THE CRAVING MIND: IDEAS WORTH SHARING

The “Full catastrophe living”, Book by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Reading this book changed the entire trajectory of what I was doing, who I was, and who I still am becoming.

When sleep-deprived after an overnight called at the hospital. I could see clearly that I was more likely to snap at my teammates and my mindfulness practice helped me hold back from doing this.

In medicine, diagnosis is the first and most critical step.

Our learning patterns are very much like that of sea slugs. (Морская улитка) The reward-based learning process goes like this:

  1. We see some food that looks good. Our brain says: “Calories, survival!”
  2. We eat food. We taste it, it tastes good, especially when we eat sugar, our bodies send a signal to our brains: remember what you are eating and where are you found it.
  3. We learn to repeat the process the next time.

SEE FOOD -> EAT FOOD -> FEEL GOOD -> REPEAT
TRIGGER, BEHAVIOR, REWARD. SIMPLE

Our brains learned to use this simple learning mechanism for more than remembering where food is. The next time you feel stressed, you eat something good that will make you feel better. The more we reinforce this behaviour, the stronger it becomes. Now we are dealing with habit.

We develop all types of learned associations that failed to address the wanting to feel better when we are stressed out or just don’t feel great. Instead of examining the root of the problem, we reinforce our subjective biases, prompted by past conditioning: “Oh, maybe I just need more chocolate, and then I’ll feel better.”

What if instead of fighting, we used our feelings of stress or die-ease as our compass? The goal is not to find more stress, but to use our existing stress as a navigation tool.

When we scratch the wound and give in to our addictions we do not allow the wound to heal. But when we instead experience the raw quality of the itch or pain of the wound and do not scratch it, we actually allow the world to heal. So not giving in to our addictions is about healing at the very basic level. Pema Chodron

You can observe a lot by watching. Yogi Berra

If my patient and I couldn’t work out what reward they thought that they were getting from their behaviour, it would be hard to change it.

Unfortunately, the part of our brain best able to consciously regulate behaviour, the pre-frontal cortex, is the first to go off-line when we get stressed. When the prefrontal cortex goes off-line, will fall back into old habits. This is why the kind of disenchantment experienced by many patients is so important. Seeing what we really get from our habits helps us understand them on a deeper level, know it in our bones, without needing to control or force ourselves to hold back from addictive behaviours. This awareness is what mindfulness is all about: seeing clearly what happens when we get caught up in our behaviours and then becoming viscerally disenchanted. We learn to see more and more clearly the results of our actions. The paradox here is that mindfulness is just about being interested in, and getting close and personal with, what is happening in our bodies and minds. It is really this willingness to turn toward our experience rather than to try to make our unpleasant cravings go away as quickly as possible. After our smokers started to get the hang of being OK with having cravings, and even turning toward them, I taught them how to surf.

RAIN

  1. Recognize -> Relax
  2. Accept -> Allow
  3. Investigate
  4. Note. Don’t take it personally

Target craving and you can conquer addiction. And this targeting of craving was not true brute force but, counterintuitively, through turning toward or getting close to it.

An “Ego Depletion”. When we get stressed or run out of gas, even quite mild acute uncomfortable stress can cause a rapid and dramatic loss of prefrontal cognitive abilities. In other words, it doesn’t take much in our everyday lives to send us off the rails. Just like a car with only enough gas in the tank to keep going, we may have only enough gas in our self-control tank for any one day. It’s also called a “resource depletion”. It can be helpful to keep our guest thankful. Simple things like making sure we get enough sleep, stay fed, and so forth can be helpful.

A craving is just a craving unless we get sucked into it. How we relate to our thoughts and feelings makes all the difference. Meditators train themselves to notice these experiences and not get caught up in them — to simply see them for what they are and not take them personally.

If we simply see what we are getting from our actions more clearly, the cost of current consequences becomes more apparent. In other words, rewards might not be as juicy as we think they are when we stop long enough to actually taste them.

Ask yourself: what am I getting from this? Is it leading me toward or away from suffering?

If we pay close attention to how our habits are set up, we can break them. Study the habit as you would study a piece of technology. Then think about how could you crack it.

… they pointed out how their relapse not only didn’t help anything but also made matters worse.

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I live. I learn.

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Oleksandr Tereshchuk

Oleksandr Tereshchuk

I live. I learn.

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