Friday, October 16, 2009

The illusion of free will and carb addiction

I've been thinking about the illusions we often have about self-control.

Not that we never have any control, but where the limits are in our behavior... on average. For instance, you can stop breathing for a while if you want to, but after a few dozen seconds, you'll make an excuse to start up again. It's not because you have to, obviously, because you're still conscious. It's because this is too hard or someone said something funny or you realized you need to pee... anything at all, and as the seconds pass, the reasons become less important than your simple desire to breathe.

Now obviously we need to breathe. We also need to eat. We don't need to eat carbs but what if our brain is telling us that we do? Don't we respond in much the same way? First we search for rational excuses, then we search for any excuse, then we just grab the Oreos with no thought of an excuse.

Perhaps it was always about the brain over-riding our conscious thoughts, and our mind making excuses to allow us the illusion of self-control. We convince ourselves that we did it because we wanted to, not because our actions are often guided by instinct.

I like to think that I have final say over what I actually do. But what if that's not true? What if I only have a 49% vote? The other 51% going to my silent partner brain and it only votes when it feels like it. I would be sitting in the big chair, thinking I was the top Executive of my life, when all of a sudden I get a phone call telling me that my plans were scrapped and we were moving forward on a different agenda now.

What if, like sailors pulled down in the ocean, struggling for oxygen, my behavior is completely out of my ultimate control. I will climb on the shoulders of my crew mates, tear my arms out of my sockets, do anything it takes to get what my brain tells me it wants, no matter what my mind likes to think when I am all satisfied and comfy.

That would explain a lot.

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