It’s in your head, and it’s physical

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Drawing by Adrian Serghie

 “Who cares? It’s not like the brain can make a physical difference between positive thoughts and negative thoughts!” Well, in his book Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind (2007) Joe Dispenza talks about how do our brains make a difference between these two types of thoughts. Most of us have neurons, right? Between those neurons there is a small gap called synapse. That synapse is filled with some chemical things called neurotransmitters, which have as a purpose to pass the information from one neuron to another. When we’re thinking about something nice, our brains release some good neurotransmitters like dopamine (the reward chemical) or serotonin (the happiness chemical) to fill that gap so the information can be passed to the next neuron. These two chemicals can make us feel good. When we’re thinking about things that can make us feel bad, our brains fill that gap with neuropeptides and then we feel bad (e.g. dynorphin, neuropeptide Y or corticotropin).

   Serotonin and dopamine make us feel good and because of this, we want for more. Since we are so smart, we found ways to do this. This is where addictions come into place. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, movies, video games, chicken nuggets, taking a dump at home after we had to hold it for a few hours and so on, they all release dopamine. That’s why we want for more (probably except for the dump part). We want to feel good, we find ways to do it and the more we get it, the more used to that feeling we become and the same amount of dopamine won’t do the trick anymore. That’s why people overdose.

   This just made me wonder the following: “If we’re so addicted to dopamine and positive thinking gives us what we want, why don’t we overdose with positive thoughts?” The answer I got is “Because it’s fucking hard!” As discussed in the first chapter, we encounter problems on a daily basis and if we had shitty surroundings, we now have shitty core beliefs and because of this, we’re having negative automatic thoughts whenever we encounter a tough situation. Because we have those negative thoughts on a daily basis, our brains are used to release neuropeptides so we got addicted. Yes, we can get addicted to shitty feelings and those feelings will keep us in a negative state that will bring more negative thoughts.

*Passage from my book -> Fighting the Inside Dragons* (You can find it here on Kindle and Paperback)

   What makes you feel so good that you’d like to do it over and over again?

18 thoughts on “It’s in your head, and it’s physical

  1. I’d like to check out that book! I recently tried a migraine drug that affected the transmitters so it basically stopped transmitting the signal that my head hurt. It worked really well…until I realized it also affected it transmitting other things…and then things got weird. I wasn’t myself and decided I needed everything connecting whether it meant it hurt of not.

      1. It affected taste – made it so you can’t taste carbonation. It was so weird. And it began to intensify anxieties to the point I started avoiding things. Then got weirdly depressed. And it made me not excited about anything. It was like it took out all the highs along with the pain and eventually left only the lows. Everything was … meh.

  2. Too much happiness is not a good thing. That’s where addiction comes from. It’s a gradual process. No one says I’ll start being addicted today. “I’ll just one cigarette today” leads to two cigarettes tomorrow, and five the day after that. Before you know it – BOOM! You can’t stop.

    Anyway, that’s my take on the article. Good post and good day.

    1. Thank you very much for reading and for your thought-provoking comment! Too much happiness causes addiction too. Living in the extremes changes our homeostatic balance and when one of the extremes becomes our normality, things get rough…

  3. “‘If we’re so addicted to dopamine and positive thinking gives us what we want, why don’t we overdose with positive thoughts?’ The answer I got is ‘Because it’s fucking hard!'” Troof.

  4. So true, our thoughts are made by our brains which means their origin is physical of course! The ‘reward and reinforcement’ pathways in which dopamine is released and activates dopamine receptors has links with ‘happiness’ and ‘feel-good’ because part of the systems involved in learning and motivation. Those same dopamine pathways can also be involved in the ‘negative’, ‘feel-bad’ habits because, e.g. maybe some habits often give us instant relief from e.g. making an effort when we feel too lazy, avoiding a task or situation we feel anxious about so the reward and reinforcement pathways activate and we ‘learn’ to reproduce these cycles. Many of the brain areas that are dopamine targets aren’t specifically mood related, but learning related, among many other functions even though ‘dopamine’ is popularised as a ‘happy’ chemical.

    1. Thank you very much for this awesome comment! Dopamine is the reward chemical and that’s why it’s sooo good for learning. Like dogs receive treats for doing something, we receive dopamine. As you said, it is also involved in not-so-helpful behavior, like procrastination and pushing the snooze button. The inner universe is so much more interesting than the outside one, especially because it gets so easy influenced by it 🙂

  5. “What makes you feel so good that you’d like to do it over and over again?”
    Creative expression, particularly in the form of writing! Whenever I’m feeling particularly cranky or depressed, it’s because I haven’t entertained my healthiest, most prominent addiction — which is putting words to paper, or typing on Word Doc. That always gets the dopamine flowing, in my case.

    I’ve been thinking of writing an essay in regards to a Joe Dispenza book I’ve read recently — “Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself: How to Lose Your Mind and Gain a New One”. There are many insightful core concepts in this book, as I’m sure there are in “Evolve Your Brain”. The great downside is that Dispenza cloaks his ideas with a lot of spooky pseudoscience in places where there needn’t be. His worldview is very much shaped by “magical thinking”, as revealed in Breaking the Habit.

    1. Thank you very much for reading and for this insightful comment! Even though he has some great insights, he also has some downsides, as you mentioned. If you write that essay, please share it with me since it sounds very interesting!

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