Friday, August 7, 2015

cognitive resonance theory

I complain a lot about how little psychiatrists know, and how ineffectual they are, but offer little by way of serious alternatives, myself.  That is, of course, the hard part.  At the very least though, I think it's important to be honest about what we do know, how things do seem to work, and only then, what a more appropriate approach might be.

My latest thoughts on the subject involve an integrated hypothesis of behavior, neurochemistry, and neurological structure.  It's pretty clear that simply boosting the levels of a hormone or neurotransmitter reuptake doesn't usually do much immediate good.  The human experience is a much more complex system than that.

Likewise, changing behaviour is not only easier said than done, but also disappointingly ineffective when finally achieved, as well.  People fall back to their baselines of malfunctioning behavior, almost every time.  The chemistry needs to change, the behavior needs to change, but even that isn't generally enough.

I think this is because chemical quantity is only part of the equation.  When we're talking about neurochemistry, we're talking about neurological reactions, with numerous variables.  Synaptic sensitivity, other chemical interactions, existing cerebral architecture, etc, etc.

Take an adrenaline junkie, for example.  One does not become an adrenaline junkie, simply by boosting adrenaline levels.  People become that way because of the precise manner in which their brains react to adrenaline; the way the reward system is triggered by it, other systems are resistant, and the way neural pathways are reinforced by going through this behavioural process over and over.

Put someone else through the same process, and you're just going to freak them out.  Even give them PTSD, because their brains don't react the same way to the behavior, or the surge of adrenaline itself.  We all become junkies, in a way, addicted to what actually works for us, given our individual neurochemical reactions, reinforced pathways, and supporting behaviours.  Changing that would involve a much more invasive alteration to how our brains function.

Science may get there some day, but I'm strongly inclined to believe that in the meantime, acceptance of ourselves, and what we're dealing with, is the only realistic way to go.  We can always strive to improve ourselves in various ways, but we cannot change who we fundamentally are.  How our brains fundamentally work.  The fact of the matter being that this is going to be different for everyone, given all the variables that go into it.

So, I'm taking Omnitrope now, and in case anyone is wondering, it hasn't exactly created any miraculous changes, yet.  I have more energy, I'm in better physical shape, and that's definitely something, but really, that's about it.  It may gradually impact the way my brain works, as pathways are shifted and reinforced differently than has been happening up until now, but it's still just a very recent change to a single simplistic variable, in a very complex system.

I would be OK with this, if I had a fucking place to live.

1 comment:

Joshua Abell said...

Yeah yeah, I know. When I write about "who we fundamentally are" this is a simplification. There is no such thing, per se. Certainly not that we will never change. Don't tell me I'm the only one in the world who would think to make such a correction.

More accurately, we are a process. Still, modification of neurochemistry and behaviour are only going to have limited effect on the paths we're traversing, from who were, to who we will be; a procedural state of flux.

..but then again, that's treating time as being something other that just another dimension of space.