary to nature, as in the case of mindless love or mindless hatred for someone or because of some sensible thing." (CC, II, 16)

"Again, vice is the wrong use of our conceptual images of things, which leads us to misuse the things themselves." (CC, II, 17)

At this point we are able to provisory conclude that, according to St. Maximus, the passions are primarily pathological functioning of the affective disposition (appetitive and incensive) faculties of the soul, the first as a mindless (or excessive, uncontrolled) attachment or love for something and the later as a hate for things that prevent the acquisition of the things loved. The reason for acquiring such an affective dependence is seen by ECT in the failure to fulfill the ontological aspiration and the subsequent attempt to replace it by surrogates, as explained above. Then, the impassioned faculties generate at the level of the intellect impassioned thoughts through various pathways (like perception and memory), and, accordingly, wrong decisions, and misuse of things. Also, we should note the distinction between two states of the passions, namely hidden, or latent, and aroused ones. Since the arousing of passions are the effect of impassioned thoughts generated by (latent) passions, we have to consider a new circular and amplifying connection, a memory based circuitry between the affective disposition and the conceptual images (see C3 in Figures 2, 3, and 4).

Moreover, C and C3 circuits are obviously connected because of the continuous mutual interaction between thinking and affectivity, expressed by the very idea of composite thoughts.

However, for a complete picture we still miss an important aspect. Thus far, we only have the 'running' of passions, not their 'installation' in the first instance. How do passions originate in the affective disposition? The first cited text hints at "the forcible and compulsive abduction of the heart already dominated by prepossesion and long habit". If 'prepossessions' refers to the first, common stage of the C and C3 circuits, 'habit' refers to usage and skill through repetition. For example, St. Maximus observes that:

"It is not always for the same reason that sinners commit the same sin. [...] For example, it is one thing to sin through force of habit and another to sin through being carried away by a sudden impulse. In the later case the man did not deliberately choose the sin either before committing it, or afterwards; on the contrary, he is deeply distressed that the sin has occurred. It is quite different with the man who sins through the force of habit. Prior to the act itself he was already sinning in thought, and after it he is still in the same state of mind." (CC, III, 74)

Actually, it is not the same state, and this is again crucial. Few lines before this paragraph, St Maximus stated that "the intellect tends to develop its powers among those things to which it devotes its attention; and where it develops its powers, there it will direct its desire and love." (CC, III, 71 )

Habit is the result of an amplifying process, too, by long repetition or long exercise, like in this paragraph:

"When the desiring aspect of the soul is frequently excited, it implants in the soul a habit of self-indulgence which is difficult to break. When the soul's incensive power is constantly stimulated, it becomes in the end cowardly and unmanly. The first of these failings is cured by long exercise in fasting, vigils and prayer; the second, by kindness, compassion, love, and mercy." (CC, II, 70)

Or, "[a]Imsgiving heals the soul?s incen­sive power; fasting withers sensual desire; prayer purifies the intellect [...]. For Lord has given the commandments which correspond to the powers of the soul." (CC, I, 79)

If hardly present in the treatment of the passions, a third circuitry, linking back action, affective disposition and intellect is a leit-motive in the ECT literature dedicated to virtues, especially in the case of the so called 'guarding /observing of the commandments', a practice intended precisely to modify the function of the soul's faculties. This is the circuit of experience (see C2 in Figures 2, 3, and 4).

Now, if we put together the linear volitional stages (actually selecting only those mentioned in the context of the impassioned processes) and the three circuits we have just discerned, what we obtain is both a picture of a complex, non-linear volitional process, coupling cognitive and affective circuitries, and its functioning in the context of the passions. First, we can disentangle seven stages of the volitional process: the natural capacity of volition (thelema), which is activated both by cognitive stimuli, the representations (noemata), and affective stimuli, to generate determinate, purposeful volitions or intentions (boulesis) that suggest an action (deed). The intentions promptly enter a mutual influencing process of cognitive evaluation and deliberation (krisis), based on convictions, and affective reaction as a mood (diathesis) disposing either for realizing the intention or against it. If both deliberation and disposition prompt the same course of the action, they generate the decision (prohairesis) to do what the intention suggested. Then it comes, according to circumstances, the effort (orme) to accomplish the deed (chresis). Second, the stages are related not only by sequential connectivity; they are actually incorporated in three cir- cuites as elucidated above (Fig. 2).

