When I decided to write articles, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my niche would be. I finally decided on trying to write about articles you don’t normally see floating around the Internet. Today’s article is one that I feel should be written about because of its serious nature, but one some wouldn’t dare touch. I fully realize it may not be perfect or complete, but at least something gets said about this topic.
This article is going to cover the problems that arise in our game and might have some truisms in the rest of our lives. I am going to be talking about Magic addiction. In no way am I trying to discourage, put down, or make anyone stop playing Magic. It is not my intention to have players quit the game. My goal here is to keep Magic players healthy, productive and in the game for the long term, not the short term.
Defining Abnormal and Disorder
Somehow abnormal has gotten a bad connotation over the years in the general public. Just because somebody is abnormal doesn’t necessarily mean he/she is crazy, weird, or whatever. Tiger Woods is abnormal. He plays, thinks, and dreams more about golf then probably just about anyone. His abnormality has greatly benefited him in many ways. Abnormal becomes a disorder when it has a negative impact on our lives. Tiger Woods is not considered to have a disorder because his abnormality has a positive impact on his life.
When most people think of disorders, they only link the term with mental or physical problems. However, disorder can be anything that has a negative impact on our lives physically (panic attacks), mentally (anxiety), socially (social isolation), and financially (gambling). It doesn’t solely have to be just mental health at stake. Gambling addiction is an example of a disorder that hits us hardest financially. The gambler could be fine mentally (in most aspects), in good physical condition, and with a great social life, but the addiction has taken a great toll on his/her financial situation.
Disorder: Serious mental illness or disorder impairing a person's capacity to function normally and safely
Addiction: The condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something.
The definition for disorders can change depending upon the source or use. Commonly, the broad usage of disorder is used as in the above terminology to define any mental illness. In other psychology circles, disorder can signify the area between normal and addictive behavior. A person moves from normal, to a disorder, and proceeds to addiction. Therefore, a person with a slight gambling addiction could be quantified as having a gambling disorder. If the problem worsens, the disorder can turn into a full fledge gambling addiction. The key is the disorder must become chronic and abusive before it can be deemed a full-blown addiction. Non-substance abuse addictions are classified as Impulse Control Disorders in the DSM-IV (the big book psychologists use to diagnose patients). Regardless, the main point is addiction is progressive. The problem doesn’t just appear instantaneously. One thousand Magic cards just don’t appear overnight.
Over the years, I have learned to appreciate that everyone is crazy/abnormal to a certain degree. It is simply a matter of figuring out how we cope or adapt with our psychosis. Having a mental disorder is no different than having a physical disorder. People with physical disorders can lead productive lives in our society. The trick is learning how to overcome one's physical disabilities by finding the best way to adapt to certain situations. The same holds true for mental disabilities and disorders.
The problem is when coping strategies develop into negatives. Take a person who has a difficult time interacting with others emotionally. To alleviate the stress, the person may develop a strategy to avoid the situation. This may be a fine, short-term strategy in certain situations, but fails to push a person to create effective coping strategies or develop as a person. If the avoidance is progressively utilized and expanded to other areas of person’s life, the strategy can turn into a disorder. Instead of just avoiding a few situations, that person is now avoiding everything. Now, it is a problem/disorder. The adaptation has led to the full development of a negative behavior.
I find most people resistant to admit they have a mental abnormality. Most of this is due to, as I mentioned before, the general public having a skewed idea that abnormal equals bad. This isn’t true. Take myself for example; I have significant difficulty with listening to words or songs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with my hearing. It has been checked multiple, multiple times. For some reason, my brain has trouble interpreting/processing verbal sounds. I could hear the same song a thousand times and still have difficulty with the words. It’s just the phonetics I have a hard time understanding. Thus, I cannot memorize a song for the life of me by hearing it. This can also make it difficult during conversations. You know what, I have adapted. If I need to memorize songs, I read them. If I have difficulty with conversations, I have learned to simply ask people to speak more slowly/clearly or repeat themselves. They sometimes get annoyed and don’t understand why I am being a pest. I have grown used to it. Does this all mean I need to go to the Mental Ward of a hospital? No, I have an abnormality and adapted to minimize the negative impact it has on my life in positive ways.
This isn’t Magic Players Anonymous (MPA), but one must do this before being able to adapt to the problem. If you don’t admit it, you are never going to be able to adapt to your problem. If you don’t admit you get obscenely angry whenever you loose a match, you will lack the ability of finding ways to stem these outbursts. If you don’t admit the amount of time you spend thinking, playing, and reading about Magic is affecting your relationship with your significant other, you are missing opportunities to find ways to ration your Magic time.
Looking in the mirror is a very, very difficult thing to do. It’s hard to admit we have faults. Luckily for you, we all do. It’s called being human. Keep in mind; a person shouldn’t stand in front of the mirror just once in one’s lifetime. From time to time, everyone should take some time and ask those hard questions. It’s called maintenance. Our psyche needs to be maintained just the same as our bodies. Exercise and a good diet help maintain physical prowess. Just the same, the brain needs maintenance. Whatever you do, don’t avoid the problem. Unresolved issues or hindrances can manifest themselves in peculiar ways. It can lead to panic attacks, social isolation, high stress levels, insomnia, and physical problems. If tackling the problem yourself is proving too much, find a friend, family, or even professional to talk to about your problems. Sometimes simply talking about it can help and send you down the correct path.
