The Chicken or The Egg or The Rooster or The Dopamine

I have been interested in neuroscience and psychology for as long as I can remember, largely due to growing up with a parent that despite being an exemplary human short-circuited from time to time.

Which is an understatement for the drama which ensued both for Mum and our family when this occurred.

I remember a doctor explaining it as a chemical problem. As a cure, Mum had electric shock therapy and also various medications to adjust the chemical imbalances which would leave her suffering from frightening delusions which then descended into a catatonic state.

Back then, mental illness and chemical instabilities were not discussed, nor sufferers treated with the same compassion and respect that they may receive today. Mum experienced a lot of shame and guilt.

It was difficult to watch her suffer both through her “episodes” and her subsequent low self esteem following a stint in hospital.

I find it terrifying that we live entirely dependent on a vague blob of circuits, chemicals, blood and tissue that can become damaged or unstable. To that end I try to keep my glob of grey matter as healthy as possible whilst still understanding that if it short circuits, like Mums, it’s not something I can control.

I was listening to a podcast this morning with Jordan Peterson and Andrew Huberman.

They were discussing how to beat the dopamine cycle. Dopamine is the chemical of “seeking” and I’m pretty sure I am high on it most of the time due to my insatiable curiosity.

It’s a nice feeling. I like dopamine, a lot. As do we all, animals love it too.

The conversation was fascinating (to me at least) as I find both these men compelling. Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist and professor, Andrew Huberman is a neuroscientist and professor. They are both at the top of their respective fields, and as a bonus, are able to teach and discuss their knowledge with others.

As humans we are such an interesting species. Capable of anything while simultaneously being capable of nothing if we so choose.

There is a bit of a chicken and the egg thing going on between emotion, thought, action, and somewhere in there – chemical reaction that then provokes a whirlpool of further emotion, thought, action, chemical reaction.

There are these layers of stuff we can see and feel, and stuff we have no control over. It goes back to that “only the tip of the iceberg being visible” in Monday’s post and the patterns of Karma post from last week that I’ve been pondering lately.

I have read books, and now with podcasts, listened to conversations with highly intelligent people who have given me amazing tools and yet, on any given moment, caught unawares, I still very easily behave like an absolute moron. And think like one too.

Jordan Peterson is a man that has so much knowledge on the mental state and whys and wherefores as to chemicals, actions, reactions and thought processes and the human being. Yet he suffered for years and still suffers, with clinical depression. Although he is out of the woods at the moment, he is fully aware that his mind can take a trip back inside the dark forest at anytime.

It is difficult to remain aware of everything when we live in a world that constantly swamps us with new tidal waves of experience and other people at any time.

It is also difficult to retain an even kilter when our own chemicals can turn against us. The experience that my own Mother went through probably couldn’t be prevented any other way then without balancing her chemicals through adding more to her system, but what about the rest of us who are roone to imbalances of a different kind.

So what is the solution? How can we maintain equilibrium in a world designed to constantly tilt us off our balance?

There is no one fits all solution, but there is one tool that is more multifit perhaps then most in the tool box.


Its impossible to stay in the state 24/7 but once we know of it, know where it is located, we can choose to step out of unconsciousness behaviour and enter it as often as we remember to. And practice makes the process more memorable

Meditation, journaling, time in nature, yoga, good nutrition (which is a minefield, and very much personal choice, but I’m going to say whole food heavy on plants because it works for me and I can only write from my experience) all these things increase awareness.

The more were can rest our attention in awareness, the easier life becomes.

Which isn’t new and there are hundreds of books including Ekhart Tolles seminal “the power of now” which discuss this

But with so many and so much sometimes it is difficult to find that multifunctional tool amongst the plethora in our toolbox.

Awareness is that key

At least for me

And there is that small bit of poetry at the end 😁 have a great day, plug into that podcast if you have the time and inclination to do so. I love neuroscience and psychology but to some it is like blah blah blah and I totally get that.

Have a top day regardless and a final reminder that we are complex emotional beasts driven by chemicals and reactions that lie deep beneath our surface. Let’s give ourselves a break and love ourselves no matter whether we blow a fuse over something inconsequential or not. All we can do is try, and return to a state of awareness and love as often as possible.

Thanks to Daniel Tuttle Unsplash for the header pic. It’s a rooster and eggs (rather than a hen or a chicken) but let’s face it – life is about as sensible as a rooster laying eggs sometimes. But we can still smile and chuckle at our yolks…okay stopping, promise 😂

15 thoughts on “The Chicken or The Egg or The Rooster or The Dopamine

  1. I’m trying all the things you mentioned for awareness and they are helping my dependancy on dopamine but I have to admit it still feels good when you get a boost of dopamine when something good happens. The feeling is addictive.

  2. Ok. Thank you. Noone up till you in that last paragraph has given me permission or forgiveness for the three times in the last few months I have sorta went apeshit. This is so outside the realm of likely scenario with me so I have not been able to accept it. But now that you basically said it was ok, I might be able to let it go. I don’t want to completely let it go though cause it’s obviously something I need to work on.

    • Pressure mounts at this time of year Erick – loving and forgiving yourself spent mean you don’t try to react differently next time, of course we should always strive to improve our reactions and response – it just means that we accept that the last time didn’t go well and try to do better next time. We cannot fix anything in the past but learn from it. That’s just my thoughts, I don’t know the scenario though. Take care 😊

  3. I was saddened to learn about your mother’s struggle with chemical imbalance. We humans believe that we are autonomous beings yet, as you correctly noted, [t]here are these layers of stuff we can see and feel, and stuff we have no control over.” I, too, believe that awareness is the key to maintaining our equilibrium.

  4. Hm, not sure if my post didn’t post or needs approval. But it’s too bad your mom dealt with so much. Ekhart is great–had my kids read him 15 years ago and of course Jordan is fabulous Will see if this one posts.

    • Both posted – I think all my comments wait for me to respond before they post – I’m just slow to do so because of the time difference and always outside and on the go in the mornings 🌅

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