Comfort Food

It's been a good few days - satisfying work, enough exercise, outside time and adequately varied socialization. When I'm on a roll like this, completing my simple daily to-do list has my ego like:

Master of the Universe: achieved.

It's a lovely Sunday evening, nothing left to do but find my zen for the week ahead. I start to instinctively gather my laptop and head for the front porch to have a chill writing session. I've got my stuff, ideas are a-brewing, I'm a-walking through the kitchen, I stop to get a glass of water and - doh!

By the time I wake up to my autopilot actions, I've eaten three pieces of bread and read 4 pages of an open book. When I literally just tried to WALK THROUGH this room. What the heck!?

How quickly I forget my resolve to do consciously cultivated activities. Especially the ones that are good for my creative growth.
Rather than flog myself for my lack of "willpower", I shall compare my neurological functions to those of a rat…because *voice goes up an octave* that's the kinder option? Ya, it is. 

In Why Buddhism is True, Robert Wright makes the analogy of impulses being like a conditioned lab rat. This rat has learned by trial and error that when the conditions are ripe it can press a level or button to get a reward. Colloquially this is called a Skinner Box, but Wikipedia says it's an Operant Conditioning Chamber:

When the light is on (condition is set) and the rat pushes the level (completes an action), it gets food (a biological asset).

This is learned behavior, and thank goodness our brains can do it. How on earth would we ever undertake momentarily unpleasant endeavors like working out, enduring childbirth, or attending a painfully boring class unless we had been trained in the neurological pattern that right time (condition) + right effort (action) = desirable reward?

 However, my brain uses this conditioning to a deleterious effect. My Skinner Box looks like this:

(note: please, have a boost about your drawing capabilities and the general course of your life after seeing this work of art that took me three tries to legibly complete🤓)

I have trained myself that every time I pass through the kitchen I get food. Food is where I turn for comfort, eating is an activity to alleviate boredom or distract me from creative frustration. And when I eat to excess, I feel it not only in my stomach but in the whirling maelstrom of self-defeating thoughts as corrosive as my stomach acid

The frantic consumption of something outside myself (which is actually never really inside me, if you think about how bodies are torus-shaped
🍩- neat!) is a compulsion that I have less-than-intentionally cultivated since I was about 15. Tonight, even PASSING THROUGH the kitchen was enough to veer me completely off creative productivity course and into a old pattern that solidifies unconscious negative ways of thinking.

I feed my impulses subconsciously.

Luckily I recognized my Skinner Box halfway into a loaf of bread this time
🥖 There are lots of other instances when I forget to look for the pattern.  But there's hope!

The amazing thing about brain plasticity is, every time I starve the rat (don't take action), the light (default thought) gets a little dimmer. And a new, kinder, more realistic default is set.

So, I'm glad have rat brain. I just want to be a little less trapped like this:

And a little more aware 🤔😁🐀



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