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Michael Stuart Kelly

Rand Versus MSK On Addiction

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Rand Versus MSK On Addiction

A friend of mine, Anoop Verma, posted the following quote by Rand from her essay "Apollo and Dionysus" over on Facebook.

Quote

Is there any doubt that drug addiction is an escape from an unbearable inner state - from a reality that one cannot deal with - from an atrophying mind one can never fully destroy? If Apollonian reason were unnatural to man, and Dionysian intuition brought him closer to nature and truth, the apostles of irrationality would not have to resort to drugs. Happy, self-confident men do not seek to get stoned. Drug addiction is the attempt to obliterate one's consciousness, the quest for a deliberately-induced insanity. As such, it is so obscene and evil that any doubt about the moral character of its practitioners is itself an obscenity.

The normal back-and-forth started up whenever addiction is mentioned in O-land. The subtexts are usually Rand was right/wrong, volition, reason versus emotion, etc. In this case (if you go to the link), one hapless poster even came up with a term "rational emotion" that he attributed to Rand and even said she clearly explained what a rational emotion was in her writings. (Try to find the term "rational emotion" in Rand's work. :)  I doubt you will be able to find it. I certainly wasn't able to.)

I wrote something off the top of my head over there and it was pretty well received, so I will share it here:

================

That quote of Rand's is one of the reasons I sought elsewhere (12 step groups) rather than Objectivism to cure my own alcohol and drug addiction. This was years ago. When you are trying to deal with a huge imbalance of pain, pleasure and confusion, calling yourself a moral obscenity is not helpful. :) 

Back then, I couldn't take her words seriously so they weren't even hurtful. I had a bad problem to solve and, from my experiential perspective, it was easy to see she didn't know anything about addiction. So I simply ignored that part of her writing and went about fixing my problem with what worked. 

Since then, I have learned a lot about the neuroscience of addiction and craving. When you take your nucleus accumbens for a walk on the wild side of the moon, or other dopaminergic and serotonergic systems for that matter, you fall into a neural trap that has very little to do with morality. On a psychological level, the emotional imbalance has more to do with loneliness, feeling betrayed by others, anxiety and so forth than epistemology.

I needed help back when I was trapped. I sought it out, used it and got out of the trap. I recommend this path to all addicts. Seek help, especially from people who know about addiction. For some, it can be 12 step groups. For others, a clinic. For others, any number of addiction recovery systems out there.

Once in a blue moon an addict can recover alone by sheer willpower, but once in a blue moon a person is born with six fingers on one hand. It's an exception, not the rule with human beings.

To be fair, a moral decision can get an addict started on the right road to recovery, and maybe remind him once in a while of what he should do, but there's a lot of work that is not moral in getting the relevant neural pathways and networks to atrophy and replacing them with healthier ones. 

This is a long topic. I have studied it in depth and have written quite a bit about it here in O-Land--for years. So I've heard it all. That means I'm not going to bicker about this. I'm right. Period. :) 

To repeat, to anyone reading this, if you are an addict, get help. There is no shame in doing that. Be hopeful because there is a way out and be proud that you can do it.

================

I just reread it and I like it... :) 

Michael

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This post has nothing to do with addiction, but for those interesting, I went into a writing trance as I was rereading the Facebook thread and this is what came out over there about the oxymoron, "rational emotion":

================

Oops... I wrote above "I've heard it all." I decided to put my comment on my forum, so I read the entire thread here to make sure I would not mischaracterize anything.

I came across the term "rational emotion" above and a dude who claims Rand explained what this was clearly in her writing. LOL... 

How people like to make up stuff about Rand when they feel full of piss and vinegar. Try to even find the term "rational emotion" in Rand's works. You can't. :)

You will find "irrational emotions" a lot, but she did not use this term to posit the existence of the opposite, i.e., rational emotions. She was using rhetoric to emphasize the irrationality of people when they replace rational thought with emotions as their guide for thinking.

Rand did claim the existence of an "emotional mechanism" that was tabula rasa at birth, but she was pretty vague about its characteristics. (This, in addition to a "cognitive mechanism.") The best she ever did to explain what an emotion is was to call it an "automatic response." And that is so abstract, it can mean almost anything anyone wants it to.

She mostly described emotions in metaphorical terms. (She liked the computer a lot as a metaphor for the deeper parts of the mind.) 

She claimed emotions have causes (values) and that these values as causes trigger them, which means emotions are effects. When someone uses them as causes (like when volition is a primary cause), she called them "irrational emotions." In other words, an emotion used for thought is an imposter in the mind taking the place of reason.

