One of the curious findings in neuroscience is this:
Enjoyment doesn’t work how we think it does.
Let’s say there’s something you have a soft spot for, such as donuts. You might think you enjoy eating them… and you would be right about that.
But the simple model of ‘eat donut, feel pleasure’ doesn’t hold up.
If it worked like that, it would be so easy to break this habit or craving. Instead of seeking a buzz from the sugar, you could satisfy your need through something else. You might see an amazing sunset, it fills you with joy, and that tickles your reward centre plenty.
Now, that can happen. The majesty of nature could move you so much you forget to want the junk food.
More often, though, you end up scoffing dough while watching the sunrise.
And the reason is pleasure doesn’t come in a burst.
Pleasure behaves in stranger ways than that.
This is something that every storyteller knows…
And it’s a principle I’m using here, with capstone writers every sentence I write before the big reveal.
See, what really tickles our brain is this:
Eating a donut is something that happens in the moment. That pleasure comes and goes. But before that, there’s the pleasure of anticipation.
You think about how tasty that donut’s gonna be.
You remember other donuts you had.
The build up to the snack becomes more and more pleasurable, to the point where it eclipses the actual experience. That’s how one mouthful, one episode, one level or one shopping spree can lead you wanting more. The actual indulgence is the capstone to the reward, not the full thing.
So to maximise your pleasure, you find yourself anticipating the next hit.
Then the next.
On and on it goes, if you let it. Sure, you might slake your appetite today. But then the anticipation starts all over again tomorrow, or the next day.
It’s pretty insidious when you look at it this way.
But, hey, your instincts assume anything that feels pleasant must be food for you. For our hunter-gatherer ancestors, that was approximately true.
In a civilisations built around exploiting those appetites, it’s less so.
But who cares what civilisation does. You don’t have to play your part in this dance. If you want to change this pattern, you have some options.
One is to use hypnosis to change what you anticipate. You can reprogram your unconscious mind to crave better things, like meaningful work, exercise and quality time with your family.
The other is to use mindfulness meditation (or hypnosis again) to pull your awareness into the present. You can’t crave anything in the present moment – that relies on thinking about the future or past.
Either way, you can short circuit and reprogram your reward centres by closing your eyes and (seemingly) doing nothing. Who would have thought it could be that simple?
Speaking of simple…
If you want to learn how to this at an advanced level – even if you “can’t meditate” – here’s the process: