New studies suggest that dopamine regulates the motivation to act. Recent observations indicate that the brain is more active when people are anticipating a reward rather than receiving one. This is because we are wired to seek, and to really enjoy the thrill of the hunt.
--Krista Peck, The Role of Dopamine in Internet Craving
Time + Effort = Personal rewards such as pleasure, gratification, and self-respect; social rewards such as recognition, status, and friends; physical rewards such as money, muscles, and possessions.
What’s that? The recipe for success? What’s it doing in this book anyway? Isn’t this book about how to get off that physical monkey-go-round and go unworlding for a change?
Compare the above recipe with this one:
Little-or-No Time + Little-or-No Effort = pleasure, gratification… and that’s all.
Pleasure is easy to find. But pleasure that has any lasting value or practical worth requires effort.
Effortless pleasure is the core of addiction, also known as bad habits at any level of intensity, up to and including some junkie drooling in the gutter. I prefer the term "addiction" over "bad habits" because "bad" is a value judgement and value judgements are a can of worms. So the word "addiction" is useful for any habit that seems bad, when we don't want to say "bad" because it would sound judgmental. So we say "addiction" and it sounds judgmental anyway.
Earned pleasure motivates everything except addiction. Earned pleasure is the core of motivation.
Which brings us to an uplifting way to make use of twoness for a change. Knowing that an individual only has so much energy, and knowing that everything pleasurable that is relatively difficult to attain is relatively motivating, and knowing that everything pleasurable that is relatively effortless to attain is relatively addicting,
--first reject all value judgments about whether or not we should have addictions, and--second, get rid of some addictions, one at a time, carefully.Carefully because--third, our addictions ground us. We have them for a reason. Which I learned from a Tibetan Buddhist monk who died--got permanently grounded, in a way--from alcoholism and womanizing. Which tempts me to consider "be careful" to be Point Number 3 and not Point Number 1.
According to Point Number 1, it's OK that a Buddhist monk died of alcoholism and womanizing. We have no value judgement about that, and if we did, it would get us nowhere but confused.
Sticking with Point Number 3 for now, what is "grounded" anyway, and what's so great about it? How could our addictions ever ground us, and do we even want them to?
Well, there is this thing--this part of us--called sixness, the 6th harmonic of awareness. It can find expression as many things including appreciation, gratitude, enjoyment, social interaction, sexual attraction, religious fervor, obsession... get the picture? Addiction is all about generating enjoyment (6ness) without trying hard, without making an investment. It's obsession with the volume easily tweaked all the way up due to some sort of instant gratification such as brain chemicals or street drugs as the fuel.
When one of the harmonics gets its volume turned all the way up, that harmonic becomes a big energy draw on the whole system. But all the harmonics of awareness need energy, so energy has to be shared equally. So we intuitively seek equilibrium whenever it's not too late for the voice of intuition and common sense to have anything to say about it. Equilibrium is grounding.
If you've been reading carefully, you just spotted a contradiction above:
--Our addictions ground us.--Addiction is ungroundedness.
Well the dead Buddhist was speaking in rough terms, but he was right in a way. Our addictions do ground us, in a way, because they suck our energy down a hole and we don't have access to it anymore.
Well, think of it this way. Our habits, good, bad, or neutral, consume our limited energy. Our habits have momentum, it requires an effort to change them. Stopping a habit, for example, an addiction, frees up energy which then transfers itself to the next available unused channel, because energy cannot be destroyed, so just ignoring your own increasing energy level during a brush with self-improvement might be a mistake. Nature abhors a vacuum. Which of the random nearby unused energy channels are likely to start getting used if Vent #76 suddenly stops polluting the brain with excessive dopamine levels? In short, if I stopped all my "bad habits" all at the same time (not that I have any) I would have so much extra energy that I wouldn't know what to do with it. I might have so much extra self-confidence, I might feel unusually powerful. I might strut around acting cocky without even realizing it, and my twelve brothers-in-law might feel the need to put me in my place.
