Nate Christensen, APCC and host of the Working Change podcast, joins Tony to discuss "Dopamine Nation, Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence" by Anna Lembke https://www.amazon.com/Dopamine-Nation-Finding-Balance-Indulgence-ebook/dp/B08KPKHVXQ/
Tony and Preston Pugmire are getting ready to launch another round of their popular Magnetic Marriage course! Go to http://tonyoverbay.com/magnetic to get on the waitlist.
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Tony mentioned a product that he used to take out all of the "uh's" and "um's" that, in his words, "must be created by wizards and magic!" because it's that good! To learn more about Descript, click here https://descript.com?lmref=bSWcEQ
[00:00:15] Come on in. Take a seat. I will hurt you.
[00:00:22] Hey, everybody, welcome to Episode 320 of the Virtual Couch. I am your host, Tony Overbay. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, certified mindful habit coach, writer, secret husband and father of four man. Nate, I want to get to the part where I'm an ultra marathon runner. It's been three or four years since I ran an ultra marathon, so analyze that. Can I say that anymore?
[00:00:41] I mean, you did it.
[00:00:43] Okay? You mean I have I am an ultra marathon runner. I am not currently running ultramarathons. Yeah. So maybe that's my imposter syndrome, is it? Maybe. But wait. Welcome, Nate Christiansen. Boy, that's a way to get into the intro to your.
[00:00:59] Episode three on the virtual couch, one on waking up the narcissism. And is this your fourth on the virtual couch?
[00:01:05] Sounds about.
[00:01:06] Right. Okay. So when you get to five on the virtual couch, I give you a new hat. Really? Yeah. Yeah. So we're getting close. I'm really excited. I know. Right. Welcome, though. And before we get started, this is episode 320. And I am I love having Nate on. We're doing something a little bit different. Did we come up with an official name? Is this Nate and Tony's book club, or was that just something we were kicking around?
[00:01:24] I don't know. That sounds pretty.
[00:01:25] Good. Okay, it does. So, Nate, what I love about this kind of an episode is by Nate and Tony's book club. Nate reads the book, and then Tony hears Nate talk about book, and Tony talks about Nate talking about book.
[00:01:36] So it's that's really cool. That's like.
[00:01:39] It is, but it's so good for me because you like reading books and I like hearing people talk about reading books. So I think it's a match made in heaven. And before we get to that, I will encourage anyone to go to. I have two different links that I want to I want to talk about. One is I did a marriage workshop a few weeks ago and it is behind a very small paywall. $19. And I will refund your money so fast if you get nothing out of it. But it is at Tony Overstock.com slash workshop. And in 90 minutes, basically, Nate, what I've done is told everyone why we don't have the tools to show up as our best sellers in our relationship and then what those tools are. And then within 90 minutes change their entire marriage and their entire life. So maybe that's maybe giving money back guarantees on that. Maybe I'm going to hold that back a little bit. But I do talk about why we don't have the tools that we don't have because no one has them. And that's okay because we all grew up seeing different versions of relationships. We come in with all of our own abandonment and attachment and those kind of things. And so then we're just trying, right? Yeah, we're just trying. So go to Tony Slash Workshop. There's an hour and a half marriage workshop there. Or if you go to Tony over Macomb Magnetic, then Preston, Pug, Myra and I are about to go launch our fourth round of the Magnetic Marriage Court course, which is. I really do. I feel so passionate. Nate probably gets tired of me. And when we're doing supervision and we're talking about couples, all I talk about are my four pillars, right?
[00:03:03] I mean, it comes up frequently.
[00:03:05] Okay? It's one thing to hear them and I believe them tried and tested. They're based off of emotionally focused therapy, which I love. But putting them into action takes practice and it takes work. And so that's what my marriage course is about. So there's all my plugs. But while we're plugging things to last week, I mentioned your podcast, Working Change on the virtual couch, right? Did you see a little?
[00:03:25] Little. We did love there. Yeah, we did. Okay, yeah. So that's the podcast that my wife and I do and it's smaller. We typically do two episodes a month. She's in grad school and we have a little baby and a lot of other family drama, but who doesn't? Yeah, so it seems like about twice a month is what we can get to. It's shorter. 25 minutes, maybe 30 minutes. What are some of the.
[00:03:45] Topics you've.
[00:03:46] Covered? So the last one we did was on anxiety and then we had like a two part series on depression and kind of what are some of the things that are related to causes? Because I don't know if saying what the cause is is the greatest idea because there could be a lot of causes.
[00:03:59] And then the second part was like, what we can do to manage it personally or to help other people in our lives. And we've done some things on parenting and the wellness model, which I'm really big on.
[00:04:09] Yeah. And that's when I talk about my four pillars. You talk about the wellness model and I really like that. Maybe in a nutshell, is that something you can summarize? I know that you maybe weren't prepared for that or.
[00:04:18] Oh, yeah, yeah. So the wellness model is and it's not just a mental health thing, it's just a general wellness thing. But like wellness generally ties in really well with mental health. And so there's these different components to it. So it's physical, so things like diet and exercise and sleep and then occupational. Do you have a career that you enjoy, that you make enough money to pay your bills? Intellectual Do you have like intellectual pursuits, whether it's school or whether it's just doing something to activate your mind? Social Do you get out and see people? Do you have a network of friends and things that you can lean on emotional? Do you have positive viewpoints and hope and then spiritual and then that? It doesn't necessarily have to be religious, but it's just connection to something bigger than ourselves.
[00:05:01] Okay, I like that.
[00:05:02] That's really like just bare bones.
