DOPAMINE NATION : My takeaway !
Each book teaches me something. Sometimes directly , sometimes indirectly. The books that I read do not act on a blank slate..my mind has several years of ( & several books) worth thoughts. I do not always know where one stream of thought ends and another begins. Even this writeup has lots of sprinkling of thoughts from other books that I have read before, plus some other books that the editing Maya has read after this book.
Truth : Pleasure & pain balance - Body craves for equilibrium.Any pleasure ( dopamine high) will be followed by equal dopamine low( depressed feeling) so that body can attain equilibrium.
That means when I thought I was depressed I was really suffering from.a dopamine low. That's happy news !!
Truth : We have made our lives easy by inventing gadgets ,but we don't know what to do with the free time they create for us.We use that time to indulge in easy passive, pleasure generating activities ( surfing ,socials , binge watching ,easy reading) which give us easy dopamine high,which ultimately leads to a dopamine dip,sadness,depression,low feeling.
NOW I UNDERSTAND THE BHAGAVAD GITA SAYING : Neither very happy in good times nor too sad in bad times. Equanimity ! Or the Buddha Way : The middle way ..
Also remembered one marathi book which said tears are necessary,they increase the sweetness of happy experiences…just like how most sweets need a pinch of salt..juxtaposition of good n bad , happy n sad is necessary to experience the true taste of life !
An interesting thought is that addicts are modern day prophets who show us what we all can be(how bad ).. And also what we can achieve if we just take effort and receive timely guidance , there is always hope and redemption if we put in the effort …
Truth : It is uncomfortable to stay with our thoughts,so we try to fill all our time with activities…
Like I continuously play some music or video in the background which decreases my efficiency but gets me out of thinking about my loneliness ,negative feelings , workplace issues ,my shortcomings, mistakes and what I should be actually doing. We must learn to stay with our discomfort.Discomforting thoughts could be things under control where some action can be taken. Or they can be feelings which need to be experienced… like boredom,grief,sadness. Or they can be just anxiety or fear thoughts which do not serve any purpose and these are outside our control zone but we still need to notice and identify them.
Instead , spend time with your thoughts.Become familiar with yourself.All the devices and distractions to avoid oneself contribute to depression.Allow yourself to get bored. Boring is also terrifying,it forces us to consider bigger questions of meaning and purpose.It leads to discovery and invention, a space to new thoughts without which we are constantly reacting to stimuli around us.
Difficult choices now ,easy life later and vice versa.
Truth : It is never like we imagine,neither the pleasure nor the pain..it is always less..Anticipation is more intense than actual thing.
Truth : The reason we are miserable is because we are working so hard to avoid being miserable.
We want rewards too easily without working for it.
Why do we need to be happy or pleased all the time ? Iisn't that unrealistic ? Why not accept your true nature ? It is totally fine not to be on cloud 9 all the time. (May be when I sit with my thoughts in silence, I will realize this. I wouldn’t suffocate my true nature. I would learn to make peace with slightly low feelings instead of fueling my addiction induced dopamine spikes and then crashing down into low feelings.)
We have over-sanitized life for kids and us too.Too much smoothening of obstacles and needing low efforts to get anything.
Some degree of pain is healthy.. expectations of a pain-free world has caused addictions.There is a cost to wishing away every type of pain and discomfort.
We constantly run away from the pain , the present moment, we get distracted deliberately.
Pain : Cold water showers ? Exposure to pain to reset the balance/enhance the pleasure ? Intermittent fasting ?
We need to separate wants from needs.
Why do we want to own so many things ? Why do we want to have so many kinds of varied experiences ? Why do we need to do so many things( - hobbies )? Why can't we just limit ourselves to one great hobby which we love , one thing to learn , fewer books to read ,fewer /no shows to watch, fewer choices( clothes, cosmetics, jewelry, food ) in anything that we own ? Why is there FOMO ? What are we afraid of ? Missing any of these varieties isn't going to kill us. We are now slaves to the variety. Why do we need so much variety in every kind of thing and experience?
