Addiction to Emotions
Our human bodies are a petri dish of chemicals. In truth, did you know that you are in control of these chemicals, but you think that these are in control of you?
You may be asking yourself, how is this true? I feel what I feel. I can’t control what I think. I think what I think.
You think what you think, mostly because you have thought what you think for a long time. In other words, it’s mostly habit.
I will concede that some folks have a real chemical imbalance. I am not a doctor, and I do not believe that this perception applies to every human being on the planet. I invite you to choose for yourself what you connect with. Ask yourself, is this true for you? Will this perspective serve me? Can I take control of my mental state? For the majority of us, the answer is yes.
Think about this for a minute. If you practice anything you wish to achieve, do you get better the more you work at it? The more you paint, or draw, the better you paint and draw. The more you practice playing an instrument, the better a musician you become? The more you do yoga, the better you get at doing yoga? We can apply this to anything in our life. Whatever we practice, the better we get.
Our thoughts are affected in precisely the same way. If we treat our minds the same way we treat the outer experience or our body, we would soon learn that what we think is as controllable as what we physically do. The difference is belief and past experience. We believe that we are at the mercy of our thoughts. But we do have complete control!
The brain is made up of tiny nerve cells called neurons. The neuron is comprised of associative memories and does not know the difference between memory or current events. Bob Proctor, you may know from the movie The Secret, is an author, motivational coach, and teacher of the Law of Attraction. He did a study where he measured the brain function of Olympic athletes while they mentally ran through their given sport. He then measured the brainwaves while they were physically performing their sport. The result was that the brain did not know the difference between the physical experience and its memory. The interesting thing about this is that it proved how powerful our memories really are. The brain cannot tell the difference between thought and physical reality.
Think about this for a moment. When you watch a scary movie, you get scared. How is that? You physically are not in danger, but your mind and body react in the same way as if it were actually happening to you. Have you ever jumped or screamed because of something you saw in a movie? There you go! That’s the real-life example of how the brain reacts to nonphysical stimuli.
Men, have you ever seen a beautiful sexy picture of women and physically reacted? Women, your no exception. I could walk you through a meditation of sexual experience, and your physical body would respond to it. The entertainment industry, marketing, political and tribal communities know how the brain works, and whoever can tap into it the best wins. They know exactly how to play on your emotional energies, memories, and future desires.
So let’s talk about how the brain works a little bit more here. As I am not a Neuroscientist, bear with me as I run down some of the particulars.
I said earlier that the brain was made of tiny cells called neurons, and they are made up of associative memories. But what else is going on in there?
Think of your brain as a chemical production machine. The fuel for the engine is memories. The hypothalamus produces the chemicals that reflect the emotions associated with those memories. These chemicals attach themselves to receptors that dock onto cells and flow through the body, creating emotional and physical reactions.
We can break the long-term relationship between these chemicals. That is how mood-enhancing drugs work. Each emotion has a chemical related to it. By blocking these chemicals, that particular emotional reaction is altered. The more we block a specific chemical, the fewer are made by the hypothalamus, because the brain is rewiring itself away from what it no longer relates to. This is why anti-depressants and other mind-altering drugs work.
The blessings and the dangers of these drugs are the dependencies on them to block specific emotional reactions. Yes, they can lower anxiety and elevate happiness. Still, as soon as the drug is taken away, the thoughts or memories that created the connection in the first place begin to immediately rewire itself. Depression, stress, sadness all begin to reconnect.
Nothing has changed in our memory, only the physiological reaction to the memory has been suppressed through medication. What if we could address the memory that created the emotional state in the first place? That’s psychology. The attempt to understand, overcome, and move past the memory of events in our life so that we can have a healthier state of mind and experience a better life in the future.
When I think of changing our minds at this moment, I don’t see it as trying to overcome past memories or even trying to understand or justify them. It’s a matter of changing our minds at this moment. The past and the future no longer exist, so why would we spend so much time trying to alter them? However, somewhere in the neighborhood of 97% of the world’s population lives in the past or the future. Completely dismissing the here and now. Why? Because the brain transmits this to us at the primal and chemical level. Chemicals have created a state of mind based on past experiences. Our primitive survival brain creates fear dendrites to protect us from danger in the future, producing cortisol that speeds up metabolism, preparing us for the fight, flight, or healing after a physical attack. But when the physical attack does not happen, we are stuck with these chemicals spilling into our system, creating stress and anxiety with no way to burn it off.
These emotions can become such a habit that if the exterior world is not providing the stimuli to feed our brain’s chemical production addiction, we create an event, even if it’s in our own imagination. Producing chaos from past memories in the here and now. A particular look from someone will trigger the brain’s chemical response. Attaching reality to that emotion is actually an assumption brought on by a single glance.
One time, my mother and I were at a store, checking out, and the clerk was in a playful comedic mood. I honestly don’t remember the content, but I left the store laughing and thinking how funny the clerk was. I look over at my Mom, and she was fuming. I asked her what was wrong, and she ranted about how rude the clerk was and that she had no right to speak to us in that manner. Mom was pissed off the rest of the day over that. What was the memory that conversation triggered in her and in me? We had two wholly different experiences derived from the exact same circumstance. I bet if you think about it, you can think of many situations like this in your own experience.
This is where the belief in affirmation and positive thinking has come into our mainstream. There is a basic understanding that if we change our thoughts, we can change our perspective; hence, change our experience in this world, producing powerfully altered outcomes of abundance, peace, and joy.
This is where I believe we begin to go sideways in this new thought movement. We think that if we say it enough times, it will be so.
“How’s that working for you?” Have you spent untold amounts of effort and brainpower thinking positive thoughts and visualizing driving a Ferrari or writing a New York Times best-selling novel to find that it has not materialized years later?