[00:05:04] Yeah. And you are pretty open about you've had some challenges with anxiety and depression, those things.
[00:05:09] So, so I.
[00:05:10] Really feel like I know I've listened and I think I've sent you nice comments when I listen to your podcast, but I feel like you're coming from a place, you're a clinician who got into a career that you love later in life. And and then you've struggled with some of those things. So I think you really speak from experience and that you can tell and from a good that's funny. It makes it sound like, oh, I can tell you've had those names.
[00:05:31] I tell you, I can tell you have issues.
[00:05:33] But I just think people can resonate. You know, I had a guy listening at one point and he was telling me he was saying nice things about the virtual couch, but he just said, you've never really been through a big breakup, have you? And I said, Tell me more. And he said, In your how to navigate a breakup episode, he said, I can just tell that you haven't been through a big breakup. And I said, That is absolutely the case, but I love the fact that he was going through a big breakup. And so he just knows. And that's where when I talk about ADHD or I don't know, parenting and marriage that yeah, it's when it really comes from a place that you can speak from your heart, then I guess it's probably people are going to feel that more.
[00:06:09] Yeah, and that's an interesting point because that actually got me into a little bit of trouble in grad school. In one area, I think we were doing like a diagnostic exam and what I was reading looked very much to me to be generalized anxiety disorder based on what I had experienced. So I answered it that way and that was actually incorrect based on what it was. But we have our experiences and then we're like, Oh, this is what it is, that's what it is for us. But it can be so many things for so many people.
[00:06:39] That's funny. I want to then make the joke of What did you learn then that you had instead read the symptoms of something and say, Oh my gosh, that's me?
[00:06:46] Yeah, well, it turns out I have social anxiety disorder. Who knew? Well, I mean, there's a strong social anxiety disorder component, but I think generalized anxiety disorder is often kind of just lumped together because there's a lot of similarities.
[00:06:57] Yeah, that is a funny one, though. I was I think I was talking on my I was recording my narcissism podcast this morning and I was talking about I was reading some emails and one person had said that their therapist had not been very empathetic to them about the struggles that they were in in their relationship. And I said, man, therapists that are listening. Or then I just said, all the people, when somebody says that this is what I feel or have or this is what I think, how about start from a place of Tell Me More or curiosity instead of the No, no, no, you have this. And the reason I'm bringing that up, I was thinking about a client I had had recently who came in and said that they had Googled some things and they said, I think I have this. And I found myself not even wanting to say, you don't have that, but I mean, but kind of but didn't want to say, Oh, tell me what you're at or tell me more, and then validating their experience and then saying, I hear you. I kind of feel like it's some of those things maybe look like this or and so how about we start with Tell Me More curiosity. Yeah. So by the way, we could just talk all day, but today let's get to the book, Toni's book club. Nate Today's book is.
[00:07:59] Today's book is Dopamine Nation.
[00:08:01] Okay, dope. I talk about dopamine all the time. This is something I have experience with.
[00:08:05] Yeah, I mean, we all do, right? Yeah. We all have.
[00:08:08] Dopamine. Literally. We literally all have dopamine.
[00:08:11] Yes, we do. We do. I thought that it might be helpful to start with the author, because I think we all tend to evaluate things, at least in part by who we're hearing it from.
[00:08:21] Yeah. So I'm laughing because we are not we did not preplan this. I want to be very reactionary of sorts, but Nate was telling me about the author and and I can only tell crack jokes in my head, but I thought, oh yeah, but I've googled things. So, so think about that while you're listening to the credentials of the author.
[00:08:37] Yeah, Tony. And Google is basically the same as the author. So it was written by Dr. Anna Lemke and some people maybe have heard of her, might even be aware of or some people not. And then I talk about they might realize that they've seen her before. So it's weird because I almost feel like I'm introducing her, like she's here. Like I wanted to look at her background because I feel like again, like it's important to understand where people are coming from that we realize they truly are an expert in what they're talking about. So she received her undergraduate degree from Yale.
[00:09:07] I've heard of that.
[00:09:07] Sure. Yeah. Excellent school. She got a medical degree from Stanford. Excellent school. She's a professor at Stanford and the medical director of the addiction medicine at Stanford. She she was in the Netflix Flix documentary, The Social Network. So if anybody saw that and they saw.
[00:09:23] Her, that's when we should both do a review on some day. That one made me feel uncomfortable and a lot of things.
[00:09:29] Yeah, it ties in pretty well with this book, so there's some overlap, although I don't know if I really put too much in the book or in my notes. There was just a few things that we could pull out because last time we did a book review on Buddha's brain. Yeah, I had way too much stuff. Okay, so I wasn't able to get very far in depth in some things. And then she's also been she's given expert testimony to government legislators on addiction. I think it was specific to the opioid addiction. She wrote a book in 2016 called Drug Dealer, MD about prescription drug addiction, which, again, ties really closely to to the opioid crisis.
[00:10:06] So decent background. Yeah. Yeah, I have to say, she she did well. She did well. So ultimately, dopamine nation is about a world of excess. And I don't know. You're a little bit older.
[00:10:19] You're going to.
[00:10:21] Decade or so older than me. Not. Not a lot.
[00:10:23] Just a little bit. I think so. How old do you talk about your age? I'm 43. I'm 52.
[00:10:28] So not.
[00:10:28] Quite. Yeah.
[00:10:29] So we're on the same in the same decade at opposite ends like that. Yeah. So I remember growing up in a time when we didn't have cell phones.
[00:10:38] We had a phone on the wall with a cord. Right. Like you leave home to go on a bicycle ride. That's. There's always the.
