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Step 25: Addicted to Thinking

My biggest problem: thinking too much. It is an escape and a survival strategy, but what detrimental effects is it having? Can I still connect to life and emotions without worrying about the future or regretting the past? Or perhaps it is the opposite: I champion those times I was smart so I can feel good all over again.

Drawing from “The Craving Mind” Ryder considers our Default Mode Network, how we are addicted to our own stories, how this leads to negative emotions and behaviors, and how meditation, mindfulness, or a good hobby can help. As well, by disassociating from subjective “common sense” reactions we can re-consider our role and values, moving from the camel, to the lion, into the

music courtesy of Feslyian Studios [link]

Judson Brewer
The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love—Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits

Part I

We all know we are addicted to our phones, but can it really be a bad thing to think all the time? Yes, it can. The stories we tell ourselves trigger a little a dopamine buzz, activating part of the DMN (Default Network Mode), which means we increasingly live in our own head listening to our own stories. The problem becomes compounded when the PCC (posterior cingulate cortex) is activated, since it often signals thoughts of obsessive control, rumination, induced morality, guilt, and depression.

All of these activities close off our ability to to see reality, increasingly letting us spin in a world of our own making.

I had done earlier research on the “observer effect” where we literally lose the ability to observe ourselves (self-perception) when our attention was highly active or we were doing a novel task. Equally, meditation and mindfulness practice have been shown to reduce PCC activity in the brain, allowing us to reduce the narrativizing tendency of the brain.

You are subject to sorrow, fear, jealousy, anger, and inconsistency. That’s the real reason you should admit that you are not wise.”

~ Marcus Aurelius

Part II

What does this mean in realistic terms?

People who play the psychology test, The Ultimatum Game, often get angry or disgusted at the perceived unfairness of offers. Often blowing up just to prove a point, even though they are playing against a computer. This righteousness doesn’t hurt the computer, but it does hurt the subject, proving that we will hurt ourselves to prove a point.

Meditation or mindfulness practitioners seem to be able to de-couple or distance themselves from the negative emotions, taking them less personally, and thus reducing stress through empathizing with the other position. As well, they see little reward in hurting the other side, even if it is a computer.

This research shows that our cultural norms, our common sense and beliefs, may be harmful to us and others, and to engage in empathy without taking things personally points towards a universal human ethic.

Part III

Ryan Holiday put out a podcast that considers our addiction to thinking as a negative, harmful tendency that might be making us stupid and miserable. When we assign our role as a smart thinker, then we form opinions, not letting ourselves be open to new ideas or other people. As well, we do a disservice to those around us but thinking for them and not allowing them to take the exciting journey the world offers.

We need to remain open, and empathetic, moving out of the Nietzsche stage of a camel, hording knowledge, on to the lion, slaying our values, and embody the child creator. Which is so much more fun.

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Judson Brewer :The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love—Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits [link]

Ulrich Kirk and colleagues: “Mindfulness training increases cooperative decision making in economic exchanges: Evidence from fMRI” Anterior Insula [link]

Ulrich Kirk “Mindfulness training modulates value signals in ventromedial prefrontal cortex through input from insular cortex” [link]

Rafael Malech and team, Perception with out the Perceiver, Self-identification, papers [ 1 ] [ 2 ] [ 3 ]

Default Mode Network [wiki]

Ryan Holiday, Daily Stoic [link]


The Living Philosophy Youtube Channel [link]



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