Shopping Addiction and Dopamine

Dr Lee notes that acquiring things can cause a spike in dopamine. But shopping can be an addiction. So maybe the compulsive shopper is like one addicted to dopamine and may not feel too high but just normal when acquiring things. They are not happy but like opioid addicts, just looking for a shopping fix. At least the Walmart shoppers seemed miserable to me.

Conspicuous Consumption

I just came back from a Walmart Super Store. Therein one can seemingly buy ANYTHING. The place is gigantic and stocked with food, clothing, hardware, kitchen ware, camping gear, drugs, electronics, home and office furniture, bath items, toys, automotive items, and on and on. It is the the Mount Everest of an economy built on constant demand for many essential and many stupid products. To me, the place is entirely depressing. Maybe it’s efficient to be able to buy anything you want in one place. But this is not what is disheartening about being there. It is seeing all the buyers trudge sadly through the aisles looking for what they think they need. They search for crap instead of feelings of friendship and love. The things that really matter. These feelings have been replaced by the need to acquire some of what they need and much of what they could do without.

I found it telling that when the virus quarantine was first lifted, people crowed into stores in order to buy new clothes! You know what makes up the largest percentage of land fills? Clothes. Things people throw away. Modern societies depend on constant demand for consumer goods, needed and inane. This requires constant production, ruthless competition for money, and status seeking. These in turn create alienation, class warfare, envy, denial of health needs, environmental degradation, racism, and the election of a schmuck like Trump. Consumer economies have worked to overshoot the carrying capacity of the planet and of human societies. I think this will all end soon and violently .

Psychical Impotence

Many males have an inability to enjoy sex with one they love or difficulty loving another they have sex with. This Freud called ‘Psychical Impotence’. Usually, a person who the man can perform with sexually is debased, thought of a whore. Hence the syndrome gets its other name: The Madonna-Whore Complex. Freud felt that this occurs when a man has unresolved Oedipus conflicts. That is, tender feelings of love reminds him of his original love, the mother. Having sex with one’s mother, a Madonna figure, is of course, incest. Such a grave sin is imagined to be certainly followed by great punishment. Psychoanalysts call this fear “castration anxiety”. Such intense fear makes it impossible to get an erection, hence the label Psychical Impotence. It’s not impotence proper because the person can perform sex as long as it is not with a loved one.

Much pornography is geared to men with the Madonna-Whore Complex. Woman are debased to make them attractive to the psychically impotent male who fears love. The severity of the complex runs from mild to severe. Patients with a less severe form of the disorder report becoming turned off, even disgusted by sex without love. This is improves their prognosis. The alternative, love without sex may turn into a more complete relationship in which one can have satisfactory sex with a loved one. That is, they can become Psychically and Physically Potent.

The Brain is in the Body, the Mind is in the Brain

This website is nominally about body and mind interactions. The body includes the brain. And the mind depends on the brain to function. Everything is connected. In the not too distant past, the mind was seen as totally ineffable. The words ‘spirit’ and ‘mind’ were often used interchangeably. That is, they were both considered beyond understanding. Today, with MRI devices, we are able to correlate the physical actions of a person’s brain with their subjective experiences of thoughts and feelings. In other words, we can relate body phenomena to psychological events.

Freud was a neurologist who built a psychological theory of the mind. He knew, of course, that the psychology depended on the biology. He thought that 100 years after he built the theory of psychoanalysis, we would be able to see connections between mental and physical events. It turns out he was exactly right! The field of Neuropsychoanalysis came into being in 1999, 100 years after Freud’s publication of ‘The Interpretation of Dreams” of 1900.

The biology of dreaming began to be be studied in the early 1950’s. Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM) was discovered then. Kleitman, Jouvet, and others found that the person had the most vivid dreams while their eyes darted back and forth during REM–a clear connection between biological and subjective experience. Animals from sharks to humans have REM sleep. So, certainly, REM sleep has been conserved over evolution as a key feature of maintaining brain functions, and it seems reasonable that lions, dogs, cats and apes have subjective experiences when in REM states.

