Sunday, August 5, 2012


A couple of years ago, I had to have some gut surgery.  The purpose was to remove parts of my colon that were badly pocked with side weaknesses that often got infected. The result was a short string of days of sharp pain.  Since I am aging, later for the surgery might be too late.  Afterwards, I haven't had any problems but I got to worrying.  What if I did develop some problems?  I can't give up more colon.

I saw a specialist.  He said he had no good answers but did say that some of his patients had had seeming assistance from taking capsules of good bugs.  He recommended the Culturelle capsules, over the counter one a day for 30 days.  Each capsule contains 10 billion good bugs.  That was the point, the specialist said.  Have so many good bugs in the gut, it was too crowded for anything else.

Picture a lawn, he said.  If the good green grass is really thick, there no foothold for weeds.  I did picture my lawn and got the idea.  That was my first awareness of overcrowding as a strategy.

I have been interested lately in the philosophical, definitional, scientific and medical differences and similarities between deep love or devotion, and addiction.  I have read of "internet addiction treatment camps" in China where I gather parents sometimes send their teenagers who seem to be hooked on the internet.  My wife sometimes says she fears I am so hooked.

What is "hooked"?  Is a young boy or girl who gets up at 5 AM every day to go to a rink or a gym to practice for the Olympics someday addicted?  Everyone seems to have tales to tell about teens, relatives, others who seem to always be paying attention to their smartphone.  A recent New Yorker cover showed a family arranged for a portrait photo at a vacation spot unable to look up at the camera instead of their smartphones.  Are they addicted?

I have seen the importance of habits, from early psychology studies by Pavlov and others on conditioning.  I started reading "The Power of Habit."  Clearly, addiction or habit, if I smoke but don't really want to, or drink or flirt or doff my cap in greeting, having a habit can get me into things I am trying to avoid.

The book opens with a dramatic example of a young woman on a bad downward slide: overweight, smoking, unable to hold a job or a relationship.  Charles Duhigg writes:

the conviction that she had to give up smoking to accomplish her goal— had touched off a series of changes that would ultimately radiate out to every part of her life. Over the next six months, she would replace smoking with jogging, and that, in turn, changed how she ate, worked, slept, saved money, scheduled her workdays, planned for the future, and so on. She would start running half-marathons, and then a marathon, go back to school, buy a house, and get engaged. Eventually she was recruited into the scientists' study, and when researchers began examining images of Lisa's brain, they saw something remarkable: One set of neurological patterns— her old habits— had been overridden by new patterns. They could still see the neural activity of her old behaviors, but those impulses were crowded out by new urges. As Lisa's habits changed, so had her brain.

Duhigg, Charles (2012-02-28). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Kindle Locations 98-104). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Again, the good so crowded out the other, there was no foothold for anything else.

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