The dead Buddhist monk was right: our addictions ground us. While my bad habits (not that I have any) are in themselves a literal ungroundedness, they do siphon away so much of my potential energy that they prevent me from suddenly Going All Kinetic and getting myself in all kinds of trouble with my big mouth. Just in case I don't have enough good habits to siphon off any extra energy I might end up with. According to this scenario, one result of having plenty of addictions, assuming they are the sorts of addictions that keep me home, might be less beatings from my neighbors.
The tendency for people to want to put the ungrounded in their place is a real danger, especially if I'm not even aware that a recent change of habit has left me with unchanneled energy coursing through my system via random pathways such as wondering why someone next door is keeping me awake and why they have such a coarse, rude, disrespectful tone of voice or such a macho, threatening, creepy look on their face when they lunge for that fruit knife over there and threaten to kill me if I don't stop telling them how to live. If I don't watch my step in this world, someone is going to do it for me. Giving up an energy-wasting habit is dangerous without taking some deliberations about what to do with the resulting newfound higher energy level. Our habits do ground us.
Of course I'm not really talking about me, but I get tired of saying "you this" and "you that," while the Royal "we" starts sounding condescending after a while, and the impersonal "one must watch one's step" sounds stuffy. English sucks at times, so I thought I'd break up the monotony and speak as if I were the one who needs to change, for a change. Not that I have any bad habits, and horrors, I certainly have no addictions.
All of which brings us back to that old thorn in the side, Self-Improvement. I rail against it periodically in this book. I warn against being addicted to it. Addiction to self-improvement is just another addiction. Sixness is a most addicting substance. Yes, pleasure is the core of addiction, but sixness is the core of pleasure. It is a form of psychological masturbation to go in search of spiritual peak experiences all the time, instead of learning to relax and enjoy what is. Appreciate reality, including the fact that we are each stuck in the Earthville Mental Institution for a reason. We do have something to accomplish while we're here, in spite of 8ness' injunction to relax no matter what. All these conflicting demands must be balanced against each other.
But it's not about climbing some ladder ever-upward to success. There is no up and out over a high wall, not here. Where we sit, it's better if we just learn to sit. From this place, we escape by mastering equilibrium, balance, and relaxation. That is 8ness, the final achievement of he who would be free. Built into 8ness is intuitive knowledge about all the other harmonics of awareness and how they work, especially how they work together. If you can relax no matter what, you can do anything.
I have to add something about the brain. I don't like to talk about the brain, because people, and also scientists, assume that consciousness in all its aspects originates in the brain, which is false. The brain is a filter for our source energy which is pure awareness or oneness. It's not even that; it's the physical reflection of said filter, but let's not split too many hairs all at once. Moving right along, let's talk briefly and with greatly animated interest about one of the brain's key filtering functions. It involves a brain chemical, a neurotransmitter--something that transmits sensations and stuff--called dopamine. Dopamine is crucial to this discussion, so knowing a little about it is useful. And the scenario I am about to present, uncontroversial that it is, supports everything I have claimed in this book of secrets. Well not everything, but some of the important things.
Our topic: Dopamine Reward Circuits. Recalling what has already been claimed in this chapter, add this: dopamine remembers pleasure. It's involved in the process of selecting channels of action that promise to result in pleasure. Dopamine tells you what you want--it motivates you--according to its most recent and/or intense and/or convenient memories of pleasure. Dopamine tells us where to go for our routine rewards. Routine because dopamine remembers experiencing pleasure previously while it was feeding at some certain trough, and seeks to repeat the experience. This is why habits have inertia--they don't change by themselves--and as habits go, chemical-based addictions have a lot of inertia. Changing a habit can be a real energy suck in itself, until one learns to just do it and stop talking about it. This can take a lot of learning in some cases.
Sugar and chocolate, for example, create intense pleasure quickly due to a chemical high, but I won't mention them again because it makes my liver hurt to think about it.
The brain tries hard to maintain a state of equilibrium because that is what a good brain is for. We talk about equilibrium all the time, because it is the road to freedom and enlightenment. Since dopamine is associated with pleasure, anything that causes sudden and/or extreme pleasure overstimulates dopamine production and the result is that the brain tries to turn dopamine production down. This is the brain trying to moderate brain chemical levels while some junkie is pouring pure pleasure powder into his veins. Brains weren't made for pure pleasure powder, that's not how brains evolved. Similarly, brains weren't meant for white sugar or pornography, that's also not how brains evolved. And speaking of mindset, everything turns to snot when the brain's ability to create dopamine in a normal way voluntarily shuts down.
