Dopamine is a powerful neurotransmitter that encourages animals to eat. Ironically, the same neurotransmitter that helps “dumb” animals survive is threatening the survival of the only species endowed with the capacity to comprehend how dopamine works.
Take Zelda Zaftig (not her real name). Ms. Zaftig is a food addict suffering from a host of life-threatening health issues associated with obesity. At least once a month Zelda starts a new fad diet and swears that she’s going to loose weight. Without fail, she convinces herself that this time she really means it.
Zelda’s resolve seldom lasts more than a few days. Occasionally she’ll hold out for a week. More times than not, within hours a sight, smell, advertisement, or thought of a tempting food triggers a seemingly irresistible dopamine-induced expectation of the perceived pleasure she’ll receive as a reward for yielding to temptation.
What Zelda doesn’t understand, or want to understand, is that when the dopamine starts flowing it hijacks her thinking. At that point she’s under the spell of the same chemical that makes it impossible for junkies, alcoholics, smokers, and gamblers to resist their favorite dopamine-triggering substances and behaviors.
Zelda isn’t interested in understanding what her problem is because she desperately wants to believe that she is in control of her thinking. Like most people, Zelda is also an esteem addict who prefers the esteem-elevating / dopamine-triggering deception associated with the conceit she has free will over any esteem deflating / dopamine-depriving evidence to the contrary.
Esteem addiction’s existence isn’t common knowledge because powerful esteem addicts control the institutions that determine what are and aren’t addictive behaviors. Esteem addicts crave the same dopamine that food addicts trigger with edibles, safety addicts trigger with security, power addicts trigger with domination, peer-approval addicts trigger with acceptance, and junkies trigger with heroin. Same dopamine, same self-deceptions, same denials.
In other words, dopamine-triggering expectations make it impossible for addicts to resist their favorite dopamine triggers and keep them from wanting to understand how a neurotransmitter is doing their thinking for them.
Why? Because dopamine is so powerful that 99+% of the population spend their waking hours obsessing over one thing — protecting and triggering dopamine flow.
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