More Confessions of a Gambler

June 1, 2011

Part 5 One More Time

“One more time,

‘cos I just don’t say no

One more time

then I’ll let you go”

Amy Newton

It is a depressingly familiar state. I feel upset with myself, a sense of shame and stupidity combined with a desire to bury the whole experience and never mention it to a soul.  Somehow I managed to ignore most of the insights covered in my Confessions of a Gambler ( and fell once more into the same hole. The song “One More Time” by Amy Newton ripples frustratingly through my brain. Why didn’t I just say no?

It started so innocently, a conversation with a dear friend of mine who happened to mention that she and her partner had been to a casino the previous evening and not only had a lot of fun but won over $300. Like bait dangled temptingly in front of a fish, it attracted my interest. It sounded like a treat to go and have some entertainment at my local casino. I would ensure I took only that which I could afford to lose; it did not seem an unconscious response to being on my own, in fact I had quite a social weekend planned; it felt like an ordered adult desire for some recreation. However having learned my lesson in the past, I decided to be guided by a Rune, if the Rune said “no”, I would not go. I drew Possessions upright which seemed like a positive sign. “Possessions is a Rune of fulfillment: of ambition satisfied, love fulfilled, rewards received. It promises nourishment from the most worldly to the sacred and the Divine.” The hook was now firmly set, I read no further, I was off to the casino for a couple of hours of fun.

It started well with a lovely walk along the beautiful False Creek to Edgewater Casino. One of my conditions is to I take the forty-five minute stroll to the casino as a justification for my excursion. I arrive feeling fully in my adult persona, staying fully present to my behaviour, and looking forward to being mindful. I have taken the eighty dollars I had earned the previous evening from facilitating a dream group. It seemed like free money. And the universe seemed to support my endeavour; I did not win but I did not lose and every machine provided the kind of entertainment that makes it fun, winning free games and features; as my allotted time wound down I found myself with a $100 in my pocket. The rune had fulfilled its promise, I had enjoyed my visit, I was twenty dollars ahead and it was time to go home.

In hindsight the next twenty minutes appears somewhat ethereal in the worse sense of the word. (It can mean tenuous) My descent into my netherworld of my gambling addiction began simply with a contrary voice that suggested that before I went home, I should spend the additional twenty dollars because I had not planned on keeping it, I was there for entertainment wasn’t I?  Who knows this could be the “big win”. It was seductive and on the surface quite logical but precipitated a spiral that was made even more fascinating by my self-awareness of the journey I was taking. At each step there was a discussion between two voices that I now recognize as the voice of the adult and the voice of the child, who became more pressing and insistent as children often do. The first twenty dollars disappeared so quickly that it could have been imaginary. “Well that was no fun, we can’t conclude this enjoyable experience like this.” Before the adult could intervene another twenty had slid inexorably into the machine and been vanquished just as quickly. The conversation continued like this. “We are slipping into an old pattern. This is not going to end well.” “I don’t care, we can’t let the machine take the money and give us nothing back.” Another twenty was engulfed by the waiting jaws of an avaricious beast that would not be denied. “Let’s leave while we still have forty dollars and a modicum of self-respect.” However desperation and recrimination had set in against the machine as though it was a living being, “This isn’t fair” was the plaintive response, “the machine has taken the money and offered nothing in return.”  Finally surrender and the last few dollars flowed away, offered not with intent to win but more like a petulant child throwing away a prized toy. The pattern was complete. Sadness and dejection set in followed quickly by judgment. “How could you be so stupid, won’t you ever learn?”

Alas had I read and taken to heart the latter part of the Rune of Possessions, things could have changed. “This Rune calls for a deep probing of the meaning of profit and gain in your life. Look with care to know what you require for your well-being. Is it wealth and possessions or rather self-rule and the growth of a will… conserve what has already been gained, vigilance and mindfulness in times of good fortune for it is then you are likely to collapse yourself into success or behave recklessly.”

However it was not until Saturday morning that I began a serious, less emotional reflection on what had happened. Only then did I notice the childlike quality of the voice that squandered the money. I began to see the stages of descent with a clarity that I had not had the previous day.

1) It starts with the adult in control seeking an experience believing it can be fun.

2) That experience completes and the adult is ready to leave.

3) The child isn’t ready to leave and pleads for “one more time”.

4) The child is upset when it doesn’t get the fun it expected.

5) The child’s frustration and anger lead to a steady decline. (No adult is around to make the child go to bed!)

6) The child resorts to pleading, sadness and finally surrender.

7) The adult emerges sinking into recrimination and judgment.

Writing these steps out I realize that there must be some complex at play. It is almost as though I play out my old rebellion pattern against my father with the machine yet that seems crazy. However it seemed clear to me that I still had something more to learn from my gambling complex and that was why I had created this episode. Although just seeing the pattern and the role of the child was helpful, I sensed there must be more.

The following day I was walking with a dear friend who is also a psychotherapist and related my story. By now I was able to laugh with her at the craziness of the dialogue and she commented on the voice of the child that was so clear in my inner debate. “So what does your child want?” she asked me. In that moment the insight came. As a child I was governed by the strict religious discipline of Evangelical Baptist parents. My childhood could be defined as, “no dancing, no movies, no fun.” One of the few escapes as a child was the seaside holiday each year where I could go and play penny slots in the arcades on the pier. Perhaps this was an example of rebellion to the strictures of my childhood. Suddenly I could see yet another dynamic in my gambling scenario. I had just completed a couple of intense days of spiritual coaching and doing dream work. Although I love to do it there is obviously an aspect of me that relates it to the confines of my childhood and the child’s need for entertainment gets set in play. The casino provides an opportunity for the old child pattern to take the upper hand; the cluster of energy that Hollis describes as a complex splinters off and creates a life of its own free of my usual adult restraint. What an amazing journey this is.