Besides being able to measure brain and mind connections via MRI and EEG methods, a great deal is now know about how chemicals, especially psychiatric drugs, operate to affect feelings, thoughts and overt behavior. Antidepressants like prozac, stimulants such as ritalin, mood stabilizers like Lithium, and antipsychotics like Seroquel affect subjective experiences in more or less reliable ways. These drugs work at the level of neurons, the single cells which make up the brain and its connections to the rest of he the body.

So body-brain-mind connections are being increasingly illuminated. Today, there are more neuroscientists than any other kinds of scientists. Formerly genetics research drew the most biologists. Now it’s neuroscience. Computer technology is very related to brain-mind studies. Computers made it clear that concrete, physical things could do something like thinking. Such insights have transformed the world. This is very exciting and sometimes disagreeable. While these discoveries can enhance our lives, they also can be used by nefarious forces within governments, the military, and corporations. The world is now in a very unstable condition driven in large part by advances in computing which affect energy, agriculture, communication, manufacturing, education, medicine, government, the military, and frankly everything else.

I am not too optimistic about the short term effect of humankind’s scientific advances. Some lunatics deny the validity of science altogether. They want to think what they think regardless of scientific knowledge. This has been on stark display during the politicization of the Covid pandemic. But whenever one of these science deniers needs heart surgery, life saving medications, or even a root canal procedure, they run to the best scientific medical professional they can find. Go figure.

Seeking Something Old in Something New

When one has lost a cherished relationship they tend to seek a new one. But the new must have elements of the old. All Intimate relations involve satisfaction of needs for the warmth and comfort experienced in childhood. That is, satisfaction of basic, old needs are are a key aspect of all close relations. While the person who can satisfy those needs may be a new person, they still have to met the old, unchanging needs. All of our intimate relations serve the same function regardless of who the other person is.

A barrier to forming new bonds after old ones are severed is feeling of regret and perhaps guilt about the ending of the old connection. This means we may find it hard to be open to a new relationship. So, our basic unchanging needs will go unsatisfied for a long time. Depression, loneliness and despair will occur. How can one overcome this? Somehow we have to honor our needs. Realise that they are universal requirements for life. Denial of our needs is a denial of life. Knowing this can put one in touch with life outside the 3-D. One needs to connect to the ‘spiritual’ side of things. This is a basic need too.

Whither POTS?

One day, a sweet nice 17-year-old young lady came to my office for help with her heart. She had to go to the Mayo Clinic to get a diagnosis of sorts; she told them, among other things, “every time I stand up, my heart beats real fast.” They told her she had Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.

I laughed. Did she pay money for that? All they did is repeat back what she said, in Greek.

Turns out, they were closer to the truth than they thought. A small minority of people with POTS have a condition known as “autoimmune ganglionopathy.” She did, and we were able to treat it.

For the vast majority of people with POTS, though, the disorder does not arise in the immune system. The question for those people is, what causes it, and how to treat it? For one possible answer, we can look at the interaction between the body and the mind.

Read more

Security, Risk, Gender, and Achievement

Adult feelings of safety and comfort are based, in large part, on memories of experiences in infancy at the hands of a reliable mother. Without such memories a person will have a life of chaos, anxiety, and insecurity that might only be changed by extensive psychotherapy. Without a stable sense of security built on early life interactions with a comforting other, the adults ability to work and love is severely compromised.

If secure in childhood, the person is able to take risks in adulthood. Everyday life involves risk. Small risks are taken after waking up in the morning. Taking a shower, making hot coffee, and driving to work expose you to falls, burns, and fatal accidents. Higher risks are taken when leaving home for college, getting a new job, getting married, and many others. Then there are extremely high risk situations such as new business ventures, daredevil driving, dangerous sports, sex with strangers, military combat and drug taking.

