Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rat trap vs. freedom

Last Wednesday at a women's gathering, we talked about Martha Beck's article on rats and freedom. Curious why some Vietnam vets just stopped drinking and using drugs when they came home, researchers worked with rats and learned that rats who feel trapped in small cages will overuse morphine-laced water until addiction but rats in large cages with lots of toys and not too many other rats not only didn't get addicted but the addicted ones cut back and eventually stopped.

While the women at the gathering aren't all addicts, like most Americans, we have compulsive and repetitive behaviors. So we worked through Beck's exercise: listing people, locations, activities, and situations that made us feel trapped, and then people, locations, activities, and situations that made us feel free. Not surprisingly, spouses fit both lists as did work. But after a very interesting and lively conversation, we began to circle back to a discussion from some months ago.

The thing that struck me in the Beck article was that the rats who were happy and engaged with their toys were the freeest of addiction. And so we recommitted, each of us, to creating a couple of hours of pure pleasure every day. Things done and enjoyed for their own sakes: from painting to listening to music, to walking the neighborhood, to reading a good novel. Each of us had our own list.

For me, two things have needed to happen. I schedule in the pleasure. I'm not particularly spontaneous and I could see myself at 10 pm with no pleasure in the day. So  now I'm writing on my novel for an hour first thing each morning. And I take time each afternoon to read or visit with a friend. And I am much happier for it.

The second thing is a little harder and will take some practice. I have to register the pleasure. I have to savor it and acknowledge it and maybe even report it. I have to be in the moment and in the pleasure. That's quite a change to work through.

1 comment:

AMADICE said...

First of all I,d like to apologize for my english. I,m spanish and I,ll try to express myself the best I can.
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