I belong to many manifesting, personal growth-type groups on social media. I hear, again and again, people asking how to manifest a million dollars? Or complaining that Manifestation works for others but does not seem to work for them? Why? Because they are not experiencing life at this moment. The brain is anticipating something or remembering how it did not show up in the past. Positive thinking does not magically produce something out of thin air. The “Thing” that is desired already exists. There are already millions, nay, billions of dollars in the world. Exactly how many Ferraris are produced each year? Your brain does not need to construct these things. They already exist.
Now I am going down the rabbit hole of quantum physics. Let’s leave that alone for the moment and go back to how the brain works and how we can manifest real change in our lives through emotions. Like a web, everything is connected to the next thing. It’s really easy to follow the thread down many different paths and get off-topic.
Let’s get back to how our thoughts can change our life. I have shared with you how our brains are mighty chemical-producing machines. Now how do we begin to change the output of that production?
Recognizing that we become addicted to the emotions that have been created mostly by memories. That our thoughts produce physical reactions. We can then assume that if we break the cycle of the built emotions, we can rewire our brains to think differently.
If a thought or image can produce emotions such as fear, anger, happiness, or stress, then it stands to reason that we can simply alter the input to begin the change. If you spend most of your time being entertained by negative information such as violent movies, games, or news, the hypothalamus will produce those chemicals at a high rate.
Therefore, the first step is to alter our input. It does not have to be an all-or-nothing choice. Perhaps instead of watching the news first thing in the morning, you listen to a positive book or podcast, read something inspirational or observe the beauty surrounding you by going for a walk. This is changing the external input. Effecting the machines’ production of chemicals that cause stress, anger, frustration, fear, or sadness.
It may feel highly unsatisfying or even uncomfortable for a bit of time. Because the brain is wondering what happened to the chemicals, it was so used to. The invitation is to allow yourself to feel that emotion of discomfort. Dive right in and experience the pain. You may miss your favorite news commentator at first. Feeling like you may be seriously missing something of importance.
Oh, did I say this is without any discomfort or effort? Nothing worth doing is typically easy. All the cliches like, Success comes from outside your comfort zone are popular because they are true!
If you wish to rid yourself of daily stress, anger, and maybe even hatred of yourself and others, it’s gonna take effort on your part to consciously decide to make the changes and do so. My attempt is to help you take one step at a time on the Path.
What often happens is we live in this fantasy world that just because we want something to be, it should be at this moment. It just does not work that way. We must practice. However, if you should choose to accept the chemical labeled victim and tell yourself you can’t, that is precisely what you will receive. But without a doubt, you can move past this and into a much more peaceful, happy state of mind whenever you choose if you choose to do so.
This is the struggle at this crucial turning point and understanding what we need to do to produce transformation. You may dive right into the deep end of the pool and meditate one to three hours per day. Hire a meditation mentor. Dedicate a vast sum of time and money to this new Path to changing your thoughts. While I agree this approach will often work, the question is, why have you not done it? My guess is this is a bit much for the average person to dedicate themselves to. The foremost reason being belief. Believing that this approach actually works. The buy-in is pretty steep. Then there is our mental discipline – the “If Only” syndrome. I could lose weight if only I would exercise more and eat healthily. Right?
I created the 5 Steps on the Path to Peace to recognize these reasons. The immediate time commitment is exceptionally incremental. One step on the Path leads slowly to the next. Bringing small but satisfactory changes into your daily life. The more you do it, the more you want to do it, because it consistently increases the production of the happy chemicals created in the brain.
The problem with an all-in approach like one to three hour daily meditations is that it arrives back to the chemicals manufactured in the hypothalamus. There is the immediate excitement of the possibility of changing our lives, but in practice, the reward is not immediate. Therefore the disappointment is high. It’s easy to give it up to go back to the more comfortable, familiar habit of past thinking.
How often have you started a project, diet, or work-out to find that something always gets in the way and it’s given up? I know I have—multiple times in my life. Most of us have because it’s so hard to change the habit of physical comfort and emotional comfort. In other words, the chemicals in our brain stop us from moving placidly forward. Yes, I concede, breaking the link is not easy.
The illusion is that we know or expect an outcome and begin to fantasize about our life after we have achieved “fill in the blank.” Putting our current life on hold until the goal has been reached or even surpassed. Several days, weeks, months, even years go by, struggling to accomplish whatever we are trying to achieve. In the meantime, the Present Moment is lost.
It’s when the discomfort becomes more than we believe we can handle, that we begin to back off. Before you know it, the goal is left behind. We disengage from it and stop doing the uncomfortable thing to have a good feeling here and now. Over time, we fall back into old habits of thinking. The stress builds regarding the desire to achieve “fill in the blank,” and the cycle starts all over again.
The first step on the Path to Peace is Presence. Being Present allows us to stop the Past and the Future life experience cycle. Allowing for the awareness of the present moment, which is not filled with chaos or fear. At this moment, there is nothing but what is happening now. If you can take this moment to experience Presence, there is no suffering or fear. At this moment, there is joy, happiness, and awareness of it.
This state of mind produces the chemicals aligned with happiness. Every time a moment is taken to be present, that chemical is shot into the system. In a short period, the craving for the happiness chemical is boosted. Soon, without effort, we find ourselves in these brief moments of peace. The hypothalamus then produces more and more of the chemical that we want….. Happy – Joy.
Practicing presence is not the end of the journey. It is an extremely pleasurable beginning. It takes effort to remember to practice throughout your day, but the more and more you do, the more and more happy chemical, like serotonin is produced.
Blessing to you on your journey to Peace and Happiness.
Wendie Kause, Founder, Kause Success