Knowing the difference between liking and wanting

Knowing the difference between liking and wanting
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on September 13, 2016

That drink.  That drug. Those shoes.  That lover.

You think you like that stuff, maybe even love that stuff.  But, you may just want that stuff, and there’s a difference.

As a team of researchers from the University of Michigan noted, addiction changes our brains, and we can develop what neuroscientists call incentive salience.  This kind of wanting continues long after the thrill is over.

“’Wanting’ can persist and even grow after pleasure is gone — at least in individuals who have sensitized their brain mesolimbic dopamine systems that mediate incentive salience,” said Dr. Kent Berridge in an email interview.

In other words, we may not derive any pleasure from the drinking and drugging, the shoe accumulation and the relationship.  We may not even like any of it. But, the want compels us to do it all. 

Dr. Berridge has been investigating the brain bases of pleasure and desire for decades.

Check out his website:  http://lsa.umich.edu/psych/research&labs/berridge/researchteam/kent_berridge/

He explained other addictions such as compulsive gambling, sex, money, romance or shopping may also be caused by the same sensitization brain changes similar to that of drug addiction.

“All of those involve the same kind of wanting,” he said.

Widen the scope of addiction

Any addiction is a tool to help us cope with our mundane agitation.

Adrenaline, alcohol, amphetamines, alprazolam, bigotry, bottled water, caffeine, celebrity culture, cellphones, children, clonazepam, clubbing, cleaning, clothes, codeine, complaining, conflict, cooking, couponing, crack, crank, criticism, current events, Dexedrine, dieting trends, diazepam, doctor visits, ecstasy, exercise, fast food, gambling, gossip, hair care, heroin, hydrocodone, horoscopes, huffing, Internet, journaling, list-making, love, LSD, lorazepam, manicures, marijuana, massages, methadone, methylphenidate, mirrors, morphine, movies, mushrooms, negativity, Netflix, news, nicotine, over-the-counter medications, oxycodone, pets, piercings, plastic surgery, politics, porn, procreation, psychics, purses, reading, relationships, religion, running, saving money, scrapbooking, selfies, sex, shoes, sitting, sleep, social media, socializing, solitude, spirituality, sports, Starbucks, sugar, tanning, tattoos, teeth whitening, television, therapy, travel, trivia, tweezing, video games, weather watching, work, yoga.

Do we derive pleasure from any of these when they become compulsions?

Stop beating yourself up

Knowledge is power.  Given there is a neurological reason you can desperately want unpleasant and unhealthy things, it’s important to know when you’re liking and when you’re just wanting.

Develop the sixth chakra, the seat of intuition.

Begin with a daily morning practice of trataka meditation. Draw a solid black dot the size of a quarter on a piece of paper.  Hang the paper on the wall at eye level and stare at it without blinking your eyes.  Your eyes will water, and your vision will blur.  Feel your layers of stress begin to melt.

When you can no longer hold the gaze, close your eyes.  Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your crown.  Inhale and release the breath with a chant of “om.”

Just before bed, move to the floor and forward bend with a block or bolster under the forehead if you can’t reach the knee. Now, shift your affirmations to the moments before sleep.

“I am safe.”

“I am sober.”

“I am unconditional love.”

“The universe is abundant, so all my needs are met.”

Those affirmations will seep into the unconscious mind, the mind that drives your behavior, while you sleep.

And you will Know Thyself.

 

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