The so-called pleasure drugs, including alcohol, all work the same way, depending on the person and his preferred drugs. If Joe doesn't find the cocaine high very pleasurable, he probably won't get addicted to it, but he might get addicted to marijuana if maryjane is his bag, if it makes him feel a lot of pleasure suddenly. It's not the chemical that makes the difference, it's whether or not a given individual appreciates the high that chemical gives him, whether or not that person considers that high to be particularly pleasurable. Frequent inflows of a preferred chemical will shut down the dopamine factory in the brain. This will make it impossible for the addicted person to feel pleasure in normal ways. No effort will be made to seek the everyday rewards of living because nothing can compare to the chemical high. Find a job? Pay the bills? Learn how to have lucid dreams? Not when a new stash is a phone call away.
When it comes to brain chemical highs, nature has built into us the greatest dopamine generator of them all, the sex drive. Sexual stimulation is equal to morphine in the levels of dopamine it creates in the brain, but it tends to be cheaper, more legal, and less likely to put you in the grave if overindulged. And once again human progress has booby-trapped itself with that most unnatural of dopamine dazzlers called internet porn. The human population certainly needs to shrink in numbers, for the good of the planet, and I currently believe that because of the new lack of interest that human males are showing in having sex with real human females, all our overpopulation problems might soon be over. Just give internet porn another twenty years to spread into the backwoods of every nation on earth, and women will be running this planet and keeping men chained to their computers where they will be drooling over pretty pictures 24/7 and out of harm's way. No longer kept barefoot and pregnant, women will have a lot more time and energy to undo the damage done by overpopulation and greedy white men since the dawn of civilization.
Speaking of the fickle fog of time, the recent move to actually legalize marijuana will have a similar effect. With most Americans drooling into their bongs, there is little chance that America will still be an obnoxious superpower in another 30 years. "Hey let's go conquer another continent!" "OK, but first, let's get stoned and listen to some music!" Hurray for marijuana legalization, let's get it over with so this planet can start recovering from the excesses of capitalism.
Of course the Unworld has no tolerance for potheads, but that's no reason to outlaw pot. The unworlder does not seek enlightenment for his species, because that would be a distraction and he needs all his energy to work out his own path. Everyone has their own path, and smoking weed prevents most people from being able to remember their dreams, much less learn to find their way around consciously in unworlded states or anywhere else. Who cares? It's not about morality, legality, or keeping up with the Joneses; it's about dopamine.
The purpose of dopamine is to say to the mind, "It's pleasure time." Anything that causes a sudden jolt of production in the brain's dopamine factory is considered an assault by an overabundant supply; it causes the factory to slow down or shut down completely. Under constant assault from chemicals including those chemicals produced by sexual stimulation, there will be big, semi-permanent layoffs at the dopamine factory. The addict is a dull, semi-functional, slothful waste of space because his dopamine factory has shut down; it considers itself unneeded.
If you are suffering from a lack of the enthusiasm, self-confidence, and motivation needed to learn unworlding, do yourself a favor and stop doing anything that is screwing up your brain. If you have no bad habits that you know of, which is possible, there's still a possibility that you are hooked on something invisible like adrenalin. For example, here is the compulsive perfectionist's inner conversation:
"How dare he!!! How dare she!!! I will show those dirty rats a thing or two..."
Remember, relax no matter what. If you have already perfected yourself, and still can't get unworlded, chances are you are addicted to yourself. Get over yourself, because the adrenalin rush caused by feeling superior to other people is a highly addictive experience that will demotivate you the same as any other dopamine-dumping addiction.
Effortless pleasure is the core of addiction. Earned pleasure is the core of motivation. Get moving, but don't shoot for the moon. Since unworlding is all about mindset, not method, your enemy is whatever is screwing up your mindset, including trying to perfect your mindset by way of the sick and twisted machinations of the continuously self-deluded conscious mind.
You might want to try meditation, but don't get addicted to it. OK, get addicted to it, but first, know what you're going to do with the increased energy it will give you.
Want + effort = goal in sight. Want + chemical = never mind.