Everybody knows what addiction is – when the person needs some stimuli to enjoy the world around. For example, smokers need nicotine to feel good. However, the physiological addiction is much more serious because the person does not want to change his life, sees no future and lives in past. Such addiction is based on the high level of emotional involvement, such addicts fear unpredicted experiences are not able to tolerate the change according to the “General Theory of Addiction”. The song “Mr. Tambourine” by Bob Dylan is an example how the addict wants to find psychological security but is unable to achieve.
The lyrics of the song “Mr. Tambourine” is not very easy to understand, but from the first lines the reader can sense that the author is in despair and is very unhappy. “There is no place I’m going to” – it does not mean that the author has no place to go, it is rather that he does not know where he goes. He recalls the evening “empire” which turned into “sand vanished from my hand”. The author was happy in the evening, but probably not real – it happened in his mind while in the morning he faced the reality.
In addition, Bob Dylan talks about the empty streets which are “too dead for dreaming”, but it does not mean that there is nobody on the streets. Dylan is left “blindly here to stand”, he just does not notice what is going on around and is completely engaged in his own thinking. Several times he stresses that he is not sleeping or dreaming, but he still does not understand the reality. He asks Mr. Tambourine to play the song for him in order to be able to follow it. Mr. Tambourine represents the reality, while the song is like the way to get out of the state the author is in. He cannot find the way out and needs someone to help him. The following lines are the most important part of the song:
“Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step.”
It seems that the author is not able to move at all. It happens to poor people living on the street in winter – they are so cold that cannot move. However, it is not the case in this song. The inability to move is caused not by the physical weakness, but rather by the psychological inability to change something in life.
If to read the lyrics of the “Mr. Tambourine” once, it seems that the song has no meaning or message in it, but at the closer look, it becomes clear that the author asks for help. He is so lost inside, cannot find his place in life. He needs the external stimuli to be able to change something. His past has vanished like a mirage; his present is full of loneliness, while he does not see the future at all. He says that his song is “not aimed at anyone” but it is the only way Bob Dylan has found to escape from his life.
“Take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind” is the request for help. He cannot think clearly because his mind is like in smoke and he realizes that he does not understand the reality but strives to find it. His state of mind is like the sea where “all memory and fate is driven deep beneath the waves”. The author does not know what his real life is, he just knows that the day before was better and it has vanished; he waits for tomorrow with the hope that today will vanish as well. However, he understands that tomorrow will be the same and he will remember only this day. The author cannot escape from this dead circle even though he wants it so much.
According to the “General Theory of Addiction” there are addictive ways of doing everything. It is hard to escape from addiction because fear of failure which causes the person to react to the changes with anxiety. “Addiction is marked by the intensity of need, which only motivates a person to expose himself repeatedly to the grossest aspects of sensation, primary its intoxicating effects.” (p.60) Addicts have the same life style, do the same things repeatedly and are happy because of such stability.
The nature of the general feelings about living will determine the character of any of his habitual involvements; it is about separation of one’s involvement from the rest of the life. This psychological addiction is different from drug addiction, because drugs are not addictive in this sense because they serve to fulfill a larger purpose in life. Addiction is when the person relies on the object or the process to survive psychologically. Addict cannot distinguish between good or bad version of his experience. Non addicts have the pragmatic considerations while, while addicts have no choice. Addicts look for the repetition of the experience and are not ware of the variations of the environment.
Addiction is about avoiding the reality and is often learned from others. People construct their own worlds and exist in it independently on the external environment. The group addiction is when the members share the same experience and try to explain why it is good, they get their own identity. In the same way societies are formed on common sharing of the set of values. Addicts have no desire to influence the course of action outside the group setting. Addiction arises when the person enjoys this activity (because it makes him feel good) as well as when the person does not want to be the part of the rest of the world.
The major point of the theory is that psychological addicts, such as workaholics, are very fearful of failure and for this reason they do not want to change their life. They do no see anything and live in their own world created in their mind. Usually it is highly personal and individual, but it happens that people with the similar patterns of life or addictions can form groups. For example, the drug users usually are not alone in the process of taking drugs. They form groups and “enjoy” the life together. They share this experience and believe that they are doing right. Even though sometimes it happens that they realize that they are addicted but are already not able to change something.
The song of Bob Dylan supports the “General Theory of Addiction”, even though it is hard to determine whether the author is an addict or non-addict. From one side he wants to change his life (which is the characteristics of non-addicts) while from the other side, he does not see the reality and lives in his own world (which is the characteristics of addicts). As the theory says the “the difference between not addicted and being addicted is and not being addiction is the difference between seeing the world as your arena and seeing the world as your prison” (p. 60). For Bob Dylan his life and the present environment is like a prison he wants to escape from. His existence is not perceived as an opportunity and he wants to change it.
The author wants to escape “out of the windy beach far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.” It is very common for addicts to be in the state of depression and sorrow. His addiction causes numerous hallucinations such as absence of people on the streets, inability to move his arms and legs. It would not claim that the lyrics of the song indicate that the author is drug addicted, even though there is the reference to the smoke in the mind. Smoke in mind is rather the symbol of being lost. He cannot distinguish between the reality and his thinking.
The song is not about the drug addiction, but about the psychological addiction of being unable to change one’s life. The theory draws a clear distinction between what is addiction and what is not. There are many elements of symbolism in the song which are not intended to be perceived as statements or descriptions. For example, the line about “the haunted, frightened trees” is not about the nature or that the author saw frightened trees. No, these trees are the symbol of people who are as lost as the author. Bob Dylan does not want to live another day without having memories and being afraid of the following day, he is frightened about his past, present and future. The comparison with trees is very good because people are just like trees and need to have roots and the permanent place in order to survive.
The song is not about the drug addiction because according to the theory drug addicts find pleasure in what they do and drugs make them feel happy, while Bob Dylan is unhappy and full of sorrow, he wants somebody to help him get out of such existence. Therefore, he is not drug addict, and his addiction is rather psychological. He is tired of wandering and is “ready to go anywhere, ready for to fade into own parade.” He believes that if his life will be changed, it will be joyful like a parade.
In conclusion, “General Theory of Addiction” and the song “Mr. Tambourine” by Bob Dylan are the examples of how an individual can be psychologically addicted to anything in life. It is very different from psychological addiction when certain actions or drugs make the person feel good and happy. It is opposite and pushes the addict into despair. Unfortunately, psychological addicts, just like the psychical addicts, are not able to change their lives without the external stimuli or help. Through his song, Bob Dylan asks for somebody to show his the right way and he is ready to have a new life.
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