[00:10:45] Contact, you know.
[00:10:46] You're not going to start.
[00:10:47] No. You didn't know any different, which is so fascinating to think and not that we need to get into this stuff. But I still think I cannot remember how I used to get directions. I remember calling places and then they had to put somebody on that knew what? How to get somewhere. Do you know that? Are you old enough for that?
[00:11:02] Yeah. Although, do you remember the Thomas Guides?
[00:11:05] I've heard of them. I never looked at one.
[00:11:06] They're like a map with like. With like. And you could look up a book. You did that page?
[00:11:10] Yeah, man, it's crazy. Yeah. So we're old.
[00:11:13] Yeah, we are. All right, the important thing in all of this is our minds. Our brains have adapted over who knows how long to live in a world of what is the opposite of excess.
[00:11:27] I'm drawing a.
[00:11:27] Few guys jokes.
[00:11:31] I'm making jokes already in my head. So many jokes. The opposite of excess would be withdrawal or a scarcity or a lack of.
[00:11:37] Or I like scarcity. Scarcity. So our brains have developed in a world of scarcity. Yeah. And now all of a sudden we have a bunch of excess and our brains don't know what to do with it. I think it's important to first lay out what the heck is dopamine? And some people may know very well what is dopamine. So I have a couple of things here and then you kind of bounce some stuff off of me if you feel like you had some things that might be helpful. So dopamine is a neurotransmitter that facilitates neural communication, and there are parts of our brain that are pretty dopamine rich. And we know that there are dopamine networks. There are several of them in our brain. It's related to focus, learning and motivation. And I was actually listening to a TED Talk just the other day that I thought was really good by Dr. Daniel Lieberman. And he said that dopamine has been long associated with pleasure, but that was because early dopamine research was around addiction. And we kind of got it wrong a little bit. He went on to to give an example of an experiment in rats that maybe can demonstrate a little bit more of what's going on in this particular experiment. What researchers did is they hooked up the brain, the rats brains, so they could see what's going on with the dopamine system. And they dropped a food pellet in the rat's cage and the drop of food pellet and dopamine spikes. Okay. Oh, that's interesting. Okay. So the next day, at the same time, they drop a food pellet dopamine spikes. If you continually do that, you drop a pellet, the food pellet at the same time every day. The rat will eat it and seemingly enjoy it. But it stops getting dopamine.
[00:13:14] Oh, wow.
[00:13:15] Yeah. So what does that mean? If you look a little bit further into dopamine, it means that there's a novelty piece, meaning an expectation. So it might be. And he used another interesting example. If you think you have $40 in your wallet and you go to the store and you're going to buy something and you open it up and it turns out you've got 100 sitting right next to one of the twenties and you're like, Oh, I have 140. Your brain is going to give you dopamine because it's a surprise. It's unexpected. So that's the idea behind novelty, something that we're not expecting. Our dopamine system is related to survivability. And when we get something that's not expected, that will help us in our survival. Our brain gives us a little bit of dopamine. So that's why it's related to to like learning to motivation. You eat something and you really enjoy it. You get a little bit of dopamine because your body is like, Hey, that's good. Do that again. Yeah, but what happens if you do that every day for the next year?
[00:14:13] So it sounds like that you will not be getting that dopamine bump.
[00:14:16] At some point. You're not. Your brain's going to be like, okay, this is.
[00:14:19] Which is interesting because that book I don't want to get off because you got so much good stuff. That's good. The Charles Duhigg Power of Habit, where he talks about. That's where I feel like I remember learning about the basal ganglia. They have a center of the brain and that when the brain does something enough, then it habitually loses. It puts it in this basal ganglia and then you require less electrical activity. So it almost does seem so brain gets novelty bump of dopamine, then wants more of that than does it consistently because we think we'll keep getting that dopamine bump, but over time it just then becomes so visualized and then put into our habit. Center of our brain is this is just what we do because our brains went into survival mode and wants to live forever. So it needs to use less electrical activity, even if that thing isn't a helpful thing for us.
[00:15:03] Whoa. Yeah. Wow. I like that. I like that. It's. You probably see this in people, so my dad's going to kill me for, but I just. It's perfect. My dad just got a boat, and it's like a fixer upper, and he was so motivated to get this boat here. He has a boat, but he found this boat. He really liked it, had a few extra things and he got it. And so dopamine spike. Yeah, go get the boat. He went and he got the boat. Now he's got it and he's like, okay, well what do I do with it? I got a lot of stuff I want to do on it, but he's not really motivated to do the stuff on it.
[00:15:36] So what we tend to see is ultimately dopamine is about it's about retrieval, it's about going and getting something one one experiment with rats. The dopamine system is crippled in a rat's brain. They put food right in front of it and it wouldn't go get it to the point it would eventually die. Oh, wow. Now, if they took the food and put it in its mouth, it would chew it up and eat it and get satisfaction, but it wouldn't. So dopamine is really important to focus learning. That's high motivation.
[00:16:04] That novelty piece, I don't know. They've done studies with rats buying packages on Amazon consistently. Yeah, right. Because I feel like that makes so much sense. The novelty of the new thing, because I fall prey to that all the time, right? If I get the new item of clothing or the new thing for my business or the new thing to record with the podcast, then there's novelty there. I get excited about it, but then once I get it, half the time I don't integrate it.
[00:16:27] Right? Right. Yeah. Guys, isn't that great? Yeah, yeah. Once you've got it, it's not as interesting. So dopamine is about going and getting okay. And once you have it, dopamine doesn't seem to really do a whole lot for you at that point.
[00:16:39] Interesting. Yeah.
