Liking Versus Wanting

This is a difficult topic area to cover in a short, three paragraph blog as part of a 30-day blog-a-day challenge for December 2020. It has been chosen because it truly struck a cord when an article was forwarded along with the curiosity-inspiring title: “The science of addiction: Do you always like the things you want?” In a loosely associated way, it is reminiscent of the very popular Wired Magazine article from 2010 entitled: “Secret of AA: After 75 Years, We Don’t Know How It Works”. And what it all boils down to, in a word, is craving.

Craving Cues Us Down Pathways We Want But May Not Like

While craving, as a phenomenon, is written about and discussed a lot across various domains of human experiences, it remains an enigma to both the philosophically and scientifically inclined. The experience of craving, or wanting rather than liking, cuts across explanations of human functioning from behavioral conditioning, cognitive processing, spirituality/connection seeking, social modeling, and neurochemical signaling. The point of the aforementioned article which serves as the inspiration of this post is that, in addiction, “wanting becomes detached from liking”. That is, for people who go on to develop addiction, what started as a partnership between the experience of enjoyment or liking of the substance, behavior, or experience, eventually matured into a coupling of liking AND wanting, followed by the decoupling of liking and wanting. What is left is a living hell of chasing after a previous enjoyed experience driven entirely by craving or wanting, while often disguised as both liking and wanting.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on

What is wanted may no longer be liked and the distinction between the two gets buried under layers and layers of conditioning, cognitions, connections, and a cacophony of confusing inconsistencies in daily life. The fact that Alcoholics Anonymous has been around since 1935 and deeply considers the primacy of craving as the main driver of self-destructive addictive behaviors is significant. While scientific progress continues to shed light on craving as it relates to human health, mental health, and addiction, the philosophical underpinnings of this uniquely human experience will also continue to provide insights and revelations for those who appreciate the more abstract and spiritual constructs that attempt to answer life’s most meaningful questions: Who Am I, Why Am I Here, and What Do I Do?

Here are two really cool recommended books on Craving – (Craving: Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough by Omar Manejwala and The Craving Mind by Judson Brewer):

Published by Dr. Rick Barnett

Licensed Clinical Psychologist-Doctorate, Addiction/Recovery Specialist, among other things...

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