How to address an existential problem


Further Reading

Dear Stanton:

I read Love and Addiction, when it first came out, many years ago. So now 20 something years later I can express my appreciation via the net. I enjoyed your book, and recall your analysis of romantic love in contemporary Rock and Roll, and Pop songs…but they sure do sell. That was in 68 that I got my BA in Psych.

Having never personally heard you, or taken in a lecture or course, there’s more to understanding than simply reading.

Now to a question:

How do you deal with the Sanskrit terms, “Vasana” (a deep, often compelling drive ), and “Klesha,” (an imperfection in personaliy). This could either be current lifetime dynamic, or a result of continuity over lifetimes ( should one chose to indulge in this speculation).

These quaint constructs come from Patanjali.

If you would like a little more clarification I could elaborate on this question. Perhaps it has to do with baggage acquited along the way, or what we bring into the current lifetime.

from So. Florida

Dear Shel:

First, let me congratulate you for addressing me as “Dear Stanton” followed by a colon; you’d be surprised how unusual it is to see this classic salutation, which I greatly prefer. I guess you are an old-timer like me.


louisxviI’m not sure whether I’m the right person to give advice about past lives. As you may know, I was King of France in my previous existence, but had my head cut off.

As for long-term flaws/traits, and dealing with them, here are some random thoughts:

  1. When you are encountering repeated failure in life, change something. It might be trivial (don’t go to the same bars); it might be existential (envision yourself as a different person and act that part out).
  2. What makes life difficult is that most people have some success from their existing personalities and styles. The point is, we are wedded to who we are by more than prejudice — we get something for it. The motivation to change occurs when we feel that the balance between positive and negative results of who we are is tilted to the negative.
  3. To answer your question, I would need to know more — how’s your life, your career, your friendships, your family? All life is imbedded in a ton of connections, for good and for bad. And, of course, I can’t answer anything (and this is not just a Zen response); you can only sort through these connections yourself.
  4. What do you wish to change; why; what resources and opportunities do you have for change; what do you get for not changing — value that and value the alternatives. Can you identify specific things you need to change; how badly do you want to change these things; and what will it require to change them? Have you made previous changes; how; what was the process; what were the results?
  5. What is realistic to accomplish, given your time and situation? You need to make peace with who you are, whether you are advancing in years, or whether you are young. A zen paradox? — people are best able to change when they are most accepting of themselves, yet when they are most clear that they are losing from not changing.

Best wishes to an old pal,


Stanton Peele

Stanton Peele , recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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