It is easy enough to empathize with addicts if, for large chunks of your existence, you have had an overwhelming need to get out of your own head.
Out of your head and off your head come to much the same thing for the cognoscenti.
There is a vast gulf between what your intellect tells you and what your emotions crave. Or should we call them qualia. Not that anybody knows of course; what qualia are or what consciousness is. But you certainly know when they and it have gone wrong.
Your intellect may tell you that objectively nothing is wrong. You have a roof over your head, food, companionship. And yet you ride an emotional roller coaster, coming up for breath occasionally only to scream as you descend into the depths once again.
Is it any wonder that many turn to drink or drugs to rid the demon from their head.
I have been meeting up regularly with a friend who feels the need, more often than otherwise, for what he calls “space”. Headspace.
Many an ex soldier is trapped inside enemy territory long after he has left the field of conflict. Thanks to the physiological mess inside his head, he is trapped in an endless loop of destructive, corrosive thoughts and emotions.
In the case of a soldier, it may well be that he is now “safe”. The conflict is over, the battle won or lost. And yet years later it will still be raging inside his head even though he has lived as a civilian for decades.
And it not just the soldier who craves space in his head. Nor just those who have been through trauma. There are people whose lives seem enviable, successful even, who harbor such trauma within that they too long to escape from their own head.
And so to addiction. The addict wants to alter his consciousness. He wants to avoid pain and to bring about, if not pleasure, then at least the cessation of misery.
It can’t be done of course. Or at least not with most substances currently at our disposal. For all the talk of miracles brought about by modern science, we do not understand ourselves well enough to cure a condition which has plagued us since the dawn of time and killed millions.
The ultimate out of your head experience is one that many eventually resort to. Some extinguish life slowly through alcohol or opiates. Wittingly or unwittingly. Others opt out altogether and exit their heads rapidly and permanently.
Should you embrace the absurd as Camus suggested? Like Sisyphus should you endlessly roll a stone up a hill, for it to roll down again each time. Or should you exit the stage altogether and choose oblivion rather than endless torture.
We must leave aside the view of some that a crime or sin would result from a permanent exit. We may reasonably assume that such people do not suffer from the need to escape from themselves and should thus have no voice in the matter.
But perhaps there is light after all?
Medical research from the likes of John Hopkins Hospital in the US, Imperial College in London and a whole trail of others is suggesting that to get out of your head is just what you need.
The lucky few who have participated in their trials in recent years have, quite literally, left their own heads. Left their troublesome consciousness at the door and joined in union with an ego-less universe. Courtesy of a huge dose of psychedelic drugs.
A real exit (for a time) without finality. A break in existence. A chance for the tangled neural pathways to melt and re-form in new and less painful configurations.
Who knows, after that, how we might approach the Absurd? Perhaps after all we may find life less so.
Perhaps more of us should get off our heads. Or out of them. Wotteva.