People are not addicted to drugs or alcohol, they are addicted to escaping reality.” – Unknown
Be wary of human nature. We shouldn’t do everything we’re inclined to do. Our nature is to avoid pain. This has helped us survive.
However, in an environment where survival is rarely threatened, this nature cripples us. It prevents us from searching the unknown. It keeps us safe, at the expense of being happy.
This isn’t the only program we need to be aware of. For example, humans are obsessive creatures. We lose ourselves in activities we like. We can spend hours, days and even years on a hobby, without realising how much time we’re spending on it.
Addiction is our nature too. Human beings are addicts in nature. Biology programmed us this way. Without this program, we wouldn’t have most of the inventions we have today.
Michelangelo, wouldn’t have painted the sixteenth chapel if it wasn’t for our nature. He spent sixteen hours of every day working on it. And when it was done, he revealed a masterpiece. A masterpiece that has survived the test of time.
Another program humans have is habituation. Habituation is the reason people can adjust to different situations, and environments. It’s our ability to stop responding to consistent and never changing stimuli.
For example, when you first put on a shirt, you can feel it… Everywhere. You can feel the fit. Whether it’s too tight, too loose or just right.
But, as the day goes on, you lose your awareness. You forget that your over-sized t-shirt looks like a dress.
This, is habituation. It frees up space in our brains. Space we can use to focus on other things. Without this, we would waste huge amounts of energy concentrating on irrelevant things.
According to biology, we release dopamine when we perform certain activities. Dopamine makes us feel good. It’s the brain’s reward system. When we play a sport, our body releases dopamine. This makes us feel good. We experience a sense of peace and calm.
The release of dopamine causes a feedback circuitry system in our body. We associate that activity with dopamine. Thus, whenever we want to experience dopamine again, we play sports.
However, the more we play sports, the more dopamine we receive. The more dopamine we receive, the more dopamine we need. This is habituation. Our bodies stop responding to previously arousing levels of dopamine.
Remember, our brains are programmed to stop reacting to things that don’t change.
As a result, we need to do more, to receive higher levels of dopamine. Or else, we wont feel it.
If we run for an hour, we’ll notice the dopamine our body releases. But if we run for an hour, every day, we’ll stop noticing it. We’ll need higher levels of dopamine to feel anything.
Thus, we start running more, and for longer distances. We start taking two hour running sessions, instead one. Our body releases higher levels of dopamine, we become aware of this, and we start to feel good again.
Till habituation fucks this up. Then, we start running for three hours. This is human nature.
“Body and mind dropped off.” – Dogen
Habituation ensures we keep developing. It prevents us from stagnating, literally. It keeps us moving. The problem is when we’re moving in the wrong direction. It’s hard to stand still and think about it. We can, but we’re not inclined to. We’re programmed to keep moving, to keep developing and to keep evolving.
The negative effects of habituation are seen in drug addicts. Drugs are chemical stimuli. They change the chemical balance of our brains. They enhance or depress the release of certain chemicals. These chemicals effect how we feel and how we behave.
Drug addicts are addicted to drugs. They take them compulsively and they think about them obsessively. Drugs, cause the brain to release certain chemicals, with dopamine being the most common.
At first, the levels of dopamine a drug releases feel like bliss.
However, the longer they take the same drug, at the same dose, the less bliss they feel. They habituate to the drug, and it ceases to arouse them.
Eventually, higher doses of the drug are needed, to feel the release of dopamine. And the cycle starts again. They habituate to the higher doses, start taking even higher doses, or mixing them with other drugs.
What starts out as fun, becomes an addiction. Their escape from reality, ends up their reality.
Therefore, we should be wary of pleasure and the activities that produce it. It can result in addiction.
Addiction appears in many forms, not just drugs. People are addicted to food, work or other people. An addiction by itself, isn’t harmful to the human spirit. But eventually, it will be.
Gabor Mate once said, “every addiction starts in pain, and it ends in one too.”
This is an excerpt from the book, How To Live Forever.
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