[00:16:40] They use a quote in the book that I really like and I paraphrase it. It's more wanting than liking dopamine related more to wanting than it is. All right, so we got that like that's what our dopamine system does. And that's it's an important part of our survival, but it can also get hijacked. And ultimately, that's what we're dealing with in the book. Now, I wanted to mention this one thing and this. Plays a little bit to my concern as a parent. And I've seen this with with other people, with myself. Early in the book, there was a warning. She, Dr. Lemke, talks about police officer that she got to know and and and he was they were working on a case. She was an expert witness. And she asked him what was what's one of the more difficult cases that you've you've worked. And he told her about a case of a six year old boy who molested his four year old brother. And and he said, you know, normally you would see an adult somewhere took advantage of that six year old. And then he did that to somebody else. And he said they couldn't find any evidence of that. And what they ended up discovering is he was not always occupied with parental supervision, which parents can't supervise everybody all the time. That's impossible.
[00:17:58] Normal thing.
[00:17:59] Right, right. Right. The problem was he was he was watching cartoons a lot on his iPad. And he eventually stumbled on some anime like adult anime cartoons and nobody had any idea. And then he saw some adult things and then did them to his little brother. And so I think it's important that we all understand, like our kids love this stuff. Yeah, screens, phones, video games, all this stuff. It plays on our dopamine system. And there is no end to the amount of new stuff you can get.
[00:18:30] Now, when you when you put that novelty aspect in there, it's fascinating of the joke I like to make is who does YouTube want me to be by all of the suggested videos? But I'll be darned if there are times where I think that is interesting. And it is. I think it's that is a novel thing that I'm curious about. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:18:46] Wow. So my take on that is, is for us, those of us that are parents, because I have a two year old and she loves my wife's phone and we have to take it away from her and we try not to give it to her too long. And it can she can get upset about it, but be aware as much as possible about what's coming into your I mean, this is like a little portal into the world and there's a lot of stuff in the world that's not good for children consumption.
[00:19:09] Yeah, no, I appreciate that. And I often think when I'm working with adult clients and they say our filter is necessary and I will say filters can absolutely put a pause, but you get a good teenager and adult, they're going to work their way through a filter if they really want to find content. But I feel like what you're sharing here makes me think that man filters would be absolutely necessary for a a younger kid that is just poking around, messing around. Ideally, they would be supervised or not have the device like that, but then I think a filter would be a very good thing.
[00:19:38] Yeah, I do have an opinion. The world is different than when we were kids. Yeah. And do you agree that, like anything else, are are operate a little bit like muscles?
[00:19:50] Yes. Yeah.
[00:19:51] So when we when we do something, it becomes easier to do because it has them do it in an electronic world. I do think our children are going to be exposed to things and they need to have some degree know how to operate it and develop some degree of self control, although that's typically more for older kids as opposed to six year olds. So I don't know that just completely taking away devices. Oh yeah, total answer, but that's probably a matter of opinion.
[00:20:18] But it's funny, we should talk about that one on a part to some day because I realize, but it's easy for me to say now with my youngest at 18 that I'm not a huge fan of taking away devices. But then you ask anybody that's had, I don't know, some really serious things happen and they're going to say, Are you insane? But then I feel like that taking away almost then makes it more of a novelty than to use the phrase we're talking about now. And that's where I find that people have kids have burner phones. I can't tell you how many people have burner phones or recycled old iPods that they now just use with wi fi or that's real. And I'm not saying that. So then a parent will go shake down their kid if they take away their devices. But I also have had the teenagers that say at some point they feel like taking away the device doesn't even matter because so even when the parent wants to give the device back, then they feel like we're going to take it away from me anyway. I feel like that's where one starts to really shut down and I know the parent is doing that. They mean well, but then that isn't necessarily a reward or motivation. Yeah, but that's a whole other topic.
[00:21:17] Yeah. And that's a big one and it's, I think it's an important one. And I don't and again, I don't know if there's a quote unquote right or wrong answer. A lot of this is just a matter of opinion.
[00:21:26] It's funny, I had a teenager recently that I was talking with whose parents said, take away your device, and they use the device at school and they use it in their classroom. And the parent said, Well, you just need to tell your teacher. I'm sure your teacher would understand that they need to print out things for you or that sort of thing. And I understood where the parent was coming from. But then as this teenage boy in high school is already worried about the comparisons of others and social capital and that sort of thing, and then going to a teacher and then saying, Hey, can I be the only person that you have to do this extra work for? And worried that the teacher is going to say, Oh, and Mr. So-and-so, I printed out your packet. You can come over here as if all the other kids are going to say, Oh, man, that's cool. Not going to happen, right? Yeah. Okay. I'm taking this on a tangent.
[00:22:11] No, no, no. We're we're we're doing great. Okay, so.
[00:22:14] So the dopamine thing too. I am curious, as fellow ADHD, we always talk about dopamine deficient and the ADHD medications help with dopamine. So where does novelty fit in there, do you think? So is that the part where we have all these special interests that we switch from, from thing to thing to thing?
[00:22:32] So ADHD is interesting because it's two pronged. So on the one hand, we're very distractible when it comes to things that we're not super interested in. Yeah. And on the other hand, we can hyper focus on things that were very interesting.
[00:22:44] Absolutely. Yes.
[00:22:45] And so I don't really know. I guess what I'm saying is I don't really know the answer to that.
[00:22:51] Okay. I may edit that out.
