Book Review: The Molecule of More Part 2

Moving on to p.84 and the fact that dopamine suppresses guilt.

This perfectly explains the binge-and-remorse cycle of addiction. In the moment of temptation we don’t feel guilt, even though we know intellectually we will later, because the want is able to block out other things. The want is strong and nothing else is present so that let’s us feel like we might as well, in fact we worry we’ll regret not giving in. Because want is the only feeling we have and if we don’t indulge that then we’d feel nothing.

Which isn’t true, it’s just how your dopamine makes you feel at the time. Your brain always finds new stimuli and a new way to feel. This is why, of course, so many recovering addicts take up exercise. It changes your brain chemistry at will.

hm, we’re on p.101 and the bit I’d like to focus on is long and in two parts. Oh well let’s find a way to dive in.

It’s built around a saying that goes “We don’t believe what we hear we believe what we say.” If you lecture someone it doesn’t prime their behaviour well or at all sometimes but if you can get them to give you examples of times they’ve been noble (or whatever you want them to feel, say… shameful) then they will behaviour with more of that emotion in the future.

And the second bit builds on that with how to respond when someone makes a pro or anti change statement. If someone wants to stop drinking and they say so then you should encourage them to say more, so they encourage themselves with their own words. If they make a statement about how quitting drinking is pointless or blah blah blah, instead of pushing back you just let it fall. Don’t get them to reinforce bad ideas by defending and discussing them.

I think this also explains why people give the best advice to themselves when talking to – and about – someone else.

p.105 A nice little chat about guilt. Guilt is a strong enough emotion to battle dopamine. The two studied examples are Alcoholics Anonymous and smokers who get pregnant. In AA community is super important and one of the ways it keeps people sober (compared to people white-knuckling it on their own) is not disappointing the group. And smokers who get pregnant quit more quickly and successfully than the baseline rate.

Meaning addiction doesn’t have to be brutal and full of relapses, you just have to do it for the right reason. This is a problem of course because I’ve seen people try and force the reason in advance, declaring that this baby, dog, or gym membership will get them off cigarettes or booze because they’d just be crazy to keep going. But of course addiction is a symptom of self-loathing and now they’ve given themselves one more thing to fail at and hate themselves.

I’m not saying it doesn’t work, I’m saying you can’t plan it. There’s a story in Jog On about an alcoholic who got sober because his dog looked at him. He’d lost everything else and he wasn’t even taking care of the dog – which hadn’t been fed or walked in days – still loved him. That guilt gave him the drive to get sober and stay sober long after the dog died years later.

What matters is the man felt compassion from the dog. People trying to orchestrate their sobriety with obligation just give themselves one more way to let themselves down, and boy do addicts cherish letting themselves down, it gives them a reason to use. It’s about the loving relationship and compassion that makes people get better.

Okay last book mark – p.139. Dopamine and delusion. Dopamine let’s us plan for and be excited by the future, by the as-yet unreal. When you say you’re going to get a gym membership and really mean it and plan how good people are going to say you look at the beach – that’s dopamine. If that system runs out of control though you start to plan the impossible, make impossible connections, and be highly motivated about it.

Hence all the bullshit about genius and madness being related. Having an impossible vision that you then accomplish gets you in the history books, otherwise it gets you in the psych ward. And often highly dopaminergic people do both, great inventors have blue prints they never realize, great writers get wasted and depressed and have unproductive decades and suicide attempts, musicians make a great album because they’re a little obsessive and reclusive then have decades of silence or crap because they become really obsessive and reclusive, forever tweaking rewriting and fixing, forever motivated by dopamine to chase a feeling dopamine can’t give them.

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