Seeking Stimulation

I had this blog title idea in my head many moons ago. I was starting to collect, along with that title, some of the different forms of stimulation we seek. This began by considering internet addiction as a case of seeking stimulation, but I also recognised how my desire for a cup of coffee could be classed as the same. Then I came across a Youtube video of, let’s call him a dietitian, claiming that the majority of food is simply stimulation.

This kind of blew me away; it made sense to me because I can see how we can indeed survive largely on a simple food, take porridge as an example, along with water, for a very long time. It is my understanding that these things contain very little by the way of “stimulants”; I see porridge as a mass of carbohydrates – slow releasing energy that can fuel me on a bike ride – and water just hydrates us. If we add sugar to the porridge to sweeten it to our taste then we are adding a stimulant, sure the sugar contains energy too, but it is (or gives us the sensation of) quick-release energy. The same result is found by adding tea or coffee to the water.

To try and exist on such a diet as porridge and water makes me think of monks and hermits who dwell in desert caves; spending their days praying and reading holy scriptures; I must admit that I find such a lifestyle inspirational.

Then there is television. This was never really a problem as such for me, but I can remember when, at its height, I would find a lot of enjoyment (aka stimulation) from the shows I would watch, from sci-fi adventures to Australian soaps. Now I have weaned TV out of my life, in the traditional form at least.

Then along came the internet where similar and other forms of stimulation can all be found, with a lot more freedom of choice – no more cycling through only four or five channels; it’s a lot more easy to follow the inner cravings for some form of stimulation or another, without being consciously aware of it. These forms of stimulation can be in the form of music, which can cheer us up, or more. We can find ourselves in funny conversations and find ourselves stimulated by laughter (or stimulated enough to laugh). The effect of the visuals can stimulate us either my presenting us with something pleasing to look at, or simply the affect of having the light shined in our eyes late into the night to keep us awake/hinder sleep, to yes, sexually stimulating content. It seems the internet covers a lot of bases.

The cravings for stimulation can hit us subconsciously and because many of us are dialed into the internet almost 24/7 we are almost seamlessly able to follow up that inner craving with little in the way of conscious/self control; we quickly find ourselves in a self-perpetuating cycle. I think different people are affected by different degrees and everyone ranges in their awareness of it from no awareness, to very aware, although this doesn’t always have an impact on our self control.

For a long time I have blamed the internet, or my inability to maintain full control over how much time I spend online, for a sense of laziness. This began with my college years when I got my first computer, the first year went relatively well, but during the second year I began to feel overwhelmed and the internet presented itself as a type of escapism, and escape from what I should have been doing with my time, but it was far more stimulating than my college work. This is a similar habit I think to tidying the house rather than getting on with some mundane work or assignment. These days I often draw up lists of what I want to achieve each day but I know that if I sit myself at my computer I can easily blow a few hours online and get little else done.

And then along came a topic of books…

I was talking with someone (online) about book reading; she acknowledged how the internet had affected her ability to sit down and read a book to the point where she could no longer do it. She recalled the days before the internet when she could loose herself in a book for hours on end, late into the night. It made me consider my own book reading, but as I looked back I found my own experience was different; I’ve always “enjoyed” reading books, but I actually struggle to recall times when I’ve lost myself in a book, and these days I have to make a conscious effort to switch everything off and knuckle down, which I only seem to manage for the duration of a chapter. Perhaps it is the nature of the books I read. As a child I read some adventure stores, like those by Enid Blyton with the Fantastic Five and Secret Seven, and Arthur Ransom’s Swallow’s and Amazons and Coot Club. These days I read non-fiction, typically big hefty hardbacks like the current title I’m reading which is a 600-page monster about the Soviets and CIA in Afghanistan, and I see the problem: I don’t find this stimulating.

I find things interesting but not stimulating. I want to read such books because I want to learn stuff, or rather I want to absorb the content; I don’t feel like I learn well from the books I read, not to the point where I could finish a book and tell you with any confidence what it was all about. If they stimulated me then surely the outcome would be different.

Learning and stimulation are two key things that need to go hand-in-hand. I have learned this while I have been doing German language lessons on Memrise; firstly, when you’re tested on a word or phrase and you get it right, it is the stimulation within the brain that helps to lock that thing in place, secondly, if you’re not in a happy vibrant (and stimulated) mood then you aren’t in the right mental state to learn things; you can get annoyed or frustrated by repeatedly getting something wrong and you won’t help yourself, but feeling a buzz of excitement with the things you do remember; this will work wonders.

This is where my years of education went wrong. It seems I was rarely stimulated by a subject. Two of my best subjects were I.T. and Graphic Design; I found computers fascinating and I enjoyed things like being given two faces of an object and turning that, with pencil and paper, into a 3D model. Give me a list of French words to learn, some algebraic maths problem or the difference between a noun and an adjective and I’ll be quietly sobbing to myself… or planning the next phase of my den-building to take place once I get home and tell my mum “yes” to the answer “have you done your homework?”

I think this is why I read such… un-stimulating books; I’m trying to make up for the fact that I feel like I was a lazy kid and I wasted too much time not learning what I wish now that I had learned. The problem was that I wasn’t seen as a lazy kid, quite the opposite; I was always smartly dressed and politely-spoken student, and this seems to have masked the true underlying issue…


I can’t be lazy because when I look at the evidence I can claim the opposite, at least when I compare myself to others; I generally have a good sleeping routing, I sold my car and cycle everywhere (I cycled to Scotland for goodness sake), I’m self-employed and saved up for my own house, I do read books, I write here on my blog, I’m teaching myself German… how can I be lazy!?

I manage all these things whilst at the same time battling with what I consider to be internet addiction, or perhaps in the light of this topic it’s merely a case of stimulation seeking.

I know lazy people who stay in bed for half a day and have their mothers do their laundry and make them food. They play video games all day and watch endless TV.

What if my so-called internet addiction isn’t the root of the problem. What if the root of my problem (which can’t be laziness, surely) existed before the internet became a part of my life; what if I’ve had a mild form of ADD all along and no one knew because I made everyone think I was a smart-dressed and polite hard-working student? (Surely if it was a severe form then that would have been picked up while I was at school) I’m guessing it’s possible to be all these things yet suffer from ADD; there are a number of ADD Myths after all, as a quick internet search reveals.

The question now is, how can I feel stimulated by the things in my life that I want to do/achieve? Or perhaps I’m wanting to do/achieve the wrong things entirely!

I think the key is indeed in what stimulates us; it’s about avoiding or reducing the ‘harmful’ stimulants that we know don’t benefit us, managing them so we don’t constantly seek the effects of the wrong ones, by doing this I hope I will gradually feel the subtle stimulating effects of those calmer pursuits, the ones that are more fulfilling in the long-run. These harmful and distracting stimulants can be in the form of sugar and caffeine, music, internet, and sex. Coincidentally I turns out I have been gradually finding such things to have a bad effect on me; I have cut down on my sugar in-take over the years, I find one cup of coffee a day to be my limit, music to be distracting, and the internet to make me agitated. The worst thing I can probably do is to make a cup of coffee, put the radio on and log into Second Life… and that is one routine I have been in for a while! The advice is…

One thing at a time.

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