[00:22:54] And I'm just kidding. That one I believe in for sure. Yeah, because I just it's so the whole dopamine concept is so fascinating because I do feel and I've talked about this openly on my podcast that I was starting to feel these symptoms of depression and undiagnosed ADHD. Can those symptoms can mimic depression because but then once I was medicated and then put that toward things I actually care about and then had that focus, then I was accomplishing more. Now, it didn't mean that my ADHD went away, but then I could focus more on the things I needed to focus on when I need to focus on them.
[00:23:25] And I don't know if you're aware of Dr. Russell Barkley is a psychologist that really focus is heavily on ADHD is amazing videos on YouTube that I really I pulled a lot from to manage my ADHD. So he looked at at different mental illnesses, psychological disorders and categorize them in terms of like life cost. Like so how many years they take off of your life? And I'm I don't remember what all of them were. I mean, there was different kinds of addiction to take a certain amount of years and depression took, I don't know, three or five years and anxiety took a year and a half and all of these things. And it was really interesting. Adhd took an average of 13 years of somebody's life.
[00:24:02] Oh my goodness.
[00:24:02] Now I don't know how they calculate this, but the big issue with ADHD is we sometimes amaze ourselves because we love something and it's so easy to do. Yeah. And then we go to do something else that is seemingly hard for people or even easy for people. And we can't do it. Yeah, like, I hate doing the dishes. I hate folding laundry. Now, maybe everybody hates that stuff.
[00:24:26] Apparently there are people that don't mind doing those things well, but there's again, maybe for another day a rejection, sensitive dysphoria. I don't know if you're familiar with that, right? Yeah. Huge in the world of ADHD. And that is where is earth shattering? It is bone crushing. They say that it can be treatment resistant because it can be so come on so fast.
[00:24:45] Yeah. And a lot of that is probably related to early childhood experience. I think I read in one book that by the time someone's ADHD is about 12 years old, they've experience something around 2000 more rejections than their peers because they just have such a difficult time listening and applying. And and you look at two children, one with ADHD and one without, and one seems like they they really care about what their parents and teachers and and everybody says and they're trying their best to do it. And it seems like the other person just doesn't like nothing is going in. Everything that's going is going right out or it's just it's bouncing around off there. So yeah. So it's frustrating for people. I have my son, I suspect has ADHD. I don't know that for sure. He fits. He's got enough of the symptoms or say, criteria that he probably could qualify for. I can't diagnose him because he's my kid. I have to have somebody else do it. But I try really hard not to beat him up because he makes some. So the stupidest errors over and over and over again. And I'm like, this kid doesn't listen like, no, just think about yourself. My dad could get so frustrated with me as a kid.
[00:25:56] I want to go hug my child self. Right. 2000 more rejections. Yeah. And then now I got to live to 113 if I really want to hit 100. So that's a lot of work. Yeah, right. It is. You got this, though. That's right. Okay. Where do we go next?
[00:26:09] Okay. So I wanted to read this quote because I thought this would be good for just like a reaction. So to get your your thought to this.
[00:26:18] So I'm nervous. I'm going to get this wrong.
[00:26:21] Wrong. There's no right or wrong.
[00:26:22] No right. I'm the one that teaches that stuff. But it's funny with yourself. You really want to I want to shine. So here we go. Well, you're right to.
[00:26:28] Shine, Toni. Very cool.
[00:26:32] All right, so in chapter two, which in the book, which is entitled Running from Pain, which I think we could probably see, maybe not just in ourselves, but in our client, she says. We've lost the ability to tolerate even minor forms of discomfort. We're constantly seeking to distract ourselves from the present moment to be entertained.
[00:26:50] Yes. Oh, yes. And especially where you talk about dopamine now and novelty and screens and unlimited access to things. And every kid is growing up looking for that external validation. And we don't even. Really know what we really like or care about. So if we don't happen to be doing something that we feel a connection with and then you become distracted and then you are looking for that novelty, I do make the joke often that if I was a teenage boy today, I don't think I would ever leave my room if I had all the screens and the games and played the Coleco vision, their little dots that went up and down that made it look like you were playing football, or now you're looking at real rendered people that you can't tell if you're watching TV or playing a game. So I can't imagine not turning to those things when you don't feel good or you want to just tune out from the world, right? It would be just a siren song on a daily basis. Come and go do these things. Other than and this is a way we could do a million different topics because I feel like the concepts of school in school these days when we were in school and there wasn't an Internet per say that you just did the things you did because you had to do them.
[00:27:57] And we could tell our kids that, well, yeah, you just take that class because you're you have to and then you graduate and you're going to show people that you can do hard things was the story that I used to be told. But now I can't imagine being a kid who is sitting there in high school and there's a subject that they don't care about and they could go learn 900 other things on YouTube, and it's not like they're even dreaming about it. Like a lot of parents, we think they are. No, they've actually built or created or fix their car or they've done things they learned on Tik Tok or anything. And so how can you not think of those things when you're sitting there being bored to tears by a subject that you feel like I'll never use.
[00:28:32] Anyway, right? Yeah. And that's a difficult one because ultimately it's like that's that's the rite of passage. You want to be a doctor, you have to take these classes that you hate. Yeah. And maybe you love them all, because if you want to be a doctor.
[00:28:45] I don't think so. Yes. But I mean, I still I took meteorology twice in college because I didn't care and I did not pass the first time or taking an anthropology or some of these things that never played into what my career would be. And so I can only imagine now again, I feel like any parent listening is this has to resonate of telling my kid, no, you need to care about this thing that you don't care about, that you feel like you'll never use again. But you have to do it because you're being told to. Holy cow, throw in reactance there instant negative reaction to being told what to do. So now you get your parent, your teacher telling you you have to do this. And meanwhile you've got 9000 things that you could do otherwise. And this is where I have such empathy for kids and where they're at, and I even feel like I've got so many thoughts on this. Nate I feel like there was a time where I would watch and I've never talked about this out loud, so it might not even make sense when it hits hits the airwaves. But I feel like I was seeing people that would show up and they had just skated by high school the entire time, didn't really have to study.
