Friday, 19 June 2009

motivation, or Wanting to do Stuff

I suppose this is really about motivation. Motivation is something I don't really understand. Sometimes you want to do something and sometimes you don't. There are things you yearn to do RIGHT NOW! This could be going on holiday somewhere gloriously warm and sunny, drinking a cool beer on a hot day or rushing off to bed with your lover. There are things which, if they were immediately accessable to you, you would have a hard time resisting.
Then there are other things you would rather not do, in fact, you would avoid if possible. Washing up, cleaning the toilet, perhaps even going to work: Tasks that make your spirit sink when you think of their imminent need for attention.
And in between is a whole spectrum of activities of differing levels of attractiveness.

Somewhere along the line from simple early eukaryote to human, the neural reward system developed. The ubiquitously hailed dopamine became the substance of choice for directing the behaviour of organisms. Oddly, it is required to make us eat, mate, even learn: When we encounter a new fact or experience, we get a tiny but pleasurable squish of dopamine to the receptors that tell us "That was GOOD!". Without it, it appears we would just not bother, which seems strange: Surely we need to eat and surely sex is so pleasurable that we would if we could? Actually, it seems not and this appears to be the reason for the existence of this reward mechanism.

So, on an experiential level, there seems to be a variability. Last weekend, i took my kayak to the sea. For so long have i languished here, in this office or working at my desk at home, dreaming about being in big clean, glassy waves, riding down and along in the salty sunshine and howling with the sheer joy of it. And last weekend, that is precisely what I did. At least for two days.
And on the third day, the surf was still good, but somehow, I just didnt want to any more. So, I went fishing instead.

Appetite, I can understand. I get hungry. I eat. My body produces a hormone called leptin which says " Ok, stop eating now. No need to eat any more. All the digestive buffers are now full to optimum capacity!" At this point, satisfaction is achieved and all is as it should be. (A fortuitous position to be in, I appreciate).

And then there is sex. When i was 14 I was, as gender, hormonal disposition and age dictated, overly preoccupied with sex. Its glory and mystery pevaded all my thoughts and many of my actions and it seemed the most exciting activity one could ever want to participate in.
Then when I was 35, I woke up one morning and found it was no more of interest to me. Admittedly, a huge grey cloud had settled over my mind which would take some years to dislodge fully, but sex was as interesting to me as the study of ancient mesopotamian trumpets, or the lifecycle of the woodworm. Something had happened on a psychological level, which had in turn produced a chemical and hence physiological effect. It was pretty wretched and I missed wanting it. But I didnt want it. I do now. Not quite to the 14 year old level, but still fairly insistently, which I am grateful for, though it frustrates the hell out of me on many many occasions!

Sometimes I dance. I love to dance. I cant wait for Tuesday evening when I can get my dancing shoes on, take to the floor and spin some ladies round and hop and wiggle my hips in time to the music. It gives me sometimes an almost spiritual lift.
But occasionally, I sit at the edge of the dance floor, looking into the melee of mostly in-time bodies, and feel I would rather be elsewhere. The glorious euphoria I know to be possible from this activity, is suddenly absent and it leaves me cold. Somewhere in an instant, the desire to do this evaporated leaving in its place a kind of desolate boredom or even repulsion. How does this happen?

So, what confuses me is, how one moment, one can want to do only one thing to the exclusion of all other passtimes - enthusiasm may overcome one and a kind of hot, happy itch is inside you until you get to do it - and in the next moment, a comment, a thought, an event can puncture the bubble of enthusiasm and all passion is suddenly dispersed, leaving only a flatness.

I pose these questions not particularly because I require immediate answers to them, but because in those moments, I WANT to desire to do those things. The removal of the imperative upsets and depresses me.
The sudden disappearance of motivation leaves me poorer and less happy.

If one could only find the key to what makes one really want to do a certain thing one moment, and then not particularly want to do it the next, how empowering that would be! I could get those tasks done that I put off for ever. I could get good at things I always intended to practise and never really could be bothered to, despite me intense desire for their end result.

Possibly too much introspection on this process is a bad thing. Perhaps it is again "Thinking TOo Much" which I have found to be disruptive, even destructive, in the past. ut when I am sat there feeling sorry for myself and everyone is having a good time gyrating to some groovy tune, I really would like to find some way to rejoin the party.

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