People are looking for something outside of them to change their internal state. 

You wait for your wealth to come to feel abundant. 

You wait for your healing to occur, to feel wholeness. 

You wait for your success to show up so you feel empowered. 

You wait for your new relationship to show up, to feel love. 

You’re waiting for the event outside of you to happen, to change how you feel inside of you. 

And we’re conditioned based on consumerism and marketing and programming that that’s the way it works to get something to relieve yourself.

And the problem with that is that people begin to confuse true happiness with pleasure. 

And they’re not the same thing. 

So people who have addictions typically have had some very difficult past experiences that have branded them emotionally. 

And they just don’t know how to change. 

And they’re just looking for some relief inside of them so that they can make that feeling go away. 

So they become distracted by their external environment for a period of time, electronics, the sports car, new clothes, vacation, relationship or whatever they try to do to make the feeling go away. 

But when they realize that the novelty of that thing outside wears off and they don’t look at what’s causing the feeling and instead they keep spending the majority of their time looking outside of themselves for change…

They’re going to wind up in trouble, eventually, things will get worse.  

So true change is when you start looking within and you become conscious of your unconscious thoughts..

And in neuroscience, it’s called metacognition. 

You become aware of your habits and unconscious behaviors. 

And you look at those emotions that are connected to past experiences and allow yourself to observe them. 

“If you want a new outcome you will have to break the habit of being who you are and re-engineer a new self.”

In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article summarizing research on human thoughts per day. 

It was found that the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those thousands of thoughts, 80% were negative, and 95% were exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.

In other words, 95% of who we are is a set of automatic subconscious patterns.

Life feels like Groundhog Day at times because mentally it very much is, and when that automatic subconscious pattern isn’t reflecting the life we want, we feel trapped within ourselves.

Here’s the Catch 22, when we’re thinking the same way as yesterday we make decisions the same as yesterday, which reinforces yesterday’s thinking and triggers more actions based on that, which again reinforces the same perspectives until it becomes deeply ingrained beliefs and habitual ways of living.

This Creates The Paradigm

Why do we do that?

Because our subconscious mind runs 95% of the show based on the memorized patterns and doesn’t have an alternative. 

That means you’re walking around on autopilot, you are unconscious of your habitual behavior (reactions to life) and your subconscious is in control of your daily life.

So how do we give the subconscious mind a different option?

The great news is, each of us is a work in progress, throughout our life. 

Every time we have a thought, different areas of our brain surge with electrical current and release a mob of neurochemicals that are too numerous to name. 

Thanks to functional brain scanning technology, we can now see that our every thought and experience causes our brain cells, or neurons, to connect and disconnect in ever-changing patterns and sequences. 

We have a natural ability called neuroplasticity, which means that every time we learn something new or have a novel experience, the brain makes new synaptic connections to form new neural patterns of networks – and this happens at any age. 

When we utilize new circuits in new ways, we rewire the brain to fire in new sequences.

From a neurological level, then, we are changed moment to moment by the thoughts we think, the information we learn, the events we experience, the reactions we have, the feelings we create, the memories we process, and even the dreams we embrace. 

All of these alter the way the brain works, producing new states of mind that are recorded in our brain.

Neuroplasticity is an innate, universal genetic feature in humans.

It affords us the privilege to learn from experiences in our environment, so that we may change our actions and modify our behavior, our thought processes, and our personality to produce more desirable outcomes. 

Merely to learn intellectual information is not enough; we must apply what we learn to create a different experience. 

If we could not synaptically rewire our brain, we could not change in response to our experiences. 

Without the ability to change, we could not evolve, and we would be at the mercy of our genetic predispositions. 

How neuro-plastic our brain depends on our ability to change our perception of the world around us, to change our mind, to change ourselves.

So how does Neuroplasticity apply to addiction?

Neuroscientist Marc Lewis, Ph.D., is his book, The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction is Not a Disease

He says: 

“We know that treatment isn’t required by most to overcome addiction, so in that sense it’s not a disease.

And the changes in the brain that occur because of addiction are not irreversible. 

We’ve been talking about neuroplasticity for decades.

That is, the brain keeps on changing – due to changes in experience, self-motivated changes in behavior, as a result of practice, being in a different environment.

Saying addiction is a disease suggests that the brain can no longer change…that it’s an end state. 

But no, it’s not end state.

People learn addiction through neuroplasticity, which is how they learn everything.

They maintain their addiction because they lose some of that plasticity for a while. 

Then, when they recover, whether in AA, NA, SMART Recovery, or doing it on their own.

Their brains start changing again their brains begin to grow new synaptic patterns, allowing them to separate familiar goals (like drugs) from long-term rewards (like wellbeing and security).

If addiction isn’t a disease, what is it?

First, I’m not saying that addiction is not a serious problem – clearly, it can be for many people. In terms of brain change, you could say that neuroplasticity has a dark side. 

But rather than a disease, I would say that addiction is a habit that grows and perpetuates itself relatively quickly when we repeatedly pursue the same highly attractive goal. 

This results in new pathways being built in the brain, which is always the case with learning: new pathways are formed and older pathways are pruned or eradicated.

But with addiction, much of this rewiring is accelerated by the action of dopamine, a neurotransmitter released in response to highly compelling goals, creating an ever-tightening feedback loop of wanting, getting, and loss.

As the addiction grows, billions of new connections form in the brain.

This network of connections supports a pattern of thinking and feeling, a strengthening belief, that taking this drug, ‘this thing,’ is going to make you feel better – despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

It’s motivated repetition that gives rise to what I call “deep learning.” 

Addictive patterns grow more quickly and become more deeply entrenched than other, less rewarding habits.

In general, brain changes naturally settle into brain habits – this is the case in all forms of learning. 

In addition, the habits are learned more deeply, locked in more tightly, and are bolstered by the weakening of other, incompatible habits, like playing with your pet or caring for your kids.

Neuroplasticity is strongly amplified when people are highly motivated.

Which is why all learning requires some motivational thrust.

Entrenched habits like addiction may simply grow from intense desire, breeding repetition. 

But can desire also cultivate recovery?

Maybe desire plus neuroplasticity is all you need to recover from addiction.

People have to really be ready because there has to be a powerful surge towards other goals.

Goals about their relationships and feeling whole, connected and under control.

The take-home message here is simple: Recovery involves a major change in thoughts and feelings, and such changes require ongoing neural development or neuroplasticity. 

The question is, how does desire work together with neuroplasticity to establish new mental habits? 

In other words, how do you re-engineer your self-image and break free from the paradigm so you can overcome addiction and experience a better quality of life…

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