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Treat your Brain Gently: Delight vs. Addiction

Brain illustration with ideas floating around

[Originally published as There is a Hook in That Worm]

Let your moderation be known unto all men. Philippians 4:5

God designed me to taste and see that things are good and pleasant, then desire them again in his time, and in moderation.

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First comes curiosity from watching others, then comes tasting, and—when it is pleasant—dopamine is released, which primes the desire for more.

This is great if I taste according to God’s plans and instructions such as

  • To first to desire his kingdom and his righteousness.
  • To live for him and enjoy the pleasure that he allows but not to love the pleasure more than I love him.
  • To hold all pleasures in an open hand so that if he takes it away then I am fine with that.

The Lord gives and the Lord takes blessed be the name of the Lord. Job1:21

When I follow these rules the pleasure I experience will not use up all my dopamine or burn out my dopamine receptors, so that I can continue to enjoy and be rewarded all of my life, or give it up and move on as God leads.

God did not design the desire center to fade once primed, even if the reward fades. Why should He? My Designer is not obliged to provide me with a brain that compensates for misuse. I need to be careful what I program into it and how intensely I indulge my desires.

When I overuse my pleasure sensors it will cause the reward center to fade and eventually be gone. At the same time my desire center stays as strong as ever.

This leads to the misery of knowing that even if I indulge, I will feel no joy—but still I long for it, plot to get it, and try ever more intense experiences, which only burn it out more.

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Don’t I realize that I will become a slave to what I indulge in either to addictions that kill or to godliness that leads to sustained life (Romans 6:16)?

In short, I have chewed down on God’s good worm and found a hook, then the devil takes off the delicious worm and laughs at me chomping on the hook hoping to regain the original taste of the worm.

THE WIGGLE WORM by Verle Bell

I was a fish a-swimming in the sea

I didn’t think that anyone was fishing after me.

“Don’t bite the wiggle worm”, my mama said to me

But I went on eating them, as happy as can be.

Oh the taste of the wiggle worm is mighty fine,

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But in the middle is a hook attached to a line.

The other day I bit a worm, Oh my the pain!

I will never bite a wiggle worm again.

I was a-splishing and a-splashing and a-thrashing about

The fisherman was just about to reel me out

The fisherman was fishing where he shouldn’t be

The fisherman was hoping the warden wouldn’t see

The warden heard the splashing that was coming from me

He caught the man and cut the line and set me free!

Wiggle worms are simply off the menu for me

Even if I live to be a hundred and three.

Written by Verle Bell M.D.

Verle Bell M.D. is a practicing psychiatrist deeply conscious of the brilliant design Jesus Christ built into the human psyche. Besides holding the role of senior pastor for several years he has been a follower of the biblical creation movement for decades. You can find his thoughts on the Bible, mental health, and living as Jesus' disciples at VerleBellMD.com

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