Monday, May 25, 2009

brain chemistry

Have you ever wondered why the job of 'mercenary' exists?  A private soldier?  What would possess someone to travel the world in search of wars to fight?  Should they not prefer to be unemployed?

I'm fairly sure an addiction to danger is biochemically similar to a heroin addiction.  Are you surprised by that?  Excitement causes the release of hormones and neurotransmitters that produce a sweet, sweet chemical 'high' in our simple little brains.  There's nothing you or I can do to stop it. But can we actually become truly 'addicted' to your own brain-chemicals?  I don't see why not. These neurotransmitters are not too structurally different from opiates like heroin.  Incidentally, excercise releases plenty brain-chemicals as well.  Many people become 'addicted' to excercise. What happens when such a person stops?  Do they suffer withdrawal symptons?  Perhaps deep depression.  I think they can.  I've just read a book called 'Warrior Brothers' about an Australian SAS soldier  - turned private-security-contractor - turned civilian-husband-father-writer who understands very well that he should be happy in his current role but just can't seem shake that deep desire to be shot at by someone once again.  

I can not relate to any such ummm... danger-phelia.  I certainly don't have any desire to sky-dive or rock-climb like my younger brothers do.  I don't like heights, I don't watch horror movies, and I have no problem driving slow these days. Certainly, some people are more prone to addiction than others. And naturally these differences are both nurtured and 'natured'.  But I could probably also argue that every one of us is an addict to some degree?  I know that I have latched on to the occasional TV series, musician, or hobby like it's crack.  I wonder what is happening in my brain when an episode of LOST ends and I am powerless against pressing play on the next one?  But these are not real addictions are they?  They are temporary and I don't miss them when they're done.  On the other hand, I have been 'grounded' from the sport of volleyball for three months now after hurting my back, and I think you could question whether I have been acting like the same'ol chipper Jake that plays that silly game regularly.  Maybe this could indeed be called 'withdrawal'.  I don't know.  It certainly feels like there's something missing.  Wouldn't it be nice to be addicted to work? :) I'm sure some people are.  I guess it depends largely on the nature of your job.  And I suppose that brings me right back to... 'mercenary'.

Adrenaline addiction must be why the job of 'mercenary' exists.  I feel bad for this author an anyone else who puts themselves in harms way for the wrong reasons.  He tells some great stories.  He has returned from East-Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq unscathed despite the best efforts of armed rivals; a skilled and wise soldier but also a benefactor of no trivial amount of luck.  He writes about some of his close friends who were equally skilled but not as lucky.  And now the man is in his late thirties, safe at home with wife and three kids, studying and writing, and he can't seem to shake a strong urge to go back to Iraq.  I am sad for him.   He should be able to let it go.   Some of my laboratory chemistry can be a bit hazardous but it is surely nothing compared the potential outcomes of some of our 'brain chemistry'.

Enough ranting.  See ya.

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