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Chuckling here but I’ve long been on this mission to try to prove that people are not governed or ruled over by a simple formula of rewards and punishments. I am chuckling because my mission has frequently been thwarted by a bunch of Pavlov dog behaving NPC’s. If we people could just stop acting like simple minded slaves to our own brain chemistry that would be quite lovely. Y’all are messing with my experiment and I am in desperate need of a control group.

I snagged this link because I found it interesting, “True Behavior of Dopamine Will Reshape How We Treat Psychiatric Diseases and Addiction” The short of it, “Pioneering research shows that dopamine levels increase in response to stressful stimuli, and not just pleasurable ones, potentially rewriting facts about the “feel-good” hormone—a critical mediator of many psychiatric diseases.” 

Exactly. We can become just as addicted to the bad stressors in our life that release brain chemicals as we can to the good things. Those of us on the outside looking in have probably watched people do the same dumb thing that brings the same dumb result and wondered, wut in the world is going on there? Rationally if every time you touch a hot stove it hurts and you burn yourself, you should probably stop touching the stove. Obviously we people are not governed exclusively by what is rational.

I am the same way! Even better, the Apostle Paul was the same way. He speaks of this in Romans 7:15-20 and says among other things,  “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.….For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” There is so much going on in those words and you really need to read it in context and receive the greater message about how we become new creatures, how Jesus lives in us, how our sin nature is replaced by His nature. I’m just grabbing a couple sentences to show that the Apostle Paul really got it…..long before we even had a word for “dopamine.”

Why does this matter? Well, because in many parts of the Western world we have this idea that sin is pleasurable. In fact, we got some people so confused they think if it feels good it must be sin and if it feels bad it must be virtue. I’m not just talking about religious folks either, but secularists too. Look at our culture, today it is allegedly really virtuous to be a victim of oppression. The bad people, the “sinners,” are those who won’t stay in that paradigm. If you want to bear witness to some serious persecution, watch how those who have escaped the societal plantation are treated. Get back in the back of the bus, where you belong.

We are not simply slaves to our brain chemistry. In fact, a good chunk of what we think we know about brain chemistry is wrong anyway. Also, we are not robots helplessly responding to random chemical reactions occurring in our brains. But some of the best and most helpful ideas do come from working within our own design, coming alongside of it, honoring and respecting it! So much of Western medicine just revolves around Big Pharma, around Better Living Through Chemistry, trying to hack the system as if we can just juice ourselves up with more chemicals and ignore the fact that we are not simply physical beings having a physical experience.

We people also need relationship, connection, belonging, community, purpose, meaning, and love. And we need to first know what that even looks like. We have to feel it, we have to taste and see that it is good. We love because He first loved us. Without His example, without some frame of reference, we don’t even know what that looks like. Well some do, some had some decent childhoods and good relationship examples, but many of us don’t even have much of that to draw from.

So, speaking of neuroplasticity and Pavlov’s dog, I really believe we can rewire our own brain chemistry and learn new tricks. The bad things that give you a dopamine response can be replaced by good things that give you a dopamine response. We control the horizontal and the vertical. I also think we really need Jesus. I think Jesus is the foundation, the rock, the one who knows our design best and therefore knows how to heal us in mind, body, and soul.

Take your prescribed meds, people. This is not an anti-med post. I’m just saying we are complex beings, comprised of mind, body, and soul, and in need of a more expanded approach, one involving the Great Physician.