Simple rules for hacking programmed people

Translation of an article from the microblog of biohacker Serge Fage.

A person has programmed patterns of behavior that are always triggered by the same mechanical, linear method. The so-called "craving" (eng. – cravings) – things and activities that I really want to start doing at certain points in time.

I would like this to not happen to me. Therefore, I spent a lot of time to carefully study how these software patterns run and developed approaches that will help rewrite them.

At the moment, I was able to abandon social networks, stopped arguing with people on the Internet, play poker. Now I'm close to cranking the same thing with sugar, Netflix, and video games.

Why hack yourself

There are tons of articles on how Instagram / Facebook hack us and make us addicted. Usually people come across such statements with active denial, despite irrefutable evidence.

A more constructive approach is to accept reality as it is. And accept ourselves as we are – biorobots with a set of programs. After this adoption, you need to find ways to monitor the launch and execution of programs. And then hack yourself for the sake of your own goals.

“Passionate desires” are not healthier than sugar

“Passionate desires” are programs that run at certain (objectively inappropriate) times and become so desired that it is difficult to resist. I think that a similar concept is “addiction”.

Now in my life there are 3 things from the “longing” category: I want to eat sugar, watch Netflix and play video games. This only happens to me in the evenings, when willpower weakens and certain triggers begin to influence me.

Why I want to get rid of these three desires:

  • Sugar is harmful in any quantity. For many reasons. This is an indisputable fact in the modern world. Just like "smoking kills."
  • Netflix / video games still take me 1-2 hours a day, which I would like to spend on more useful types of recreation: time with friends, meditation, reading, sleeping, listening to podcasts, visiting the SPA center. If I can permanently replace the first with the second, this will be a great victory over myself.

I like the very idea of ​​personal growth globally. I would like to be able to refactor my behavior programs and change myself. And so that it was given to me easily and simply. It is obvious to me that the ability to refactor one’s habits is a muscle. And any (practically) muscle can be pumped.

Therefore, every time I change one habit, second-order benefits appear – changing every next habit becomes easier and easier. And this is extremely important.

Symptoms of running the program

My “craving” is a consistent, accurate program. They are always executed according to one scenario:

  1. The presence of a trigger that launches the program. In my case, they are very simple: dinner, rest before bedtime or the fact of returning home in the evening.
  2. Imagination of the physical embodiment of my “passionate desires”. My mind begins to build scenarios, as I go and order dessert, download Steam and play games. This, apparently, is a hallmark of any desires. For example, if I meditate for a long time, I begin to fantasize about how I get up and blush with pain in my legs. I discussed this with my therapist. This seems to be a very common way to run such programs. At this time, the motor centers of the brain are turned on, which send a signal to the body so that it performs the program physically.
  3. Coming up with an explanation of why I should do this. For example, “I’m now in a restaurant that has a Michelin star, I can eat a unique dessert here that isn’t anywhere else” or “I just trained for two hours in the gym, my glycogen reserves are depleted, Peter Attia says that sugar in such cases it is less harmful because it does not stay in the blood and is quickly absorbed into the muscles / liver, so I have to eat it now ”or“ my ingenious co-founder plays video games! Damn, Ilon Musk plays video games, I want to be like this guy, so I have to play them! ”It's funny to watch how our mind can search for rational explanations for anything.

    If you read such highly recommended books as The Elephant in the Head: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, The Hypothesis of Happiness, or The Righteous Mind, you know that we damn it all the time. First, we decide which one we want to get the total. Then we look for arguments in support of it. At these moments, we think that we are rational independent thinkers. But in reality – we are robots that execute biased biased programs.

  4. Feeling of acute emotional irritation in response to arguments against following “passionate desires”. I feel upset at the very thought that after a two-hour training session in the gym I will not allow myself to see Rick and Morty. It's only 20 minutes! (although, of course, this never ends in 20 minutes).