Since Rand posited that all values are chosen (except when they aren't and are "the given" instead--sorry, I couldn't resist :) ), and she deduced that all choices are either rational or irrational, the continuation of that reasoning is that the cause of an emotion can be rational or irrational. But--and this is important--not the emotion itself. An emotion has its own nature (law of identity, anyone?).

In fact, regarding rational/irrational emotion, here is a direct quote from Rand: "Emotions are not tools of cognition." Only a tool of cognition can be deemed rational in Objectivism. When it is irrational, it is no longer a tool of cognition. This is based on everything I have read and understood. And I have read and understood almost all of it where Rand is concerned.

Rand sometimes fell into the trap of deducing reality from principles instead of looking at reality and deriving principles from that. (This led her to odd statements at times, like women should never aspire to be president and only those who were psychologically damaged would ever do so.) 

So in further deducing reality from the principle of emotions being automatic reactions to values, she came up with the idea that we can identify the source of, and program, all of our emotions. We actually can identify the source of all of our emotions, but not in the sense she meant. 

(Here's an easy example that was originally done on rats and later replicated in different forms with humans. If you run a fiber optic cable through the skull and down through the brain and end it on a specific neuron in the hippocampus, just by flicking a light on and off, you can produce immediate rage and immediate shutdown of the rage in the subject. The first scientist to make this famous used a slightly different form--a more primitive one with electricity--and would do it with a bull charging at him for dramatic effect. The charging bull would stop on a dime when he flicked a switch.) 

And we can program some of our emotions, but not all. We are actually not born with a tabula rasa "emotional mechanism." A lot comes prewired, both as is and as gets grown irrespective of any experience.

Anyway, I digress. Back to my comment: "I've heard it all." I actually had not heard of the "rational emotion" oxymoron before as a serious idea, nor of anyone attributing this odd idea to Rand. Now I have. So I have one more piece of wrong and useless information from O-Land discussions, for what that's worth. At least it was new to me and that might be worth something somehow. :)

Michael

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AA got started with 2 drunks trying to keep each sober. That setup worked. As long as they were trying to keep each other sober, they succeeded. When they tried to do it alone, they failed. Later AA got corrupted by religion. It was better without religion.

I admire the stomach of the guy who put together this website. I don't have the stomach to read more than a small amount of it at a time.

https://web.archive.org/web/20161202185738/https://www.orange-papers.org/

 

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1 hour ago, jts said:

I admire the stomach of the guy who put together this website. I don't have the stomach to read more than a small amount of it at a time.

https://web.archive.org/web/20161202185738/https://www.orange-papers.org/

Jerry,

(yawn)

Whenever we find someone helping others, we find people jockeying for power from the outside and playing "let's make a Trojan Horse out of this and fight it."

I find that boring.

Notice that a lot of your own self-help alternative medicine stuff gets bashed, but rarely by me.

That's because I've seen too much good on the byways of life. Yeah, there are downsides to all of it. I prefer to look at the good sides (except for specific instances where a treatment becomes destructive). If something helps some people and not others, I prefer to accept the good.

With that attitude in mind...

Is AA (or NA) a cult? That's what it turns into for some people. And it tends to be a bad experience for those who treat it as a cult (although not all--believe me, some people are better off in a benign cult than out on the streets doing bad things).

Has AA helped save people from destroying their lives through alcoholism? I know of at least one person it did. Me. Actually, I know--and know of--lots of others.

Am I part of an AA cult? Nope. I don't even go to meetings anymore and haven't for years. 

Would I ever take an alcoholic to an AA meeting and shepard him or her for a while until things started getting better? In a heartbeat (if I thought that path and not another would be effective for that person). I no longer hang out with drunks (or drug addicts) so this opportunity has not presented itself in a long time. But if it did, I would have no hesitation, as I have done in the past.

People like your Orange friend do not see the lives of people like me (and the many others) that AA salvaged. They blank our lives out on their crusades to slay some monster or other they imagine exists.

I believe they would do far better fighting violence-based authoritarianism and reality-based things like that (the actual bad guys), but they are addicted to their own crusades. Until they hit rock bottom, they will continue charging at windmills on mighty steeds of heroic something-or-other.

At least AA people don't shoot at them with guns, nor am I or others AA has helped recover collateral damage from their mighty warmongering, so their crusades are pretty safe activities for everyone involved. :) 

In fact, it's fun to fight a crusade when you know you can't get hurt. :) 

Michael

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Repeating the Ayn Rand quote at the top of this thread.

