There is a mechanism in your brain that is not evolved enough to deal with our times. What mechanism is that? I’ll get back to it in a minute.
But first, let’s talk about the modern day society. See, I understand that it feels that the way things seem like it’s been like that forever.
But if you really think about it, it’s the first time in the recorded history when we are so connected that it seems like the world can fit in the palm of our hand.
It’s weird for our brain that evolved for harsh environments of thousands of years ago to grapple with the idea that you have instant access to pretty much any information you can think of on a rectangular shaped black box in your pocket…
The Dark Secret
Don’t get me wrong it’s a great time to be alive, the opportunities are more abundant than ever and the chances of you being consumed by a saber-tooth tiger are pretty low.
So if you are capable of using the advantages that the society provided you with whilst minimizing the downsides you will be in a great shape.
What are those downsides?
As I said previously said, human beings don’t come into this world as blank slates. We have a certain default wiring that helped us survive back in the day.
That default wiring is a reward circuitry called the dopaminergic system. Its purpose is simple, reward you with good feelings whenever you engage in actions that help you survive and reproduce.
That includes many day-to-day functions, including motivation, memory, behavior, cognition, attention, sleep, mood, learning, and a plethora of other activities.
Since we as humans are sometimes too smart for our own good, we learned how to exploit the programming that paired survival and reproduction with pleasure.
Back in the day, we lived in tight-knit tribes so it paid to be fascinated by gossip and stories and social status which would help us to learn from one another, keep up with tribal news and know our place in the tribal pecking order.
Those are the days that the sweetest thing other than honey that the hunter-gatherer could find was probably a piece of fruit, now you can buy a pound of granulated essence of sweet for about a dollar.
Back in the day in order to mate with a woman you had to achieve a certain status and become a man of value. Now, with a few clicks on a magic rectangle, you can access pure distilled pleasure, completely separate from its original purpose – survival, and reproduction.
The mild boost of energy that was provided by coca leaves was a nice thrill, but extract that energy and you will have a highly addictive cocaine.
The need to pay attention to many things as you were hunting in the jungle wiring our brains for the need of unexpected reward became the ADD-inducing internet and social media addiction.
The Rise of Superstimuli
A supernormal stimulus or superstimulus is an exaggerated version of a stimulus to which there is an existing response tendency or any stimulus that elicits a response more strongly than the stimulus for which it evolved.
As I mentioned before, in the old days of humanity, we had to form survival habits. The drivers that lead us to create feedback loops that formed the basis upon which the society could prosper and developed are now being abused for pleasure.
The way nature was going to ensure that you do certain things is by pairing the evolutionarily relevant stimulus with pleasure response. But what happens if you separate and magnify that stimulus so it delivers levels of pleasure unparalleled to what you could otherwise find in nature, yet delivers none of the evolutionary function?
We get superstimulus. Let me give you a couple of examples.
Porn has replaced the need for intimacy and love.
Social media closely mimics and quantifies our social connections and status.
Processed fat and sugary food make us salivate since our brains think that fat and sugar are still a scarce resource, so we binge while the getting is good.
Internet, in general, is a novelty machine that erodes our attention spans and leaves us more restless and agitated than ever.
All those natural needs that would originally serve us as an emotional compass that helps to navigate of life and create meaning have been hijacked.
The instant gratification and over-satiation of those primal instincts mean that if you want you will never have to deal with the bullshit of the world to get the real thing.
You never have to work on yourself and deal with negative emotions of rejection that are necessary components to getting better with the opposite sex. Why would you?
Porn is always there for you. It’s the only purpose is to satisfy your every sexual desire. It is always in the mood when you are.
Why would you eat a healthy diet? The fast foods provide you with a quick hit of dopamine that far exceeds anything that you could ever find in nature.
So what’s the problem with that?
The problem is that even though the reward is intense, the journey that would lead you to the reward is far more important. It is that journey through peaks and valleys that sharpens your masculine edge, sharpens your mind, teaches you about life and deepens your connection with the divine.