Whether the program of “passionate desires” starts today is highly dependent on whether you succumbed to the temptation the day before. I myself have periods of long abstinence and subsequent relapses.

If over the past few days I succumbed to “passionate desires”, then their influence is very great, and they win. Except when there is a strong external factor that helps to resist.

If over the past few days I was able to abstain, then the program of "passionate desires" weaken or disappear. Until some strong external factor forces me to give up and slide into relapse.

As a result, I usually have weeks of relapse mixed with weeks of abstinence.

Switching factors from light to dark and vice versa

Things that make me go back to fulfilling “passionate desire” programs:

  • Factors depleting willpower. Stress, nervous breakdown, illness.
  • Powerful situational signals. For example, I am in an amazing restaurant with a unique dessert, and this becomes a reason for relapse.

Things that make me resist and help start a new strip of ignorance of the programs of “passionate desires”:

  • Powerful situational signals (again). For example, I just spent time with my grandmother (who, unfortunately, has Alzheimer's disease), and also talked with my doctor that sugar seems to be the main contributing factor to Alzheimer's. Or I read this very complex, but wonderful article about the destruction of willpower. She convincingly proves that if you decide to eat sugar today, then you will make this choice day after day again and again. And also your willpower will weaken in all other aspects of life. What I find really damn unacceptable.
  • Meditation. Just watching “craving” for 5 minutes makes it disappear. Although at the very beginning of meditation, craving seems eternal and extremely important. But then she just disappears.

So what is the conclusion from all this? What can you do to hack your “passionate desires”?

My most successful hack case is giving up social networks.

I couldn’t live without Facebook before. But I fixed it by banning it myself for a long time. Edited the Mac hosts file, changed the password for the profile and two-factor authentication and transferred them to other people, deleted the application from the phone, etc.

During the first two weeks it was painful (almost physically). I constantly started typing Facebook in the browser and was furious when it did not load. I also just did not know where to put all this free time that I now had.

After a year of deprivation, I no longer felt any attachment to Facebook. This also applies to Instagram.

I used a similar set of hacks to reduce my reactivity to disputes with people on the Internet and in the comments on my articles. I feel better. I also hacked my addiction to online poker.

Six steps to hacking

You must observe yourself and notice the repeating patterns in your behavior. They may be different from mine. But they definitely are.

Once again: you are a programmed biorobot created by evolution. You just run programs. You can be hacked. Accept the reality of who you are. You have to hack yourself to get what you want.

For patterns of behavior patterns like mine, the following techniques work:

  1. Eliminate triggers that can be eliminated. The screen on my phone minimizes bad triggers (instant messengers, instagrams, etc.) and maximizes good triggers (books, podcasts). Unfortunately, you cannot just filter out the world for sugar.
  2. Learn how to track the start of a craving program. This is the most obvious thing you can do. Meditate on desire for 5 minutes as soon as the first symptoms appear. It will pass by itself.
  3. Create artificial barriers to combat “passionate desires.” Delete accounts, delete games, ask hotels to remove sweets from your rooms, forbid yourself to visit online casinos.
  4. Use observation of past situational behavior as a guide to future behavior. If you try to simply rationalize your current state and move on to the future, then you will fail completely. Do not deny reality, your brain executes its programs and fantasizes that it is an independent volitional entity.
  5. Observe which signals cause resistance. Surround yourself with these signals. An example of a crazy idea: hang some pictures of cancer cells in the kitchen with an article on the Warburg effect (it says that sugar predominantly feeds cancer cells).
  6. Recognize situations leading to relapse. Try to preventively prevent them. If you take the Michelin restaurant example as a basis, tell the waiter and those with whom you came: “Do not bring me bread. And I don’t eat sugar, so please replace my dessert with cheese / nuts / berries. ” If you give up later, the waiter and your friends will see that you are a moron and a weak hypocrite. This is usually a powerful motivator to not give up.

There are many advantages to learning how to refactor and rewrite your programs.
I wish you happy growth and self-development, comrades biorobots!

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