ECT volition and modern psychology

A comparison of this ECT derived model of volition and the models in modern psychology discovers important similarities. The cognitive circuit C1 resembles the classical mental representational theory amended by cultural and neurological determinations. C3 points to the emotional regulation of memory, while the distinction simple thought — composed thought resembles the distinction between neutral and emotional memory. We can also discern the two systems (the conscious rationality/justifica- tion — the unconscious intuition/motiva- tion ) of the dual process theory in the interaction between circuits C1 and C3, a fact hardly surprising since the rider/elephant metaphor of Jonathan Haidt [8] was already known to Platon (and St. Maximus) in the variant of the charioteer and the two (!) horses, which are the intellect, the appetitive and the incensive facultie. As for C2, although not very obvious, it is roughly the habit loop, starting with the craving of the appetitive faculty (most important the ontological one (gros), and feeding-back through the reward/relief learning pathway.


I will continue immediately this comparison in the context of passion and addiction. For the moment, the most relevant aspect of the ECT volitional model for nowdays is its aptitude to account for both "voluntariness" and "in-voluntariness" within the volition dynamics in the same time. The run of the stages from the capacity of volition to the completed act is normally conscious and under our control (to stay, to postpone, to stop, to restart each stage), while their reverse connections are not, as the Patristic authors usually remarked, for example, with respect to the impossibility to avoid the stirring of impassioned thoughts (probole or prolepsis) once the soul already habituated a passion.

By acting along the volitional process we really determine ourselves. That means that the states of functioning of our cognitive and affective faculties are reset each time we run the volitional process. This continuous self­determination generates our inner-life course and at every moment of our life we are the outcome of our previous self-determinations, the synthesis of our past, so to say. A most suitable analogy is the path­dependent trajectory of a dynamical system within a phase space composed by the spaces containing visualization of this is the Waddington epigenetic landscape, similar to the ones in Robert West’s PRIME theory of the human motivational system.

Addictions as passions

Obviously, the same stages are run through in the case of impassioned actions, though the ECT authors, like St. Maximus, labeled them suggestively different as provocations and coupling (sinful thoughts), disturbance, struggle, assent (sin in the mind), captivity, and finally sin in deed. Figure 3 depicts the volutional process in this case. Remind that the core of the passion is the strong affective disposition (attachment or love), towards something (real or imaginary) that deceptively satisfy the profound human needs. The passion is set as a rewarding repeated action which reinforces the disposition to do it again, until it becomes a habitual disposition. This is the conditional learning that explains the "inevitability"of relapse. Thus, the major acknowledged traits of addiction can be identified in the passion’s scheme (see Fig.3). The preoccupation or obsessive thinking happens in the cognition coupled with craving and its compulsive (appetitive) or impulsive (incensive) arousal, as well as the temporary satiation, when the impassionate act is consumed, or the withdrawal symptoms, when it is not.

Another aspect, not limited to the issue of addiction, that also warrants the identification of addiction with impassionate volition and its circuity model, is the distinction between desire (pothos) and pleasure (hedo- ne), both occurring within the appetitive faculty, which is similar to the "wanting"-"liking" dissociation of the incentive salience theory of addiction [2]. According to this theory, it is the salience of a stimuli associated with the contact with it that becomes pathologically amplified. This is why the addict wants to consume more and more, while liking less and less because of the tolerance or diminution of the pleasurable effects. The phenomenon of tolerance is not particularly prominent in the ECT, though it may be inferred in one paragraph citied above (CC, II, 74), as well as in several other topics, like the "undue pleasures" — "due pains" connection in St. Maximus, the insatiability of the passions (especially, lust, gluttony and greed), or the passions of gloom (lype) or sloth (akedia). The salience, instead, is clear in St. Maximus saying "...we carry about us impassioned images of the things we have experienced" (CC, I, 63). In fact, the precise definition of the passion as love and its localization in the affective disposition (placed before the decision and not in the affective experience as such, generated by the deed), do account for the wanting drive of addiction.

