The “Rashomon” of Addiction

by Joshua Hoe

Even if you have never actually seen the Kurowsawa movie you have probably experienced the “Rashomon Effect” which is where one story is told from the point of view of multiple people (usually who experienced the event).

What Is The Rashomon Effect

The idea is to demonstrate that even when multiple people see exactly the same event, a violent assault in the movie, they see it through very different eyes.

It is a very post-modern way of looking at truth, knowledge production, and the idea that we can count on eyewitness accounts of events.

If everyone filters experience through different lenses, everything is always in play and open to interpretation. To some colorblind people, for instance, grass is probably not green.

Television news is a microcosm of the Rashomon effect. CNN shows a part of a speech and three people with different points of view spin what was said in radically different ways.

Interesting, But Didn’t You Mention Addiction?

Sorry, that was probably too much exposition.

It occurred to me that when I was in the throes of my own acting out my justification was almost a personal deployment of Rashomon-style thinking (the home game).

There was the version I would tell myself where my acting out was 100% wrong and where I should feel guilty and ashamed.

There was the version where everything I did was 100% okay and while some might object, I had every right to do what I was doing.

There was the version where it wasn’t perfect but it “wasn’t really that bad.”

There was the version where I was working on my problem and it was normal and natural to stumble in my recovery.

And here is the really crazy part, I believe that there were elements of truth in all of my stories, just like there were elements of truth in all the different recollections in Rashomon.

Justifications are dangerous territory, none of us wants to believe we are bad people. And sometimes we have very valid pain or reasoning behind our justification cycle.

Are You Saying ‘Acting Out’ is Justified?

Trust me, I am asking myself this question right now too.

I have no idea if I am right here, writing can be a process of working out my own thoughts on paper (or electronically reproduced paper).

I could 100% be wrong.

But what I am suggesting is that from the point of view of our addicted feelings and traumatic memories our justifications for acting out can come from a logical place.

I am not saying AT ALL that acting out is the right answer. I am saying that, from an addict’s point of view, the logic makes sense.

I am not saying AT ALL that we should embrace our justifications.

I am saying that all of the beating myself up over my “stinking thinking” rarely kept me sober.

I am saying that acknowledging my feelings and examining my relationship to what I was feeling is very important to my recovery.

And, I am saying, that unpacking and examining the feelings themselves are important.