If you can just skip to the end of the movie and never experience the emotional build up that leads to it you will never have the proper context in which you can truly appreciate how far you’ve come.
That’s the problem.
Superstimuli are the ultimate life cheat-codes that teach you that everything in life should come fast and easy. It conditions you that the 24/7 ecstasy is the new norm and everything that falls short of that is not worthy of your attention. But life is not like that, so in reality, you’re left depressed, fat, self-centered, scatterbrained and bitter.
That means that to thrive and prosper in today’s society you have to go against what your instincts tell you. You have to put the evolutionary pressure on yourself and realize that all those phantom illusory, pleasures and temporary satisfactions are only masquerading as promises of happiness and fulfillment of the ultimate salvation.
In reality, they only put you into deeper pits of despair.
Men masturbating to internet pornography, which is a drug that utilizes and desensitizes reward circuitry in our brain and in many cases reduces frontal lobe activity leading to less self-control and inevitably causing addiction.
Porn is a powerful force that utilizes two types of stimulation that your brain is wired to respond to. First, ut lures you with its endless appeal and novelty and secondly, it promises to fulfill your every sexual desire.
Many people are under the impression that if anything fapping only affects their sex life to some degree. You need to know that fapping to porn doesn’t operate in a vacuum.
It would be nice if it was like that but the reality is that frequent self-stimulation to women on the screen has repercussions outside the bedroom as well.
The ripple effect of endlessly spanking your monkey extends to your relationships (male and female), career, day to day well-being. Pretty much every area of life is affected.
Why would that happen?
Well if you mess with reward circuits of the brain, you mess with the very thing that keeps you motivated for life. Overstimulate it and you’re gonna end up acting like a sedated pile of shit.
If you ever found yourself messing up relationships, getting bored fast when trying to learn something new or feeling anxious for no reason in a social setting, you can thank porn for that.
I can hear you saying, but Artur porn is soo good! I learned so much from porn and it feels great and blah blah blah….
In the book, “The Brain That Changes Itself” the author talks about the idea of neuroplasticity. Meaning that the brain is not a static pile of biochemical mush but a dynamic and responsive organ that is in constant flux.
The brain is a plastic everchanging thing that responds to the environmental stimuli. In the context of porn addiction, you will find things that used to do it for you will no longer do the trick after some time since the brain adapted to this level of stimulation and you now need to amp it up.
That’s why satisfying your sexual appetite with porn is like trying to satisfy your thirst by drinking a salty sea water. The more you drink the more thirsty you are.
The more you give in to the urge the more you’re building up that circuitry in your brain that makes it even easier to give in the next time and before you know it porn and sex unsatisfiable levels of desire dominate your mind 24/7.
Porn gives you access to part of something (visual stimulation), but denies you access to all of it (actual sex). It offers immediate gratification, but no medium to long term character development.
Let’s take this idea of instant gratification to the extreme. For quite some time my major vices were fast-food, gaming, Netflix, marijuana, and pornography.
All of those things have the capacity to give you a lot of pleasure.
The dark side is that they also have the capacity to completely hijack your brain and make you think about them 24/7. As soon as the Big-Mac is finished you have this quick rush of pleasure when you feel good, followed by getting back in pain which has become your baseline.
If you get hooked on that sort of instant gratification you will soon find out that eventually your pleasure will become getting rid of the pain.
Pain and pleasure are just two sides of the same coin. For every high, there is a low. That is the universal law and you can’t escape that.
The distilling of pleasures is a quick route to addiction, with internet pornography we distilled the experience of sex down to the visual component and amplified that component with endless and instantaneous novelty.
The price you pay for all that amazing fuck-fest you see on your screen is that nuke your desire for life. If you don’t believe me try it for yourself. Stop watching porn and fapping for a period of 14 days or more and tell me if life feels different. I would assure you it will.
