This Naked Mind

I recently read This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. There are many points in there that work very well with Alcohol Explained and some in particular that I think are worth specifically mentioning.

Firstly is the question of why it is difficult to limit our intake during any particular drinking session. In Alcohol Explained I explain how the relaxing effect of the alcohol does not dissipate leaving you feeling as you did before, but leaves behind it a corresponding feeling of anxiety that needs another drink to replace it. So the tendency, when you take a drink, is to keep drinking. I also explain that due to the discrepancy between the time it takes for the relaxing effect to wear off as opposed to the intoxicating effect, the tendency is to become increasingly drunk (the Chapters 2 and 5 that deal with these points can be found here).

This Naked Mind adds an additional layer to this. It points out the alcohol also affects our ability to make well thought out, rational decisions, specifically:

“The final change in your brain occurs within your prefrontal cortex. This is the part of your brain responsible for decision-making. It allows you to make well-thought-out decisions, exhibits self-control and prevent the more reptilian parts of your brain from running the show.”

So, to put it colloquially, when we are drinking we are far more likely to say “sod moderation I am just going to drink and ‘enjoy’ myself” as we are simply less able to make a decision based on rationality rather than base instinct. It is also the case that alcohol dulls our fear of the following day and our fear of the adverse effects of our drinking generally.

Secondly in Alcohol Explained I deal with why the concept of drinking to relieve stress is based on a fallacy. Essentially although the alcohol may dull down the stress in the short term, the effect of the drink very quickly wears off and so you end up not only back to where you were before you took the drink, but in fact worse off as you then have the alcohol withdrawal to contend with in addition to the original stress, so you then need another drink, and another, and another to keep relieving both the withdrawal and the original stress. So the net result is the original stress, alcohol withdrawal, a ruined night’s sleep, and most likely an actual hangover.

Again This Naked Mind adds an additional layer by pointing out that addiction overall is a much bigger stressor that the stressors you drank to remove. Addiction causes a mental divide in your mind (where part of you wants to drink and part of you wants to stop). This internal divide is known as ‘cognitive dissonance’ and is a major and ongoing cause of frustration and agitation.

Thirdly, in Alcohol Explained I deal with why the disease theory of alcoholism is harmful. By suggesting that if you are not ‘alcoholic’ you can drink with impunity and never have a problem, it gives free licence to partake in irresponsible drinking which then accelerates the process of addiction. This Naked Mind again adds another layer to this by pointing out that this concept also stigmatises ‘alcoholism’. No one wants to admit that there is something inherently wrong with them, such that they are incapable of controlling themselves when others can, so the natural tendency is for people to resist admitting they have a problem for as long as they possibly can. We, as a society, should not be in a position of saying ‘drink unless you admit you are one of the poor benighted few who are different to everyone else and have no self-control where alcohol is conerned’ but rather ‘you are on a road that becomes increasingly unpleasant as the illusions of pleasure are one by one exploded, feel free to do the wise thing and get off it as soon as you come to your senses’.

2 Comments

  1. Three very good points. With respect to decision making, I can especially relate to alcohol “dulling the fear of the following day”. Well put.

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  2. This is such a true statement – “sod moderation I am just going to drink and ‘enjoy’ myself”… or in Ireland we would say ‘ah to hell with it!’

    Great topic.

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