The natural highs and lows of life is no longer our drug of choice, instead self-inflicted cheap ventures are the chief options leaving us emptily wanting for more.
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Recently I observed a friend of mine who became consistently agitated by receiving phone calls in the early hours of the morning by the mother of his son. She would ask him to do odd things like walking her through the process of hooking up the VCR to the TV. The two are no longer together, yet his son is here – hence he believes he needs to tend to the needs of the mother of his child. Nightly, I observed him transform from a happy go lucky guy to a restless and disgruntled brut as he pushed the talk button on his cell phone. Curious, I asked him, “Why do you continue to take these calls if you know it makes you this upset?” He answered, “She needs me and I can’t let my son down.” I pondered the thought for a while and it led me to a core conclusion. He was addicted to the joy and pain associated with the phone calls he received from his ex. The desire to feel significant and needed over road his feelings of agitation and discontentment. He was therefore more than willing to exchange the pain discomfort for the joy of being needed.
In some form or another, we are all like my friend. I over ate when I was emotional, yet I hated the feeling of being stuffed. I frequently jumped in start-up ventures to experience the high and excitement of something new, yet when the excitement wore off I was ready to hit the bricks. I too hated and enjoyed the ups and downs of having conflict with people in my life. Yet, it was just something about the excitement associated with these ideas that kept me high. No matter how the cheap highs came, I unconsciously wanted it, and without warning my mind led me to those elements.
Settling into a calmer state, I realized life is an ocean with waves created to bring natural high and lows. Yet, we interrupt life’s natural high and interject our own by creating self inflicted joys and pains. The jolt we receive from cheap highs derive from spurts of dopamine shooting through our system.
Dopamine is commonly associated with the pleasure system of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate a person proactively to perform certain activities.
Dopamine is released by naturally rewarding experiences such as food, sex, drugs, and neutral stimuli that become associated with them. Recent studies indicate that aggression may also stimulate the release of dopamine in this way. This theory is often discussed in terms of drugs such as cocaine, nicotine, and amphetamines, which directly or indirectly lead to an increase of dopamine in the reward pathway of the brain, and in relation to neurobiological theories of chemical addiction, arguing that this dopamine pathway is pathologically altered in addicted persons. Wikipedia.
When you enter the Dollar store and purchase a pair of flip flops, your expectation of its quality and durability is low. Often the purchase is impulsive and/or is meant to be worn for one to two days. It’s a cheap pleasure that will diminish within short time. Our miniscule stabs at temporary pleasures are the same. They last for a second, often put a bad taste in our mouth, and we don’t broadcast it to the world as a pleasure. Often times it is something we shamefully hide.
Take the same scenario and think about a pair of Nike flip flops you purchased at Macy’s. Often that pair of shoes is going to be durable, of a higher quality and pricier than $1.07. You may even be more selective when/where you wear the shoes. It is a mark of quality and people who observe you wearing it will identify you as a person of stature based on the brand of shoes you have on. Life is like the pair of flip flop Nike’s. It’s created rich with natural highs that provide a quality of life that allows a consistent flow of excitement from birth to death. If we gravitated to the concept that life itself is a wave of high’s and lows how apt would be to create self inflicted “high” experiences.
Take time to identify the triggers in your life that create artificial drug induced experiences.
The most simplistic ones are:
- Ringing cell phones
- Fast/Slow paced music
- Overwhelming email inboxes
- Unrealistic deadlines
- Idle (Meaningless) conversations
- Simple arguments/disagreements/engagements
The most common ones are:
- Drinking caffeinated products: Tea/Coffee
- Excessive Sex
- Frequent idea/business formation
We all have our “demons.” You can only know the essence of life if you know yourself and others around you. So I therefore encourage you to explore yourself in relation t to your cheap high of choice. Maybe then you can calm your mind and ride the natural high and lows of life – it’s a beautiful adventure.