Internet and Social media
“…the short term dopamine driven feedback loops that we have created, are destroying how society works, no civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth and it’s not an American problem, it’s a global problem, we’re in a really bad state of affair right now, it is eroding the core foundations of how people behave…”
-Former Facebook Executive Chamath Palihapitiya
Let’s go back to our cavemen analogy.
Going out for a hunt meant that you never really knew when you’re gonna get lucky. Our brains evolved to be motivated by unpredictable rewards, that way, even if a particular valley or patch of shrubs proved berryless we’d keep searching for food.
Back then those predispositions served us well, but now, they make us prey to phone notifications, that grab our attention, clickbait headlines, that intrigue us with stories, tweets that relay gossip.
New information is interpreted by your brain as a reward, and that reward comes as a result of very little behavior, you can get a new picture from a swipe when you hold your phone, your brain learns that you can perform very simple behavior to get a shot of dopamine
In other words, the combination of expertly designed technology and prehistorically shaped minds is too powerful for us to resist.
On top of that novelty packed internet and social media erodes our attention spans and focus. Paradoxically if you let it, your smart-phone will make you dumber. It also taps into your base level desires and conditions you to look at the world through the screen of your phone.
I don’t want to blame social media or the internet for what is happening to society though. At the end of the day, those are just the tools and it’s up to us how we use them.
So What Can We Do About It?
You need to realize that there is an abundance of opportunities out there. But if you find yourself gravitating towards pleasure and comfort, it is likely that it’s because you’re overindulging in one or more superstimuli.
Your brain has a neurochemical budget, and you have to spend it mindfully. Your brain produces a bunch of different neurotransmitters and one of the big ones is dopamine, the anticipation molecule. It makes sound certain things exciting and interesting and drives you forward to take action.
Both of the superstimuli I mentioned, with porn being a #1, it releases huge amounts of dopamine. If you want any more dopamine then porn you would have to take drugs. It is an unending stream of novelty.
But if you’re using all that dopamine budget you have available on porn – which is not contributing to building up your life in any meaningful way, then that means you’re not spending it on stuff that doesn’t produce as much excitement and is providing value towards your long-term goals.
You simply are unable to get excited about regular stuff in life that would help you become a better man.
Think of your brain as a pair of glasses that filter what you see out there. If you have messed up glasses and you don’t know that you’re wearing them, then you will assume that everything you see is messed up. So if you think that life sucks, then think again cause it may mean that your brain sucks.
Conversely, if you prioritize the consistent state of mind that you can achieve through engaging in activities that are not as stimulating but are naturally providing you with healthy levels of dopamine your zest for life is going to remain at a stable equilibrium.
When you quit superstimuli all of a sudden you can get excited about going to the gym, eating healthy foods and pursuing your passions.
Make it a priority to take care of the chemical soup that resides in your skull and the magic and wonder of the world that you experienced as a kid will return to you in its full intensity
Contrary to popular belief, I think that the magic of the world doesn’t disappear simply as a function of us becoming adults. It disappears cause as we grow older we pick up all sorts of habits like porn, video games etc.
Those things spiked our senses at first but as we habituated to them, they became a new norm and made the rest of our reality appear grey and colorless.
But it’s not gonna happen if you keep nuking your brain with superstimuli. Those have the capacity to alter the brains chemical structure and bring your baseline level of happiness down.
To overcome those powerful forces you need more than just willpower, as with vanquishing a super villain, the answer lies in the identifying the ultimate source of their superpower and then taking it away from them.
The source of their power lies within you. It is your mindless reactivity. What you need to do is to become mindfully proactive. Reading this article was the first step to doing so…
It may sound like I’m hating on modern society, but this can’t be further from the truth. The reality of the situation is that we live in more prosperous times than ever.
The amazing levels of development we achieved as society comes with a double edged sword though. It’s up to us to maximize the advantages that we’ve been given and minimize the downsides that come with those developments.