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Wanting something is only barely related to enjoying something

McKinley Valentine — 2 min read
Wanting something is only barely related to enjoying something
Photo by Rae Wallis / Unsplash

Hahahaha this was one of the really telling pieces I wrote before I was diagnosed with ADHD. The 'wanting' system is dopamine, an ADHD is, roughly speaking, a dopamine deficiency

The system that makes you feel an urge to get something - whether that's food, seeing friends, a cigarette, sleeping with a particular person, whatever - is separate from brain system of enjoying something. Often they align! But often not.

That means that there are things you want, but don't actually enjoy that much - sugar-cravings are like that for me, I have desperate urges for a donut but when I eat it, it's... fine? I guess? For a few bites? And then I eat the rest because I feel guilty for wasting money on it?

And similarly there's things you have no urge to do whatsoever, even though you actually have a lovely time whenever you do it (going out to see friends, for me, or going to yoga).

So, you gotta pay attention and keep a mental file of which things you enjoy that you don't desire (so you can make yourself do them) and which things you desire but don't enjoy (so you can avoid).

In general, I think a step to improving at life is learning to treat the feeling of wanting something, even craving it, as just another idea from someone who is pretty hit and miss with their ideas.

Not because there's some puritan virtue in abstaining from cravings! Just because the cravings are not particularly accurate indicators of what you like in the moment, without even getting into whether the long-term consequences are good for you.

This also fits with the idea of the authentic self, and a tendency to feel like wanting something is an expression of self, and not pursuing it would be denying our true selves, which is, see above, a bunch of nonsense.

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #67 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

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