[00:29:41] They would pass. And then somewhere their junior senior year, then they would fail a semester and then all of a sudden they would think, Oh my gosh, I just been skating through. I got to actually apply myself. And then they would then fail that next semester because now they think, No, I get it now. But then they didn't do anything different. And at that point then now they would study hard. And I feel like I watched that creep up earlier and earlier and earlier. Until now we're talking freshmen and sophomores, or they've been skating through middle school and now they actually have to put in work. And my aha moment was when now they realize, okay, I'm failing and I have to put in work. They've got these deeply rooted neural pathways, but every day I get home and I play Fortnite with my friends and then I watch some YouTube and then I and I'll do my homework later, and then it gets to a certain point, and now they're exhausted or tired or they don't feel like doing their homework. So now when will they do their homework, right? Yeah, tomorrow. Yeah.
[00:30:31] And I think that there's important concept for all of us that are parents, which is we probably don't understand all of the again, going back to dopamine being the motivator, like you're going to be motivated to do 1000 other things before you do homework. And for me, my parents put like my friend, my homework was in between me and my friends and I don't know what your experience was like. So you do your homework, you do your chores, then you can go to your friends. So my dopamine was pushing me to do those things in order to get to my friends. Yeah. Now you go to your room and you got your phone in your pocket and maybe you have a TV. I have my own opinion about TV.
[00:31:11] You got your children, you got your.
[00:31:12] Yeah, but yeah, you have a million other things that your brains would be like, well, go do that. That's way more interesting. That's way more fun. This is you can do this tomorrow morning right before class, which we all know we can't. But it's I use the term, the games the brain plays, that's just one of the games that it plays. It convinces you you can do it at another time. So that right now, in this moment, you can go pursue something else that's more interesting.
[00:31:37] Okay. And tell me your thoughts on this. I feel like that also plays into the when you talk about procrastination, I feel like procrastination just fuels a dopamine addiction because when you've got that procrastination, you've got a deadline. Then how many times have you completed something right before the deadline? Because that dopamine, that maybe it's novelty hyper focus of I must get this done and then you get the external validation of man, you did it. And then I find myself still saying you. Good under pressure. I wish I didn't.
[00:32:07] So I have a theory on that, and I don't know if it totally aligns, but it's a theory nonetheless that I don't know, maybe makes sense. I saw this when I was in grad school and I was diagnosed with ADHD like in the middle of grad school. So I had the before ADHD treatment and then after and it did get a little bit better after, although I still had some struggles. My theory on that is because focus is so difficult for someone with ADHD when it comes to doing something that they're not super interested in. I'm interested in mental health, but like composing a paper is a lot of work for me. Yeah, like it's the organization. It's difficult. If I can just free, right? Whatever it's for, that's more fun to me. Yeah, but like composing something and structuring it is. It's challenging. It takes a lot of effort. It's hard. My belief is, and again, just a theory and I can be way off my theory. The reason I procrastinate is because I need so much discomfort that it overwhelms the discomfort of doing the paper.
[00:33:07] I agree. I like where you're going.
[00:33:08] So it's like, okay, now the pain of of not completing it on time is seriously hurting. And actually, Russell, Dr. Russell Berkeley talks about the fact that it seems like deadlines is one of the few things that can get people with ADHD to finally do something, but they're usually right up against it.
[00:33:25] You know what's funny, Nate? I thought you were going to steal my made up theory, but yours is brilliant. I think it goes along with it. I think I mentioned maybe one other time, but I have this theory that if somebody is going to get the paper done Friday at 5:00, that I really feel like they almost know in the back of their mind that they're going to start at some time around 2:00, 230. And so but they sit there Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday night, and they say, I'm going to work on this paper. But then they sit and then they are distracted because of the novelty of the devices and they don't really care about the subject matter. And I feel like that takes a hit to what I call their emotional baseline. And so then they beat themselves up and I'll do it tomorrow and what's wrong with me? So I have a theory that I would love to test someday, that if they just accept here's radical acceptance, except the fact that there's no way I'm doing this before Friday afternoon, that then and they do things that will raise their emotional baseline self care connection, maybe like your wellness model Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday nights. Then I feel like they may actually even start the project up to 2 to 3 minutes earlier on a Friday afternoon.
[00:34:21] They might.
[00:34:21] Right? They might. But I really do feel like that acceptance that will put themselves in a better spot. And I really do feel like they would probably start it a little bit earlier or maybe even a couple of hours earlier and maybe with a consistent pattern of acknowledging that this is my process, that then maybe we might be able to even take a peek at something on a Thursday night eventually. Yeah, but the acceptance that Tuesday, Wednesday night, it's silly that I'm even trying because I'm going to beat myself up. Yeah.
[00:34:46] So that makes a lot of sense. I can totally see that with myself. I think that once I got to the point where I'm like, Yeah, I'm not going to, then I was because I didn't beat myself up. Yeah, it wasn't. It didn't become as terrifying. Like, I think I made it scarier than it was.
[00:35:00] Okay. So in the book, you were quoting something on our Path Back group, which maybe a shameless plug there because Nate helps me facilitate that group and and it's amazing. But were you talking about what was the dopamine thing with the desert?
[00:35:12] Yeah, I have that quote in here.
