Thanks to everyone who sent get well messages. I’m on the mend and doing much better today.
Your brain is wired to be addictive. That’s a good thing when it comes to developing good habits that keep us healthy and strong. We love to repeat pleasurable actions. When a little girl is praised for passing a test or a little boy is praised for taking good care of his dog – the brain pays attention. “Wow, that felt good. It feels good to be admired for my actions. It feels good to do something right.” A positive addiction (or good habit if you prefer) for something that makes our lives better should never be frowned on.
Of course, good addictions are rarely talked about. It’s bad addictions that make their way to the news media and our jails. What’s wrong with negative or bad addictions? There are two dangers within the addictive side of our brain.
1. The brain has to be “Trained” to recognize healthy behavior. We don’t come into this world or a family environment knowing what to do. We enter this life as an innocent baby that has no concept of right or wrong.
The dumbest words ever uttered are, “Just leave them alone and children will figure out what’s good.” That’s not only ignorant – it’s dangerous. To prove how dangerous it is, think of what would happen if we told parents not to educate their children? “Just give them some books and let them figure it out. Don’t push, don’t make any requirements…just put the books in their room and eventually they will want to know what’s in them.” Yeah, right! Professionals and parents alike would scoff at that. How about the stupid statement – “Let a child decide what faith he wants to be. Parents shouldn’t be allowed to push their faith on their children.” That’s the same as saying “Let a child decide if he wants to be compassionate. If he wants to bully others, we should let him. After all…it’s his choice.”
When we insist that a child’s brain must be trained to be healthy – liberals start picket lines. They rant and rave about children and their rights. Yet….someone taught them to be liberal. We are teachable beings. Our brain notices the tiniest bit of information and we build our lives on it. When a child is kind and good -It didn’t just happen. When a child becomes a bully or picks up a gun – it didn’t just happen. Something or someone in their life pushed or pointed them in that direction and little by little they developed a “taste” for the addictive habit they possess.
My point is this….The human brain must be “Trained” to do what’s right. It is possible to “train” a child without abuse and without stepping on their natural talents and abilities. If parents don’t train, someone else will. The Human brain “must” create a thought process and in the absence of good – the human brain often gravitates toward bad or corrupt actions. Why? Those actions are more animalistic and don’t take a lot of thought.
Once those actions are repeated – they become a habit and can go on to become an addiction. In other words if the human brain can find any “pleasure” or “comfort” in repeating actions (even if they are disgusting and bad) – the human brain can and probably will develop an addiction for the action.
Corrupted information can cause a child to choose addictive behaviors that aren’t healthy and will lead him to a delinquent life. Children who can’t focus on the disastrous consequences will choose addictive behaviors in order to feed a low self-esteem or to derive some pleasure out of the situation. It may be fiction, but “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding is a terrifying account of what can happen when an untrained brain tries to cope with corrupted information.
2. The brain has positive and negative desires. Our brain is wired to put information into two categories. An action becomes a positive when it causes pleasure or any kind of soothing feelings. We feel pleasure when we eat ice cream. It’s sweet, it’s cold and for most people it’s good. Add a handful of Oreo cookies and it’s a yummy treat that causes many of us to overeat.
The brain is also wired to avoid the negative. If it hurts – we will probably refuse to repeat it. UNLESS – and this is the most dangerous of all desires – we accept the negative because it feeds a guilt or self-esteem issue. Most of the time a diabetic or someone who is lactose intolerant – those people can refuse ice cream. But…put them in the room with the coolest click in school – sitting by the football star who is watching every move -and if offered the cookie covered ice cream – that kid more than likely will say “yes” and put up with the pain in order to fit in. They will go for the “good feeling” that feeds their psychological needs.
Teens or adults who know the negative consequences of smoking or drinking might submit and join the crowd if it means a job promotion, being part of the in-crowd or even something as small as preventing a confrontation with a bully. Children will often give in to sexual abuse just because it’s easier than feeling like their parent doesn’t love them.
Most highly trained and mentally strong individuals can resist temptations for addictive behaviors. Unless…it feeds their self-esteem in such a way it’s addictive behavior is hidden from conscious thought.
We are also in danger when we begin a pleasurable act and we are not trained to stop when that act becomes an addiction. Why do overweight people feel so out of control? Maybe they don’t want to be fat and they certainly don’t want several helpings of chicken and gravy. Yet, sitting at the table and feeling 100% guilty – their chubby little hand reaches for another chicken leg and a large helping of gravy. Why? Rather than fix the guilt of being overweight – they are trying to recapture the joy of the taste. They can’t stop because they are “feeding” their inner love for the taste of food.
(Hum….time for a little self-reflection?) My parents were Ministers. We didn’t drink, smoke or cuss. For most of my childhood we didn’t even go to movies. But we did eat. Every function in the church centered around a buffet. Weddings, funerals, board meetings, new members, Sunday school, ladies groups….everything included food. Naturally, I learned to associate “good feelings” with food. I loved the taste – no one can cook like a determined Christian women’s leader – but it was also the fellowship. I loved being with people. Now, when I’m discouraged or tired or frustrated with life – it’s amazing how a slice of chocolate cake will make me feel. I wish we could have centered on exercise but I don’t think grandma Bertha could have held her ladies meeting on an Exercycle. 🙂
When it comes to making a “logical and important decision” about life – don’t trust your untrained brain. It’s important that you “force” yourself to get all the information you need to make the “best” decision for your life.
Violence happens because the bully, the killer, the manipulator has been trained with corrupted information. In the Sandy Hook shooting there’s a lot we will never know. But I’m wondering (just a thought) did mom have issues with the school? Did she come home from work tired and exhausted? Did she say something to Adam like – “I just hate those kids. They are always whining and pulling at me. One kid dropped his pudding all over me today. I wish I didn’t have to work there.” Could that type of fussing have corrupted Adam’s mind? Could he have mis-interpreted what he was hearing? Could her verbal aggression have lead him to believe that she would rather die than go back? Could he have thought he was standing up for her by killing others?
No one will ever know if that happened…but it does point out the necessity to protect our minds. Make sure the information you have is correct and won’t ruin your life or the lives of others. And when you parent, or teach or lead through ministry – make sure that you don’t allow thoughts from any situation to escalate to the point of violent actions.