Quote

 

Is there any doubt that drug addiction is an escape from an unbearable inner state - from a reality that one cannot deal with - from an atrophying mind one can never fully destroy? If Apollonian reason were unnatural to man, and Dionysian intuition brought him closer to nature and truth, the apostles of irrationality would not have to resort to drugs. Happy, self-confident men do not seek to get stoned. Drug addiction is the attempt to obliterate one's consciousness, the quest for a deliberately-induced insanity. As such, it is so obscene and evil that any doubt about the moral character of its practitioners is itself an obscenity.

I do not believe Ayn Rand understood addiction. Addiction is something that happens as a result of doing a drug (or whatever) too much and too many times. In the quote Ayn Rand describes what happens -before- addiction, the motivation to take the drug before addiction. The addiction comes later.

The addiction itself, setting aside the motivation for starting, has nothing to do with philosophy. The motivation for starting might be philosophy as Ayn Rand says but that is not addiction. Addiction is a physical condition. This physical condition might by concidence exist together with a philosophical or psychological state of mind that prompted the behavior that led to the addiction.

Addiction is a physical health problem. Or we could say it is evidence of a physical health problem. But to understand what I'm saying you need to reject the conventional paradigm of what health is about. In the conventional paradigm health is built and maintained mostly by poisons. There are various schools pf thought about which kind of poisons are best, allopathic poisons, homeopathic poisons, naturopathic poisons, etc. All are poisons. If someone comes along and rejects poisons, that is heresy.

When a poison habit is indulged more than the ability of the body to get rid of the poison, what happens? At some point the body decides to conserve energy and nutritive resources by adapting to the poison, to live with the poison.  It must do this to survive. There is always a cost to the adaptation but the body survives.

Now what happens when the person tries to quit the poison that his body has adapted to living with? Detox and healing, which are not always pleasant. Well he can fix that by a dose of the poison and he feels fine.

 The detox process seems to have 2 stages, intercellular and intracellular, or between the cells and inside the cells. The 2nd detox stage, the inside the cells stage, begins at about day 10 to about day 15 of a fast according to my limited information. The first stage seems to not usually accomplish much. The second stage sometimes seems to produce dramatic results. When the cells are detoxed on the inside, they work better. A blind man can see. Diseases reverse and doctors don't believe it. And sometimes addictions are broken.

There are dangers to fasting. So don't nobody do it unless you know what you are doing.People with a history of drug use might be at risk during a fast.

 

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9 hours ago, jts said:

Repeating the Ayn Rand quote at the top of this thread.

I do not believe Ayn Rand understood addiction. Addiction is something that happens as a result of doing a drug (or whatever) too much and too many times. In the quote Ayn Rand describes what happens -before- addiction, the motivation to take the drug before addiction. The addiction comes later.

The addiction itself, setting aside the motivation for starting, has nothing to do with philosophy. The motivation for starting might be philosophy as Ayn Rand says but that is not addiction. Addiction is a physical condition. This physical condition might by concidence exist together with a philosophical or psychological state of mind that prompted the behavior that led to the addiction.

Addiction is a physical health problem. Or we could say it is evidence of a physical health problem. 

2

If Rand went too far one way, familiar readers can still see what she meant and how consistent is her message. But too, it's important not to go too far the other way, and another mutual exclusivity. For all that, you have put some useful info here.

Is it all about the physical "addiction" - the body - and nothing about one's mind ("nothing to do with philosophy")? Course not. There are underlying causes for every individual's addiction which I think always reduce to how one sees and handles reality (and one's position within it).

You've heard about "getting high on life"? I think Rand was pointing there.

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I liked George H. Smith's saying which went something like, "One day on, two days off. Two days on, three days off. Three days on . . . forget it. Now you are an addict."   

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If we start with the working premise that we all are addicted to various things, but some are  socially unacceptable, we may have a better working foundation for this discussion. For instance sugar and alcohol, sex, work, heroin, basketball, etc.

Howard Roark was so addicted to architecture he kept improving Peter Keating's work. He ended up blowing up a housing project killing Dominique in the process and spending the rest of his life in prison. Then Ayn Rand heard about him and retold the story giving it a happy ending.

--Brant

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Ayn Rand was so addicted to writing . . . 

Or was it John Galt and she wrote fiction until she found hiim?

Devastating to those around and about her!?

--Brant

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This is the way I understand, or misunderstand, addiction.

Hunger has been defined in the following brainless and sloppy way: wanting something to eat. Starting with this definition of hunger, there are at least 4 types of hunger.

1. Emotional hunger. This has nothing to do with need for nutrients. The person has an emotion and is responding to the emotion by eating. If this becomes hard to resist, it might be called an addiction.

