You know that feeling you get when an extremely attractive member of the opposite sex comes into your field of view?
You know that feeling you get when you drive fast car, gamble in a casino, or drink a bottle of wine?
There’s a reason all this stuff feels desirable.
In the case of food, fattening and sugary foods are desirable to us because of the high caloric intake. Back in the days of not having grocery stores and food available at every corner, human beings had to make due with the food that they got. Especially during food shortages, which were quite common for most of human history, it was very advantageous to us to try to consume as much food as possible as quickly as possible, and it was even more advantageous if that food had a high calorie count, because the fat cells that those types of food produces will help us survive if there is another food shortage.
Today, consuming high calorie foods is not good for us because we don’t have food shortages. But that innate desire for high capacity food remains, and you can go back and experience a little bit of our historical past anytime you place a great big bowl of ice cream in front of you.
That sexy member of the opposite sex? Just like food, we didn’t always have a plethoric supply of members of the opposite sex running around. For millions of years, our supply was limited to those around us, further limited by those that did not die prematurely, and even further limited by what would now be preventable health problems. Therefore, it was advantageous for us to feel a strong desire for attractive members of the opposite sex because a) they were alive which meant they were in better health than those who were not and b) their attractiveness gives us a clue as to their reproductive capacity. People who are more attractive are more likely to be able to produce genetically superior offspring.
Drugs like alcohol give us a rush of dopamine. This feels good. Some people are more predisposed to these types of pleasures than others, and thus addicts come into being. But predisposed to addiction or not, there is not one among us who is immune to the pleasures induced by drugs and alcohol.
All that other stuff: driving fast, gambling, etc. That’s all novel stimuli, which (like drugs), produces a rush of dopamine. This makes us feel good. Behavioral based dopamine rushes are a slippery slope though, because most behaviorists and counselors alike will readily and happily recommend to their depressed patients to start engaging in novel stimuli precisely because of the rush of feel-good dopamine that novel experiences produce. And this is sound advice for the most part so long as those new and novel behaviors are not self-destructive.
So don’t hate yourself for the desire you feel for all these bad things. They were coded into us for millions of years because for millions of years the world was not quite as easy to live in. But you must take care to understand where those desires come from and why, and this will make it easier for you to be able to resist temptation.
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