This week I have had several significant conversations with various groups of people in my life on topics that have come to the intersection of conscious choices and the influence of biochemistry on how we experience life. One conversation was about sexual orientation and other conversations were about physical addictions. Both sexual orientation and the dynamics of addiction have multiple influences, unique to each individual. However, the piece of the conversations that I came away lit up to write about in both of these life conditions is about awareness and appreciation for the raw power of biochemistry. Where an individual’s physiological biochemistry is in play, changing feelings and behaviors simply by conscious choice is highly unlikely without decisive training such as yogis practice. In many individual cases would be impossible changing behaviors fueled by biochemistry as a component takes support on multiple levels to change over time.. This means, for example, that for people whose sexual hormones are stacked significantly stronger toward same-sex attraction, trying to foster organic, honest feelings of heterosexuality would be a mighty and most likely losing battle. By this same token, when a person has become physically addicted to a substance, such as nicotine or any mind-altering chemical, trying to change the behavior by consciously deciding not to engage the substance, alone, is probably not going to happen long-term, without multi-level support. Why is that?
On the face of things, for someone who has never battled with something happening in their body that is not preferable, which actually applies to long-term depression for example, as well. It can seem almost impossible to really understand. But, taking a closer look at human experiences, we do actually all know what it is like when biochemistry is driving our feelings and actions, and we are powerless to stop it. I acknowledge, there is always the rare exception. However, if you have ever had a stout bout with a stomach virus, with throwing up and/or the runs, this will be where you find your understanding for what is in play for the vast majority of people who are living influenced by biochemical components in the conditions of their lives. For someone who is addicted to nicotine, suggesting that they should “just quit” is just like asking them not to throw up when the urge is pressing. It comes from the same level of systems in the body, where we no longer have conscious control. And, this of course, is just one example. This could be plugged in to any of the conditions in which biochemistry plays a role.
It is not that these influences make change hopeless or impossible, but awareness of this and understanding is principle to that paths of productive relationships and peace with each other and how we come to our choices.