Dangerous Impulses

September 28th, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

“The unhappy person is easily cheated”

 

People in Need (Non profit org. Czech Rep.)

People in Need
(Non profit org. Czech Rep.)

 

This is a saying I have heard many times from friend and colleague, Karl Ryberg. It suggests that, if we do not take personal responsibility for the mechanisms that make us happy (or unhappy) we can easily lose control and become slaves of things outside ourselves. Now what does that sound like?

 

 

 

Addiction:  I can give up anytime – as long as it’s tomorrow

 

 

One of the primary differences between so-called addictive and non-addictive personalities is that the addict has what is referred to as a ‘poor internal locus of control’. That is, they lack the ability to regulate and control their impulses. This means that it is only a matter of time before an external control will appear to regulate their behaviour for them.

 

Impulse control is part of our maturation process. Children, by the very nature of their immaturity, often lack it. That is, hopefully, rectified by adulthood.

 

 

 

 

There are many obstacles that can sabotage that process however. Probably the first one people of modern societies will encounter comes from interfering with our internal chemistry and its influence on the brain.

 

 

Sugar: the ‘gateway drug’ of (poor) choice

 

 

While the ‘War of Drugs’ hysteria aims its weapons at the recreational drug trade, no supposed ‘gateway drug’ like marijuana can compete with the legal one we were all exposed to years ago: sugar. Our physical and mental engines run on a very simple fuel: sugar and water. We are genetically disposed to allow sugar (glucose in the blood) to pass the blood-brain barrier and fuel our nervous system. It is also the fuel that drives most metabolic activity.

 

The problem is this: We cannot easily differentiate between ‘natural’ and synthetic or processed sugar. Well, we can but because refined sugar is, by its very nature, a very specific, quick ‘hit’ our body can quickly become addicted to it.

 

Most foods with a sugar content also contain many other nutrients that help us metabolise sugar more efficiently. An apple or a carrot for example will also contain fibre, minerals, vitamins along with small amounts of protein. The digestion of these will cause the sugar content to be released more slowly into the blood as well as providing a buffer to the potential ‘nutrient leaching’ of sugar alone.

 

Sugar naturally requires a complement of minerals in particular to be metabolised by the body. If that does not come pre-packaged with the sugar content itself (as it does in natural food sources) it will use mineral reserves in the body. Not good news for the teeth and bones then.

 

 

 

 

Rope a dope(amine)

 

Possibly more serious is refined sugar’s effect on our mind and impulse control. Not only does the consumption of sugar affect our blood sugar levels, causing them to swing up and down in an ongoing war with our pancreas but it causes an unstable supply line of energy to the brain. This affects our ability to focus and, among other things, control our impulses.

 

Interestingly, just the thought of having sugar releases the pleasure/reward hormone dopamine in our brain. Dopamine response is a primary component of addiction. That lovable little sugar addict, Winnie the Pooh perfectly described what he liked best about his treasured, sweet honey:

 

Winnie-The-Poohs-Honey-Addiction-

 

“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best,” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called.” [1]

 

And that, dear reader/listner is how dopamine ropes in our impulse control.

 

 

The luxury trap – a touch too much

 

Have you noticed how the concept of luxury in everything has crept in and taken a greater and greater place in our collective impulse control? The rise and spread of the luxury goods market from purely high-income bracket target markets and into all levels of society has been ubiquitous.

 

From ‘How to spend it’ luxury supplements in newspapers to selling the most mundane product as a luxurious indulgence aims at one thing: our ability to control our impulses to have that ‘hit’ – again and again. Luxury after all, is a lot like refined sugar. It is not something we need but it can quickly become something we crave.

 

There are several inherent problems here. The most obvious is personal: what if we do not have the luxury budget to supply our craving for the drug of luxury?

 

 

Paying the Piper

 

Personal debt in modern, consumer societies have skyrocketed in the last few decades. Why?: Because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that, regardless of our financial situation, we too can and should enjoy the ‘good life’ of luxury. Of course the cognitive dissonance that occurs when, on the one hand, we want to be among the rich – while on the other, we also know that we are not actually rich ourselves – causes us to rescale our illusions somewhat. This opens the door for some clever marketing campaigns.

 

Louis Vitton ad by Michelle Williams

Louis Vitton ad by Michelle Williams

 

Our dopamine-frenzied, sugar-destablalized, poor impulse controlled minds simply ‘fudge the math’ and focus on luxury items only just out of reach. Just out of reach is still out of reach however. What makes up that shortfall is credit. Credit, of course, is the positive-spin word for debt. It is a long fall from that ivory tower (or gold-encrusted toilet seat) when we realise our luxury addiction can make us just as poor as any addictive drug.

 

It doesn’t seem to do much for our sense of taste and style either…

 

 

 

 Collective debt and waste

 

humans and waste

 

Just like our oral nature was sorely tested through everything we take in so is the other end of the chain. Our addictive-driven over-consumption also leads to record levels of waste being generated. The Western world now generates so much waste it has to take it offshore into giant floating barges. We are literally drowning in our own waste.

 

 

 

 

Suddenly, we find we have several global problems that have the same root. Unrestrained impulse addiction. Whether we are aware of it or not, if we cannot restrain and regulate our own addictions we directly contribute to:

 

  • Over consumption of finite planetary resources [2]
  • Toxic waste build up polluting our land, oceans and eco-systems
  • An obscene wealth gap between the richest and poorest

 

Favela de Paraisópolis (swimming pools). This favela (shanti town) on the left is ironically called Paraisópolis (Paradise city). Photo: Tuca Vieira

Favela de Paraisópolis (swimming pools). This favela (shanti town) on the left is ironically called Paraisópolis (Paradise city). Photo: Tuca Vieira

 

 

Back to the body

 

By longing after things outside ourselves we increase our sense of poverty and lower our own sense of worth. This in turn make us self-critical and ultimately, self-destructive. This has links to several meridian systems in the body.

 

The Earth element controls our oral nature and digestion. It is our link to the earth via eating – which becomes our earth body. It also rules over the functions we attribute to the pancreas. Ironically, ‘rich’ foods leave us in poor health.

 

Our over-burdened digestive organs are forced to dump what we cannot metabolise. This may vary from fat deposits and obesity to arterial plaque and crystallisation in the joints. If that were not harmful enough, the chronic state of low-grade inflammation caused from such over-indulgence becomes the spearhead of many serious health issues from heart disease to cancer.

 

The Metal element in traditional Chinese medicine is responsible for our organs of elimination: The colon, lungs and skin. Chronic problems in all three areas via nagging infections, phlegm production, constipation and irritation of the bowels, skin inflammations and discharges and so on all point to a system overloaded by an excess of unnecessary energy.

 

Notice how, in the energy model, this is not called ‘toxins’. It is simply seen as a build up of energy not appropriate for the health of the organism. In an expanded perspective, we are seeing the same thing happening on our beautiful, blue planet.

 

 

Resisting the urge

 

 

Probably the most important reason to be vigilant about our impulsive nature is because, as we mentioned at the beginning of this blog, if we do not regulate ourselves we will invite external regulation to be imposed upon us. Personally, this can mean the shock of disease. Collectively, this may be even more sinister.

 

The best solution? Personal responsibility. We are responsible for our own health and happiness – unless we give it away. Giving away the responsibility and power over our own health and happiness is not to be recommended. After all, the unhappy person is easily cheated.

 

 

Till another Monday tries to put one over us once more,

 

[1] A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

[2] For more on this subject click here

 

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© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. Images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or the original owner is unknown. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation: info@jeremyhalpin.com

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