[00:35:13] Yeah. Let's do. We've got ten more minutes.
[00:35:15] We've got 10 minutes before I get to that. Okay.
[00:35:19] Yeah, you blast it.
[00:35:20] I do have one thing. I do have one thing that I think is really, really important, really, really important to me, the biggest takeaway of the book. And we'll.
[00:35:28] Talk about that after the.
[00:35:29] Break. And maybe.
[00:35:30] We don't have.
[00:35:30] A finish. Yeah, maybe we could finish that quote because I love that quote. So this is what's called the pleasure pain balance. And this is what really wreaks havoc for people when it comes to addiction. So if you look at addiction on kind of a spectrum, being like on the one hand, people that are maybe lightly addicted and on the far left hand, far end of the spectrum, people that are horribly addicted, it's all related to this pain, pleasure balance. So do they even have seesaws at Parks anymore?
[00:36:02] I feel like they would probably be litigation magnet. Okay. Yeah.
[00:36:06] All right. So you know what this is? Yeah. So anybody that's old enough to know what a seesaw is, it's like a balance, and there's like a fulcrum. There's a piece in the middle, and then there's the people on each side, and you go kind of up and down. So our pain and pleasure centers in our brain are overlap. They overlap. And so what I mean by that is same structures that moderate pain, many of those structures also moderate pleasure. And they seem to have kind of it's not completely perfect but but kind of an oppositional force between the two of them. And that was discovered in the 1970s by Richard Solomon and John Corbett. And it's the it's reciprocal relationships is what they call it. And so if you think of a seesaw and you have one person on one side and let's say that that's pleasure, you have one person on the other side, and let's say that's pain. When pleasure goes up, pain goes down. Now we all know. Maybe we don't all know, but our body likes to work in, like, homeostasis, meaning it tries to level everything out. So once pleasure goes up, eventually pleasure is going to have to come back down.
[00:37:14] So that's okay. That's interesting. The problem is, look at the other side of this, which is pain. So pleasure goes down. What happens? The pain. Pain goes up and goes up.
[00:37:24] So then we want to get back to pleasure.
[00:37:26] Right. And that's ultimately that's really the issue of why it's such a problem with addiction, because at some point, while you're chasing pleasure, chasing, pleasure, chasing pleasure, you're very aware of the fact that when you're not getting pleasure, you're feeling pain. So the irony in all of this, when you look at if you were to look at the brain, a brain scan of somebody that has severe addiction, and you would just specifically focus on their dopamine centers, they're not working. So if you look at the dopamine center of somebody that's not addicted and give them something that's that drives their dopamine, you'll see this big release of dopamine do the same thing for someone's heavily addicted and they get almost nothing.
[00:38:07] So what? Where is that? That part where? Because they've been using the substance for so long, but then it lacks that novelty.
[00:38:14] Right. And that. Well, that's part of it. That's part of it. It's probably the best thing to connect it to is the idea of tolerance. So the more of anything you consume, the more you need in order to get the same effect. Yeah. So when you're addicted and a lot of people are not just addicted to one thing, it might be heroin, it might also be sex, it might also be food. It might all. The list goes on and on and on, and someone might do their drug of choice. And then when they're done, they go do something else. And then when they're done, they're go do something else. But what they're really doing is every time the pleasure part starts dropping and the pain starts coming up, that discomfort is causing them to go find something else in order to to alleviate that.
[00:38:59] Instead of to sit with that pain and notice it and make room for it. And they just don't want to. So we go back to especially now in a world of where you don't have to because it is so easy to turn to anything, fill in the blank. I make the jokes of my ultrarunning being a socially acceptable addiction, but it plays with this because why not stop at a5k or. I used to think I would have loved to have stopped at a half marathon because at least you can have your whole afternoon free instead of going to 100 mile race or 24 hour event. Yeah. Want more of that dopamine. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:39:31] So I do think it's important to to throw this out there. Brain scans, according to Dr. Lemke, indicated that at about two weeks sober. So you haven't done anything, there's still a dopamine deficiency. So those areas are not dropping it for weeks. Seems to be when the brain starts to be working better. Wow. And that's when people can start to enjoy the little things.
[00:39:54] And so that the idea of dopamine fasting.
[00:39:57] Yeah yeah. So in in this case, because there's so many things that can drop dopamine consistently and again, some of these things you can't do anything about because they're a surprise if you open your wallet and there's an extra 100 there.
[00:40:09] And you're trying to do a dopamine fast, you don't beat yourself up.
[00:40:11] Yeah. And the interesting thing is, if a drug addict or somebody that's really addicted to gambling or something found an extra hundred dollars, like they get a dopamine spike because their brain is like, oh, you could go get some extra. Yeah.
[00:40:22] So if somebody is doing something like that, it's not that one is trying to eliminate all dopamine, but it might be restricting their time with devices or that sort of thing.
[00:40:30] Right? So what we're trying to do is avoid kind of artificial dopamine bumps and eventually that's that that seesaw, that balance will stabilize and pleasure and pain will be at equilibrium. And then things that would give you pleasure in a normal environment like sunrises or a song or poetry or something like that, that actually starts to hit a little bit. So you can feel that, Oh, okay, now little hits are fine because small movement on pleasure equals small movement on pain. So the pain is just it's just a little bit of discomfort. You may not even notice. It's just the over and over and over. So one of the things that she said that I thought was really amazing was the constant pursuit of pleasure leads to anhedonia, which is the inability to feel pleasure. Wow. So the more we chase it, the harder it becomes to actually grab it, to get a hold of it, the less pleasure we actually feel.