Innate or Acquired
When you discover a problem, you need to ask the following: Is the problem innate as a person's personality or has the problem been acquired. Innate problems can be more difficult to remedy. A person’s innate personality very rarely changes. If you are a talkative person, you will probably always be a very talkative person. Personality problems will often take time and dedication to overcome. Acquired problems are usually easier to remedy. Acquired problems can usually be fixed by finding the source or learning about ways to repair the damage.
Just because you play Magic doesn’t mean you have a problem. Sure, it may be abnormal due to the fact the majority of the population doesn’t play Magic. It is no different than somebody playing the accordion, kayaking or surfing. The social stigma of people who play the game has waned over the years. Most of this I believe is because more and more people play the game or because more CCGs are around today than years ago. Some time ago, I can recall people’s outlandish reactions when I told them I played Magic. Nowadays, most people just shrug and a few become curious. Years ago, I used to joke Magic players lived in the closet. Most wouldn’t admit to playing the game. Every so often, I would explain the game to a co-worker, family, or whoever. After the eavesdroppers had dispersed, a person would approach me cautiously and whisper so nobody could hear, “I used to play in college.” I’d nod and they’d smile.
Many think medical and mental health is either yes or no, black or white. Over the years, many friends and family have probed my wife and I about various health issues. They have great difficulty accepting a vague answer. A lot of it depends. It really does. Every situation can be different. One person might be diagnosed with a problem while another isn’t. Saying somebody has a problem is up to the individual. Ultimately, there is one vital question numerous organizations and professionals utilize to distinguish health problems.
Has your life become unmanageable?
To expand upon this, is (blank) causing you to miss sleep, stress, neglect loved ones, have financial burdens, unhappiness and etc. When (blank) is interfering with a person’s life, a person has a problem. It doesn’t matter what the blank is to each individual. Blank can be gambling, chronic Internet surfing, videogames, television, substances, hobbies, etc. and even Magic. I want to make it very clear. This article isn’t just solely about Magic. However, I have seen people develop problems over a game.
Over the years, I have witnessed players buying high dollar cards then having trouble paying rent. There have been friends who enter their room to sort cards to only leave to fetch a poptart and hotpockets. Others have become so obsessed with the game, that losing causes extreme stress and outbursts. A few players are so wrapped up in the fantasy they associate absolutely everything to Magic to biblical proportions. Even the elites aren’t immune. I have seen authors leave the scene due to Magic burnout. The game had sapped every speck of energy out of their body and mind. They have to eventually give it up to maintain some sense of sanity. Looking back at a few of the old articles, I could see it coming. It was in the writing. I sometimes worry about people like Evan Erwin and the Magic Show. The show rocks and I don’t want to see it go. However, there are times when I have seen indications that the monster he has created is taking a toll on him by the continuous energy it demands. This reminds me of The Little Shop of Horrors. I only hope people truly appreciate the time he sacrifices to put on a successful show.
Am I saying for you to give up Magic? Why would I want you to give up one of the best games ever? All I am trying to promote is some kind of homeostasis, balance, equilibrium for Magic and the rest of life. Maybe cut down from playing at the FNM, Saturday Legacy and Casual Sunday to just two days a week. Can’t pay rent? A budget could solve some of those problems of a landlord’s harassments every month. I place myself on a pseudo budget. It varies because my cash flow varies during the year. In the fall, I tend to have more money coming in from a family business with spring being a little tight. Also, I put a time limit on my writing. My time constraint actually helps me get these articles done instead of procrastinating. If I don’t put a limit on my Magic time, it will cause my wife to be neglected and the eventual termination of my writing hobby.
When I started this writing gig, I kept a promise to myself. If my writing became too much of a burden, I would either stop it entirely or more realistically, cut back to twice a month instead of every week. It is not a choice I want to make, but I must keep prospective with the rest of my life. I believe there is always a choice. We just sometimes don’t like the consequences of our choices. This may be the decision to quit a job, skipping out on the holidays at the parents, or admitting to having a problem. Insert cliché, but that’s life. In the end, the obstacle is overcome and we get over it and move on to better things. Many years ago, my ex-girlfriend dumped me. At the time it sucked, but I got over it. Broke my arm. Sucked. It healed. Had an argument with the spouse. It was uncomfortable and aggravating. In the end, we came to an understanding, kissed and made up.
Everyone has the ability for change. For some, it just may be a little harder. The important part is to take that first step and talk about it. Strike up a conversation with a relative, friend, spouse, pastor/religious leader or doctor. Serious problems should always be brought to the professionals. Even if your doctor isn’t fully qualified to handle the situation fully, he/she can always find the needed resources. Again, the most important part is putting that first step forward and doing something about it whether it is talking about it or seeking the help of professionals.