What were you thinking?” Is it an inquiry of judgment or curiosity? Disbelief or an excavation spurred by awe? What thought process led to that behavior and why, oh why, is it important to understand?
Because energy follows thought (my explanation), and if someone has gone off half-cocked, even if that someone is ourselves, we just naturally want to know why. Or at least I do. Miss Analytical here likes to understand impetus; because how the hell can I change it if I don’t know what caused it?
Never mind that I do not know what anything is for, the part of my brain that enjoys story wants to make one up so I have a reasonable explanation in my wheelhouse. It’s that constant search for solid ground to plant my feet on; I am looking for stability in an unpredictable world.
In other words, I enjoy deluding myself into thinking I “know” things.
The “What were you thinking?” question belongs to Omar Manejwala, M.D, author of my latest library book download, Craving: Why We Can’t Seem to Get Enough. (A subject I definitely want to know more about. Hmmm.)
The answer, according to Manejwala, is that we will lie to ourselves. We don’t want to own our own shit (My words, not his.) He posed the “What were you thinking?” question in response to dealing with brilliant people who were in denial about the source of their addiction “slips.” These experts in addictions were brilliant, brilliant people reaching for a reason why they’d returned to destructive behavior, and invariably the reason they hung their hats on was “stupidity.” They were having a stupid attack. Stupid attacks don’t require further explanation. (Again, my words, not his.)
Manejwala says this: “The correct explanation— that their brains have been hijacked by the disease of addiction and their decision-making with respect to addictive behaviors is not consistently under their control— is so profoundly unacceptable to them that they unconsciously reject it as impossible. In many cases, these men and women had never met a mountain they couldn’t climb, and yet they were brought to their knees by a chemical. They cannot accept the notion that they are not in control, and so prefer the explanation that they were “stupid.” They believed, at their very core, that they were immune to the effects of the disease. The extraordinarily naïve perception of immunity is at the heart of addictive behaviors— and of craving. It is extremely difficult for people to accept that forces are influencing their decisions without their awareness. And yet, with craving, that is exactly what is happening.”
In order words, we fail to recognize what triggers the behavior (see Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit or my post More Brain Stuff: It’s Becoming a Habit). We think we’re above that (“immune” as Manejwala puts it). We deny that we could get sucked in. The “stupid” label, I think, is because that is how we feel when we recognize that on some level we knew better and we ignored our intuition.
The right hand doesn’t let the left hand know what it’s up to. It allows us to put the reason “out there” in external circumstances instead of where it belongs, with the one who put himself in the circumstance to begin with.
It’s a dance. I step on my own toes. I want to blame my partner.
I’m sure there will be more about this fascinating book in days to come. I am enjoying that Manejwala links at least part of the “cure” to spirituality. Do you know there is actually a “discipline” that studies neurobiology and spirituality? I love it when science and religion hitch up!
So, as I look deeper into “What were you thinking?” I suspect I’ll discover that the answer is: I wasn’t. “Many people do not realize that their experiences, thoughts and actions change their brains.” This, for me, is the primary reason to safeguard against taking violence into my consciousness. I don’t care to witness behavior that I wouldn’t want to model because I know that the mirror neurons in my brain will slip that impression into the database. I don’t seriously want to know how to disintegrate flesh off a dead body; or how to stalk someone. Do I seriously need to know how fingerprints can be lifted from a dead body? I’m fine with learning how to cook a perfect apple pie or how to get a better table in a restaurant, but I don’t need or want to know how to solve crimes, or commit them.
“What were you thinking?” I like it so much better as an inquiry into behavior I’m interested in modeling than as an exclamation of disbelief. I want to know how to be better, how to be the person I came here to be, not an addict hijacked by poor habits. I want to be a person other people are inspired by. I want to hang out with people who teach me how to be better (just to be clear God – through joy not pain!). I want to leave this planet a better place for me having been here.
I don’t want to be hijacked by my cravings. I’ll keep you posted.
(So far, cravings 1, Nancy 0 – or I wouldn’t be posting mid-afternoon now would I?)
Namaste, my friends, Namaste.