2. Habit hunger. If you always eat at 12:00 noon, your body develops an expectation of food at that time.

3. Toxic hunger. This has nothing to do with need for nutrients. If there has been no food for a while, the body takes advantage of the opportunity to detox a toxic condition. Detox tends to be unpleasant.Eating stops the detox. The person mistakes the detox as hunger. The illusion that it is hunger can be strong. If toxic hunger is hard to resist, it might be called an addiction.

4. True hunger. True hunger is a signal from the body that serves notice on the consciousness that food is needed.

Addiction to non-food things such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, etc. are similar to toxic hunger described above. When the detox is complete, the toxic addiction is gone. After the toxic addiction is gone, it is possible that some other kind of addiction will remain. Perhaps an emotional addiction like emotional hunger described above or a philosophical addiction described by Ayn Rand.

 

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Addiction has many elements, and different forms of addiction come with their own particular elements. The following is a vastly oversimplified explanation, but it gives the raw outline and that makes it easier to learn more.

All addictions have two things in common: (1) neurotransmitters, especially dopamine and serotonin being released and processed mostly in the nucleus accumbens, and (2) automation of routines with the creation of specific myelinated neural webs (that I call neural pathways for easier understanding).

(1). Humans do not feel pleasure in their skins, ears, eyes, stomachs, etc. They feel pleasure in their brains, specifically in how their brains processes sensory input from the body and input from their memories and imaginations.

The nucleus accumbens is a tiny little area in the brain that controls the reward system. Addictions are basically the functions of the nucleus accumbens going out of whack. Craving is what this feels like. Dopamine processing is the biggest villain.

This a long discussion, but this outline is accurate and universal, which is a huge relief for any addict who can focus long enough to understand it. Why? Because everyone has opinions about addiction, but few people have solid info that works for everybody. Not only do many opinions conflict, the people holding these different opinions like to dig in and often attack each other. This is a pisser for most addicts. Solid information is a relief. It does not cure addiction, but it cures the pisserness from all the conflicting opinions and bickering.

(2). There are several ways the brain automates routines. For one example, if you make repeated motor actions, say riding a bicycle or playing a musical instrument, the inputs to the brain will start going to the cerebellum to "integrate" (to use a Randian term--this word integrate makes it easy for Rand folks to understand), after which the entire routine will kick in automatically after triggered and no conscious thought is needed.

But the automation form most valuable for understanding addiction is myelinated neural pathways. These pathways automate neuronal firing like this.

When a series of neurons fire together, and this repeats, after a few repetitions, they start wiring together. They "integrate" by grouping into a set of actions and processes that unfold the same way every time. When one neuron gets triggered, the entire set goes off.

Over time, this neural pathway (which is really a web) starts getting protection, a coating similar to the plastic tube that surrounds electrical wire. This coating is myelin and it physically surrounds the neurons. A myelinated neural pathway becomes an entrenched routine so much that it's hard to interfere with it once the neural pathway has been triggered. Neurons, or small neuron sets, outside it don't stand a chance to make it stop. When addiction is part of this pathway, it means the pathway contains the information, instructions and routines that make the nucleus accumbens go apeshit. (Which means craving.)

 

The Solution

The only real way out of addiction is to create new neural pathways that are just as strong as the addictive one is and find a way to switch over to them (or it) when the addictive one is triggered. Over time, like with all organic things, what no longer grows starts to decay. When an addictive neural pathway stops being used, the myelin starts to dissipate and, over time, the exposed neurons stop firing together.

However, memory makes it impossible to totally delete this neural pathway. It will always be there, maybe highly weakened, but it will still be there.

The trick is to replace the addictive neural pathway with a more healthy one. 

To put this in more layman's terms, craving works identically for all substances and activities where craving is involved. For example, gambling and cocaine use the same craving system. So does overeating. So does using social media. And so on. And craving throws a monkey wrench into free will, which is why willpower alone fails so miserably at combating it. Willpower comes from a different part of the brain and this is physical. Willpower can override craving for a bit, but it cannot hold the override in place. It poops out.

Another way of saying this is that you will never cure addiction from within the craving. You need to find a way to spit yourself out of the craving (there are many techniques for this), but you also need to land somewhere, otherwise you will go right back into the craving. The best way is to choose something different that you find important to think about and do. This important thing has to be based on real importance (not what you think you should find important), and it needs to make you feel something emotion-wise--visceral-wise is even better. This will allow you to ignore the craving by focusing on something else you find equally compelling and eventually that bout of craving subsides. It will come back, but for the moment you will be interested in something else and feeling things about it.

In short, when the craving hits, you spit yourself out of it and land on this important thing. Over time, the important thing will become more important, more automated, and the craving will become weaker, eventually to the point of feeling trivial.

As an overview in large strokes, this is how addiction works for everybody.

But the devil is in the details.

Michael

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