Why it's so hard to resist an addiction
Thursday, August 22, 2019
I am reading a book about willpower right now, by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney. Baumeister is a researcher in social psychology.
First of all it is stated that willpower is one of the rare predictors for success. Children who are able to exert self-control at the age of four earn more money, have less illnesses, and less chances of getting incarcerated as adults than children who struggle with self-control.
I have only read the first few chapters so far, but one thing that strikes me is that the authors talk about 'ego depletion'. This means that if a person uses up a lot of 'willpower-energy' to suppress feelings or by making a lot of difficult decisions, they have little willpower left to keep working on a tough task - or to resist booze ,cigarettes and I assume, tempting food, too.
Emotions will be experienced much stronger if one has ego depletion.
It means, says the book, that a person who is trying to stop using an addictive substance, has TWO problems: they have less willpower due to suppressing their desire for the forbidden product, AND their emotions and that desire is much stronger than usual.
The willpower it takes to prevent oneself from giving in to the addiction, means the person will experience stronger feelings and desires, it is not just the need for the substance that is felt in a stronger way than usual, all events are felt in a more intense way.