Yet another, if more distant, similarity concerns the recent studied ego-depletion and its role in addiction [1]. The process of self-control seems to have limited resources which are depleted with repeated efforts of self-regulation. The addicts know very well they can resist the craving and postpone consumption for a short but not a long time (the so-called delay discounting), a vexing situation the Alcoholics Anonymous take care of by their principle "one day at a time". However, ego-depletion seen to be corrigible by enhancing positive mood, which means that self-control is fed back by affectivity, an aspect clearly included in St. Maximus emphasis on the decisive importance of the passionate affectivity or love, in its three-fold manifestations, to orient and firmly attach the soul on its object (see also CC, III, 67—71).

Perhaps the major merit of identifying addiction with passion is its account of the voluntary involuntary dialectic, which explains why the lasting controversy around this issue in the addiction debate is a myopic failure to see the whole picture. Once we acknowledge identification, an interpretation argued throughout the present article, we get the both sides of the coin. The plasticity of the human behavior and its actualization as habit is an idea going back to Antiquity and recently construed as neuronal plasticity [4]. The medicalization or "diseasing" of addiction as a chronic condition risks overbidding the "involuntary" side and underyaluing the personal responsibility of the addicts. It is not very clear if this is the best strategy in recovery or in reducing stigmatization [11]. To restore addiction its older habitual place, now supplied with neuroimaging tools, is to secure a more balanced, virtuous understanding of it. It can also account for the roles the education and socialization play in self-determination, through the impact the culture and the relationships with others have upon our representations (beliefs, cognition) and "affective dispositions" (aspirations, desires, emotions). And there is more. It also suggests some therapeutic approaches.

Purification of psyche, reorientation of love

Without entering into the details, the best of the Eastern Christian spiritual tradition devotes itself to the healing or purification of the soul [10]. This consists in the mutual reinforcing reorientation of the person?s power of love towards her unique and true fulfillment, which is God, and the acquiring of corresponding qualities or virtues specific to the cognitive and affective powers.

"Thus, if we gradually wean the intellect away from this relationship by long practice of controlling our indulgence in pleasure and by persistent mediation on divine realities, the intellect will gradually devote itself to these realities, will recognize its own dignity, and finally transfer all its desire to the divine" (CC, III, 72).

More specifically, the texts quoted above, and for that matter the whole sources where they belong to, recommend some spiritual techniques like the "watchfulness of the thoughts", the "watchfulness of the senses", the observance or "guarding of the Lord?s commandments". Each of them operates in limiting the exciting and/or decreasing of the passions in various circuits, through voluntary, ascetical methods. Many of these techniques have been rediscovered and recoined by contemporary psychotherapeutic approaches [16]. For instance, the intimate link between thoughts, feelings and behavior and the theurapeutic effects of modifying undellying fallacious (erroneous or irrational) thoughts is the core of cognitive therapy and the heart of the "watchfulness" (nepsis) of the Christian ascetics who constantly struggle to rebut the impassionate thoughts by spiritual readings and continuous prayer. The conditioning learning of behavioral therapy in the form of positive/negative reinforcement or contingency management has long been preceded by the practice of obedience in monastic communities, taking into account that the obedience relates to God and His commandments and the rewards/relieves are expected from Him. However, in both cases, the close relationship with a spiritual father is a key factor. A careful attention paid to the senses and their potential passion-evoking stimuli is a kind of environmental therapy. Taken together, these techniques represent an ancient comprehensive habit reversal therapy (see Fig. 4). The ultimate content and intent of this movement is the recovery of love towards its ontological accomplishment.

Instead of conclusion

For the sake of comprehensiveness, we should not overlook a paradoxal but decisive aspect of spiritual ascetical methods, one that brings out in the foreground the non-voluntary dimension of the human volition. According to the ECT accepting "powerlessness" and "surrendering" to the will of God (compunctive payers, confession of thoughts, forgiveness, patience in adversities), and to the spiritual direction of skilful supervisor are sine-qua-non. Of course, aspects of this approach have been rediscovered and heavily used in the 12 Step method. While Alcoholics Anonymous stress the therapeutic role of the group, ECT privileges the sponsor?s, yet the focus of both on "powerlessness" is striking and in dissonance with almost all contemporary psychotherapeu­tic schools. This relates with another perculari- ty, that is, their oblivion of childhood. Developmental perspectives play a tremendous role in modern scientific approaches to human existence, psy-sciences included. In contrast, ECT spirituality has little to say about the first stages of life, and etiopathology is usually, if not absent, then readily addressed to the idea of inherited ancestral sin or possibility. However, reading in Jesus saying "unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt., 18/3) not only a moral goal, but also a method, we can appreciate ECT "soul-therapy" as a spiritual reversion to and regeneration of childhood.