One is always balancing security needs with needs to achieve things in life. Some incline to value security more highly. They prefer staying at home in a comfortable family and persisting in uninteresting jobs that, at least, pay a living wage. They are slow to adopt new fashions in clothes, food, music, and beliefs. The risk averse are “conservative”. Those tilting more to achievement than security must be able to tolerate more risk than others. They likely had in childhood, very secure relations with mother and father. In the recent past, only the father was assumed to foster achievement motives in male children. Security motives were the mother’s domain. Now security and achievement needs are thought to be unrelated to parental or child gender. But security and risk taking tendencies must still be balanced.

Divorcing gender roles from security and achievement behaviors is very interesting. ‘Androgyny’ is the tendency to value both social security and achievement motives. For the androgenous, decisions between security and achievement is not a zero-sum, either-or choice. Rather , one need not disavow security motives in order to seek achievement, or forsake achievement entirely to feel secure.

Suicide or Not?

Many people have at one time or another considered suicide. This is usually because they are gripped in unrelenting mental anguish. Death seems preferable to enduring what is imagined to be unending misery. So, why should the person wrapped in pain not kill themselves? First, nothing doesn’t change. It may be for the worse or more likely for the better. Second, there is curiosity for what might come next. “Perhaps my perspectives will change and lead to happiness in the future”. Third, you would hurt those who care about you who are left behind to cope with losing you. Fourth, as James Hillman wrote, “No one knows if suicide works”. That is, maybe misery does not go away even if one is are dead. Fifth, if you get over this pain you will have transformed your personality in very important ways. The often trod out Nietzsche quote makes sense here, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Six, you might be responsible for changing the world for the better.

If you have any other reasons, send them along.

Despair and Giving Up

Have you ever reached a point when nothing works to solve a problem? I have. I have been trying for over a week to achieve a very important life goal. I need not go into the specifics about this. It is enough to say that it is very important to me to do this and, at this point, it seems impossible. Just now I decided to give up. All my attempts have ended in failure. I have been frustrated and depressed about it all.

It is not my fault that I have failed. I have persisted and tried everything possible. At some point one must give up or experience constant anxiety and sadness. At what point should frustration and despair be relieved by giving up? Frankly, I can’t really give up the effort. But for now I will. Life will have to go on without my achieving a critically important goal. I tell myself, “Don’t do what does not work”. Turn your attention to something else. I am not one who gives up easily but constant futility seems worse than abandoning the effort . When the universe is against you, go in a different direction. Take it as a signal that your efforts are blocked by invisible forces. Now, for many this might seem to be a rationalization or excuse. For me that is not so. I am always persistent to a fault.

Decisions to give up on relationships or career goals are very difficult to make. But often giving up on something starts you on a different, more promising path. This happens to all of us, more or less, at various times in life. My experience is that forsaking goals has always led to new growth in different directions. Don’t try to push a rock up hill. Find paths of less resistance. The adage, “No gain without pain” is not always true. Pleasure is a greater motivator than pain. Changing life goals might be the way to become who you are meant to be. If relationships or careers are unattainable, move on to goals that are achievable.

The Misery of “Customer Service”

I just spent literally 2.5 hours getting a new health insurance policy. I spent 2 hours attempting to purchase an account with a computer company. Through both these calls, I was subjected to various sales pitches, suggestions to use online service sites, long wait time, crappy music, and mostly friendly real human beings. However, in the insurance case, the services reps had to recite over 50 features of the policy, 25 legal disclaimers, and a whole other lot of crap. In the case of the computer company, no one on the service line was able to find the right office for me to get help with my problem.

These sorts of annoyances are part of everyday life. This is in part because companies prefer customers to use the internet so as to not hire living service reps. The combination of corporate efficiency motives and excessive legal regulations makes these interactions horrible. I actually have to brace myself before making these calls. There are today few forms of sensible interactions over the phone with companies. Machines and legal minutiae have combined to cause anxiety about trying to buy complex health insurance and other regulated products on a phone. I was told at least 10 times something to the effect that further charges may apply. The sales rep was ‘required by law’ to make me agree to many conditions and exclusions of the policy. These issues are in no small part why people, especially those over 60, are exasperated by living in this ‘modern culture’. The ‘old days’ were much more preferable.