Taking your main character through a major life change in the course of a story is an important part of any significant work. Secondary players won’t change and everybody has their problems, just like real people. As we continue with the six types of negative states that trap people, the outlook will keep getting bleaker. Some of these will be so bad that you may want to give them to minor characters in your story. That’s how tough it is to get a character out of them.
The exploration of character change isn’t all negativity. I’ll be following the articles on escaping from negative states with some on general life problems and solvable psychological problems.
Addictions, or “lusts of the flesh”, are activities meant to sooth the addict. Alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, shopping, TV, even surfing the internet can be addictions. Lesser addictions are any activities that the addict finds satisfying while they are doing them but then loses that satisfaction as soon as they are not doing them.
When your main character has an addiction to be resolved through the story, you’ll want it to be something major. Minor addictions don’t usually destroy lives and work better as personality quirks.
What Creates Addiction?
People resort to addictive behavior as a result of being hurt. The addict views their addiction as compensation for not getting what they want or for the loss of something important to them.
The detached person blamed themselves for failing to achieve their goals. The addict blames others for their failure. Life is too much. They keep getting hurt. Since the world has harmed them, they will take pleasure from the world to balance things out.
Addiction can be overcome by gaining positive experiences from the world. The addict needs to try new things and not get hurt. In the real world, the easiest route is getting involved in new social activities so there isn’t time for the addictive behaviors. In the higher drama of a novel, the adventure may be what pulls them away from it.
For recovery to be complete, the person must find something that will last. Goals come into the picture here again. Goal driven behavior can fill a lifetime. A new relationship with someone who doesn’t know about the past addiction and wouldn’t support it can also work if the recovery vehicle is short term. For example, a public speaking course may fit in with the character’s long term goals, but it will end. Introduce some other characters through the course so there’s a way to carry the positive change forward.
Can Addiction be a Good Thing?
Just as detachment can work as a solution to addiction, addiction can be a cure for more damaging forms of negativity. Anger, cruelty and betrayal are much worse states of being. If addiction can calm a person down enough to get them out of those hellish psychopathologies, it may be a good thing. The lesser of two evils. All three are more hostile and damaging to other people than addiction.
If you’re going to use addiction as a cure for a more serious mental disorder, try to pick an addiction that won’t be lethal in the short term. Hard drugs are often killers and even marijuana comes with jail time in most places. Alcohol can be an anger enhancer, so it’s also not a great solution. Consider the weaker kinds of addiction, like cigarettes and coffee.
The path out of negativity depends on how bad your character is. If they are beating people to death in bar fights, maybe pot is a good addiction for them. They will still be risking jail but instead of being a danger to others they are sitting on the couch laughing at television shows.
The Best Addictions
There are also positive addictions. We call them hobbies and careers. Book lovers, video game fanatics and TV junkies are all types of addicts that are not a negative force in society. Have your main character become obsessed with something that can turn into a career and they can make a change that improves their life permanently.
Before we get into the violent negative personality types, there is one more escapist type. The next article will look at greed.
Article by Ivan Izo.