Monasticism, the main place of ECT spirituality is an affair of biologically adult persons. If we go out of its walls or into the crowded world, the fate of childhood and its developmental role in mental health are unavoidable. From the plethora of present-day approaches, one?s features are similar enough to the ECT passion/addiction model to suggest scrutiny and potential mutual gains. This is the attachment theory developed by John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth and others [13]. Starting with the study of maternal deprivation, it relates self-regulation, belonging, identity, maturity to the quality and depth of social relationships. Secure or non-secure attachments are basic in developing mental health or pathology. The central role of attachment or love in the ECT understanding of passions and purification is worth reminding when citing for the last time from St. Maximus:

"... If the Creator of everything that is beautiful is superior to all His creation, on what grounds does the intellect abandon what is superior to all and engross itself in what is worst of all — I mean the passions of the flesh? Clearly this happens because the intellect has lived with these passions and grown accustomed to them since birth, whereas it has not yet had perfect experience of Him." (CC, III, 72)

Certainly, St. Maximus speaks here about "divinity" deprivation and the process of the alienation of love sketched above (see Fig. 1). The research on the health individual outcomes of secure/insecure relationships with God has already begun, following the huge success of AA and mutual help movement, inter alia, [9]. However, the research on societal outcomes is still unborn. On the other side, that faith-based communities would take advantage from attachment theory for their own needs is also highly presumable . The evidence is, to be fair, not quite strong [12]. What has been simply immemorial wisdom and now comes to be more and more scientifically proved, is that love is foundational for the human happiness and well-being [17].

In this context, it is worth mentioning the growing reinterpretation in neurological fashion of the psy-sciences and therapies — attachment theory included. This is a shift which opens another major contest between science and faith [11].

This rise the question of the place and function of the body and its brain in the Eastern traditional spirituality. Although surely addressed within ECT, but in different conceptual guise, it is a huge issue waiting much more and hard work.

For the time being, it is enough to conclude that reading love?s old passions in nowdays addictive behaviors has a lot to offer to the present inquires.

[I] Partial results were shared in public at some conferences since 2011, the last one at the Third International Scientific Conference "Addictive behavior: prevention and rehabilitation", Moscow, November, 6—7, 2013. I am most grateful to the Organizing Committee for the outstanding opportunity to present there my research, and to Mrs. Nina Florova, who translated for me in Russian, for insightful observations and especially for patiently encouraging me to publish these ideas in a printed version, too.

[2] All references to St.Maximus?s works are to the following English translations: On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ: Selected Writtings from St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Vladimirs Seminary Press, 2003 (for Ambigia) and GEH Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, eds. The Philokalia, Volume 2: The Complete Text; Complied by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain & St. Makarios of Corinth, Vol. 2. Macmillan, 1982 (for the Four Hundreds Texts on Love).

[III] Начиная с 2011 г., та или иная часть результатов исследовательской работы автора демонстрируется им на различных конференциях, одна из которых — III Международная научно-практическая конференция «Аддиктивное поведение: профилактика и реабилитация», — прошла 6—7 ноября 2013 г. в Москве (конференция была организована и проведена лабораторией медико-психологической реабилитации Московского Городского Психолого-Педагогического Университета — ред.). Автор выражает признательность Оргкомитету конференции за предоставленную возможность выступить с сообщением, а также Н. Флоровой, осуществившей перевод текстовых и демонстрационных материалов, за проявленное внимание и содействие опубликованию настоящей статьи.

[IV] Partial results were shared in public at some conferences since 2011, the last one at the Third International Scientific Conference "Addictive behavior: prevention and rehabilitation", Moscow, November, 6—7, 2013. I am most grateful to the Organizing Committee for the outstanding opportunity to present there my research, and to Mrs. Nina Florova, who translated for me in Russian, for insightful observations and especially for patiently encouraging me to publish these ideas in a printed version, too.


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Information About the Authors

Sebastian Moldovan, Associate professor, Orthodox Faculty Of Theology, ‘Lucaian Blaga’ University Of Sibiu, Romania, e-mail:



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