[00:41:21] So talk about I mean, the anhedonia is I've had a couple of clients that that's what we've been working with and that is just an absolute state of flat, flat, flat affect. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:41:30] It's well, it's anhedonia is specific to the ability to not feel pleasure. So you just don't, you don't feel any pleasure in life. So some people might maybe compare it to Dysthymia, which is, I believe it's called now person depressive disorder.
[00:41:45] And so it's not that you're super depressed, but you just nothing really feels good.
[00:41:51] So it's interesting just looking up. I'd had some notes on Anhedonia and I love that you're bringing that up because it says Lack of pleasure can have causes that aren't due to an underlying disease. Examples include overwork, recent tragedy, financial problems. Boring activities. I remembered seeing that in this definition. And now, boy, so boring activity is leading to a state of anhedonia. Then the brain is going to say, Oh, I would like some dopamine, please. And what's what's the quickest release of dopamine? What would it be? Did she talk about that?
[00:42:16] Not really. Quickest, she talks about some things that, like how they hit amphetamine seems to be the the big boy. I mean, amphetamine. You want to talk about a big hit and that's four times more powerful than cocaine. And cocaine is known to be incredibly powerful to our dopamine system.
[00:42:32] It's interesting. And again, this is going off the path and I know we're running out of time, but I was talking with someone about why when people take antidepressants at at times they can put on weight. And this person was talking about how that it's that balance between dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. So if SSRI antidepressant is going to affect one's serotonin, then they're going to have a dopamine deficiency. And then the quickest way to get this dopamine is sugary snacks and food. And that would then be even more of a draw when we're over here regulating serotonin. It does make you wonder if you have video games, screens, sugary snacks and foods. That, boy, just the world is just full of these opportunities to get that dopamine bump.
[00:43:10] Right. Right. And it's quite a challenge as adults, we in our house, we restrict the kinds of foods they eat because we notice the effect on their behavior. Now, my son, he gets maybe an hour of Xbox a day because anything more than that, he comes off and he's throwing things at people and he's being mean to people. He's clearly not okay inside. He's no longer being like he doesn't get any more dopamine and now he's feeling discomfort and pain and he's spewing it all over in the house. We have to put limits on them because as we know, children aren't always aware of what kind of limits are appropriate.
[00:43:43] Aren't always? Are never. I know. Usually all or nothing.
[00:43:47] Yeah. So I want to I did want to get to that quote because I know that we need to wrap this up. So I really, really like this quote because it's it makes a lot of sense to me and I think it ties everything together for us. So she says our brains are not evolved for this world of plenty, as Dr. Tom Finucane I'm probably saying that wrong, who studies diabetes in the setting of chronic sedentary feeding said and this is his quote Inside of hers we are cacti in the rainforest in quote back to her quote and like cacti adapted to an arid climate, we are drowning in dopamine.
[00:44:23] So does that say to you naked?
[00:44:25] Phagosome I think what it says to me is the pursuit of dopamine. Dopamine activities that stimulate our dopamine system are easy to do, especially for probably somebody like you and I have a doping deficiency. And so we're chasing dopamine if we can. The more we do that, the more we end up putting ourselves in into a deficient state, meaning it's harder and harder and harder to get dopamine from smaller things in the past would be great for people. Like a walk.
[00:44:57] Yeah. Okay. And I love that cause I was about to say, boy, take away maybe for people listening is if they're saying what can I do? I think just be aware and try to notice when you are turning to a device on my screen, time on my phone, I have that turned on just for myself. It logs it and it even tells you how many times you just pick up your phone. Really? Yeah. Has pick ups and I've been trying to just be aware of times where I would just impulsively just pick it up and try not to just bring a little bit of awareness to that. And then I like that you mentioned a walk because I feel like one of the best things that we can do is try to get out in nature outside without a device. And I feel like I've always said, well, no, I like audiobooks, I like podcasts and I'm learning, and this is stuff that I really enjoy. But I have noticed that if I continually just have that constant chatter or something happening, that I probably am just feeding into this constant dopamine right imbalance of sorts as well, where we just need to go out there and just take a little time and just be yeah.
[00:45:50] Sit with our sit with our discomfort. That's how we reach homeostasis and that's how we reach a happier place. Know that's everything in moderation.
[00:45:57] Yeah, I know that's true. But, man, that one sounds hard. It really is right now. Christian said book club. Let's do this.
[00:46:02] Regularly. I like.
[00:46:03] It. Nate has a podcast working change. Please go check that out. And you, you've open up your schedule a little bit, right? So you have a little bit of room. Yeah. So I would say that's very unique and rare because I know that you had some things shift in your ability or availability, take advantage of that quickly because good mental health professionals are hard to find. And Nate is absolutely a good mental health professional. So you can reach out to him. You can go through my contact form or at Tony Overbay or it's Nate Christiansen counseling.
[00:46:32] At gmail.com, yes. And I can't wait to do this again. I want to get your wife on the virtual couch. So we're just throwing that out there. That's out there and then taking us away, as per usual, the wonderful, the talented Florence with her son. It's wonderful. We'll see you next time on the virtual couch.
[00:46:49] Compressed air motions flying past. Start heading out the other end. The pressures of the daily grind. It's wonderful. And that's the question. Rob Ghost I'm floating past the midnight hour. They push aside the things that matter.
[00:47:09] Most to the world. Takes up all my time. To. It was.
[00:47:49] Citing news of discount price. A million opportunities. But chance is yours to take or lose. It's worth. Always on the back burner until the opportune time. You're always pushed to go farther. Shut up.
[00:48:16] It goes by. And so I'll take.