Thanks Bill Nye.
I’m going to get a little bit scientific with you guys here. I don’t know everything about this stuff – not at all – so don’t quote me as being an official voice on these topics, but I do know what I’m talking about.
Let’s start off with a little bit of information about how our brains work, yeah? Basically, our brains are a huge center of connections. There are receptors and givers (no idea what the actual scientific term is so just roll with it), and these determine how we think. Depending on which chemicals – or how many – our receptors receive from the givers, it determines our moods, our thoughts, our feelings, and all that largely impacts our decisions. If you know anything about depression at all, you’ll know that it’s usually a problem of not enough serotonin and dopamine being transferred over to the receptors, thus creating a chemical imbalance and impacting mood in a way that “normal” people won’t get. Of course, antidepressants target these brain areas and act as supplements for what your brain has been missing all along.
However, the more a connection in your brain is used, the stronger it gets. It’s like exercising, yeah? You ‘exercise’ the brain connections you use a lot, and the ones you hardly ever use or don’t use at all get weaker until they eventually fall away. That’s why learning a new skill can be so difficult – because you’re actively working to create new connections, and strengthen those connections in your brain. Also why they say that the more you keep learning and studying (learning languages, practicing music, etc) the less risk you have of developing alzheimer’s. This is because alzhiemer’s is a disease of the break down of brain connections, and if you’re actively strengthening those bonds, they have a lower chance of dying off when you’re older, right?
I do have a point to all this, but just bare with me for a second while I explain another concept to you.
These brain bonds are addictions, okay? I’m not saying that most of them aren’t healthy or anything like that – but our bodies literally crave a release of these chemicals, and the stronger the bonds are, the more we need them to be fulfilled. This is why drug addiction is such a big thing, because it messes with the givers and receptors in your brain, and basically screws your entire system up.
Human beings, at the core of who we are, are addicted to emotions. Feelings tell us that we’re alive, and we seek that out. They take us away from the monotony of our lives, and make it seem that we’re actually doing something or getting somewhere. They are, in fact, humanity’s biggest coping mechanism against existential crisis. Ever wonder why some people just seem so insistent on being apart of drama? This, of course, is just one of my theories about human beings and their psychology, but it’s actually backed up by science too. You’re always happy? Well, your happy bonds are really strong, and your sadness ones are probably a bit weaker. You’re depressed? Think about which bonds are going to be strong in your brain in that case. Pretty easy to figure out, right?
I’ll be the first to admit it – I’m addicted to my depression. I’m addicted to the feeling, to the anxiousness and misery, and the receptors in my brain in regards to those things have all been strengthened over and over again. They’re pretty solid there. Antidepressants or medications are great and often necessary, yeah, but if I want to switch things around, I gotta make some changes myself, yeah?
Changing your thinking isn’t easy. It’s literally trying to overcome an addiction. It’s trying to kill something that your body craves in order to put a heck ton of work into building something new. That takes time. A lot of it, and it’s really difficult. But unless we stop exercising the harmful connections, and start putting effort into the healthy ones, we’re always going to stay in the same place as we are now.
You know this post that I wrote about changing your thinking to appreciate the small joys in life instead of focusing on the overwhelming miseries? That’s what we’re doing with that – we’re killing the way we were before (a very slow and painful death), in order to build up a new way of thinking and living. Remember when I wrote this about needing to die in order to move forward? It’s the exact same concept, just scientific. You need to die to your previous addictions and ways of thinking in order to create something new and wonderful. And that’s not to say that the old connections won’t still be there, that your first reaction won’t still be to slip into anxiety and panic, but rather, you’ll have the strength built up to be able to shut those parts of you off and use your other connections instead.
Personally, I’ve got this big misery connection in my brain. I jump to worst case scenario, and I focus on how bad I’m feeling instead of stepping back and seeing things for the way they are. So when I’m tempted to slip into my addiction, to let my brain do the easy thing and drag me down, I forcefully have to stop myself and actively switch my thinking around. Which is completely against who I’ve trained myself to be, and it goes without saying that it’s an impossibly difficult thing to do, but the more I do it, the easier it’s going to get.
So what about you? Where are your addictions, and how can you get rid of them?