D- data about your addiction-details
O - objectives ..why do u use the substance
A-absteinance form the use-4 weeks recommended for dopamine pathway reset.Withdrawal symptoms for first 2 wks.Dangers of cross addiction..not to replace one substance with another
M-mindfulness.During the withdrawal observe yourself.Stop running away from your thoughts and observe them.Live with them,tolerate them and learn.
I-insight about addiction.About your behavioral patterns around the addiction.
N-Next Steps,goals.You may learn to use it better
E-Experiment.Pleasure Pain Balance,
Abstinence from reading /socials involves just being with yourself. The idea may appeal theoretically but it is difficult to put into practise.It is scary even for a solitude loving person like myself to sit still doing nothing. Today I am at the still-in-the-process-of-making new laboratory and I find it difficult. I have been looking forward to it since morning. I thought I would sit there ,read academics, write this essay but now I find myself with many uncomfortable thoughts. One of these is ‘what if anybody says “ why aren’t you working during your working hours.”’
Self binding : keeping a distance between objects of addiction and self,before you start to feel the power.
Willpower is like a muscle…it will develop over time but it gets fatigued if you have to use it more and more..it needs a break to be functional again…hence binding is necessary.
First acknowledge that you are powerless (and also surrender to the higher power).
Physical - space/distance
Understanding the process brings your behavior into your awareness,you may still repeat your patterns( and you need to forgive yourself for it) but at least you do not do it unconsciously, and there is a possibility that you will do better next time.
Temptations may be in easy availability - eg Nykaa/Amazon Sales( delete the app ! & If you splurge ,do it deliberately telling yourself I realize that I am giving in to my addiction but doing it anyway,This may help next time.) , chocolates received as gifts ( I gave it away but still ate a few more than I was allowed to as a diabetic)
Also binding may happen incidentally e.g. my beauty parlor moving away.( Though I am not addicted to beauty therapies ,I do use it to numb my negative feelings.)
( Now trying to sit in silence and face all kinds of thoughts and discomfort that is rising in me instead of listening to something…
When I sit and listen to myself plenty of things emerge…all those which I have not been listening to..hence do not feel like writing in the diary…many issues that I avoid thinking about and hide from myself may emerge and trouble me....
The bitter truths that I need to face 1 :
I have a reading addiction .I often read to run away from my thoughts.Even on occasions when I sit with my thoughts,it ends in me going and gobbling up something or splurging on unwanted stuff online or offline !
My listening to the audiobook aloud in the morning working hours ( and writing this ) is also an addiction and reluctance to face my feelings of discomfort about the work situation/restlessness/boredom ?
Bitter truth 2 :
I lack Loving kindness , I lack ability to handle stress. I was under stress yesterday and therefore instead of helping an incidental caller yesterday,I took out my frustration on her. I feel bad.
Bitter truth 3 : Also the reluctance /negative feelings/discomfort while speaking to some close family members is due to the discomfort that I possibly lack the love that I should have and the fear that I will possibly receive this same treatment from my family in future ?
Bitter truth 4 : I am scared of confrontations, arguments,saying the wrong thing ,being rude,losing my face,not being able to cope with situations.. also of not being enough , of being lonely …
Just now realized that the midmorning snack that I have everyday is also probably a mechanism to cope up with /run away from my thoughts..
How will I get any ideas( creative ) if I don't spend any time with myself doing nothing ?
Some more things that I learned from other books which are connected to these thoughts....
Dopamine is the molecule of the future..it generates anticipation and makes you work to achieve things. But once you achieve those things the other chemicals in the brain ( serotonin epinephrine etc..called as Here and now molecules ) take over. To be happy in life we need to.achieve balance of both. How do we do that ?
Concentrate fully on whatever you are doing right now. Be present.
Achieve mastery on something..work or hobby. That will give you a feeling of control.
Pursue a creative hobby. Using brain and hand coordination.
Concept of deep work : Working uninterrupted without using internet browsing or social media is necessary for working better and being better at personal, family and inner life.