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Wanting and Not Having

Ep #49

Wanting and Not Having

It’s easier to have affairs than not have affairs. Just like it’s easier to eat the food, binge watch the show, stream the porn, and spend the money, than it is not to. The brain doesn’t want to do the hard thing; it wants to avoid discomfort. That’s just how the brain is wired.

Renegades, I’m not judging having affairs as a good or bad thing. Some of you will say having an affair makes you a better spouse. Others will strongly disagree with that notion. What I wonder is whether having an affair or not having an affair makes you evolve more.

In today’s show, I’m sharing some of the arguments for having an affair, and some of the reasons to consider wanting and not having. When you indulge in horizontal renewal, your vertical renewal and path to your essential self suffers. We all love a quick hit of dopamine, but sometimes doing the harder thing is what leads to more growth.

What You Will Discover:

  • Why I don’t judge affairs or the people that have them.
  • How denying your animal instincts can make you grow.
  • The reason we have affairs.
  • The difference between horizontal and vertical renewal.
  • How to narrate the passage of an urge moving through your body.

Resources Mentioned:

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I was talking to a friend recently who was telling me about a lunch he had just left with a group of friends. They had been discussing their extramarital lovers and how, by having one, they felt like they were better partners in their relationships. That this added relationship fulfills them and their needs making room for them to show up at home and be the partner their spouse needs. They feel more present. Less likely to care if and when the nagging starts. Not my words.

My friend, who doesn’t have affairs, said that he could see himself not passing up 24 hours of passion with someone if the option revealed itself, because he didn’t want a life of regret.

I asked him if he really thought that that was something that would cross his mind during his final breaths? Because he just isn’t that person.

I said your friends, their affairs, listen I get it and they can wax justification all day, but it’s so unoriginal and textbook. They aren’t actually doing anything that isn’t evolutionary pre-disposed. Meaning, we are animals. We are wired to mate. To desire. To want. To act on impulse.

To not have an affair is actually overriding your baseline programming.

You are evolving yourself as a species when you don’t give into these urges. By denying your animal instincts and hardwiring, you level up so to speak. You grow. You learn how to manage your impulses and feel into the discomfort of your urges. Believe it or not, it’s easier to have affairs than not to. Humans are designed to seek pleasure, avoid discomfort and be efficient.
For the record, I’m not judging the affairs as good or bad, Renegades. And I’m not suggesting that what the people are experiencing together isn’t evolving them.
Stay with me.

On last week’s episode I talked about chasing our goals and accomplishments not because we think life will be better or we won’t be bored or that we will finally fill this bottomless tank of desire, but because we want to.
Because we know that we will evolve in the process.
Because we know we are up for the challenge.
Because we know we can do hard things.

We learn to enjoy the foreplay more than the climax.

However, your brain doesn’t want to do the hard things. The unknown things. The uncomfortable things. That all sounds very dangerous to your brain. And requires effort. Your brain wants to be efficient.

Choosing to reignite a passionless marriage sounds daunting and impossible. Unlike an affair that brings an immediate newness you can’t get after knowing someone.

To reach for the drink at 5 o clock is easy vs putting on those running shoes and pounding the pavement. There is no immediate result from running and a ton of mental effort required just to get out the door.

Scrolling and surfing Instagram requires zero mental effort unlike reading a book or taking up a new language. Your brain rather run on auto-pilot.

Having an uncomfortable conversation with a friend, you know what? We should spend the afternoon shopping or eating a pint of ice cream.

Think about it; Netflix, porn, shopping, eating, drinking, social media, work; all of these activities give our brain a flood of dopamine making it think it’s accomplishing something or make you feel better in the moment.

These things won’t actually ever fulfill us, though. The most fascinating part is that after you get the dopamine hit, your brain feels rewarded BUT it doesn’t associate the negative outcome associated to it. Like a hangover. Credit card debt. Or losing 8 hours binging a series and not working and feeling remorse.
It’s not like putting your hand on a hot stove. Which is why people go back. It remembers the quick high.

Your brain wants to feel good. And we live in a world where you can have access to feel good as fast as I can read this sentence.

Have you seen social dilemma? Talk about feeling played. These mother fuckers are 100% working with the brain make-up to get you hooked. Like slot machines and gambling. The desire to check your email and messages over and over. To see how many likes. It’s a concentrated blast of dopamine without any actual reward.

Which brings me to this; the reason we have affairs or drink too much or over work is because we are trying to avoid a feeling of discomfort. Perhaps you are bored in your marriage. Or don’t know what to do with yourself after 5. You don’t know how to be with yourself and as being human would have it, you feel entitled to being happy and content all the time and your brain knows the fastest route to get you there; There’s this saying… If it’s not a man, it’s a martini. If it’s not a martini it’s a MasterCard. If it’s not a MasterCard, it’s a muffin.

If you are letting your brain run the program you will stuff whatever you can into any orifice to fill up this bottomless tank of need and attention. As animals driven by dopamine - the reward prediction error- we find ourselves going for the insatiable activity list that never satisfy.
This is called horizontal renewal, Renegades.

This is horizontal renewal also known as instant gratification.

Horizontal renewal is where, when struck with boredom you try and distract yourself; affairs, drinking, work, cars, shopping- all in an attempt to fill yourself up.

You will continue to find yourself bored with these things and the chase is back on.

Horizontal renewal tends to have you desiring all the things that have proven to turn into addiction.

Horizontal renewal, if you picture it as a posture is lying down. Dead. This is a life where you survive.

Now, my friend that I was talking with is someone who, rather than being driven by his impulses -and though he tried to romanticize a 24 hour affair- has learned the art of channeling that energy into things that will give him long term benefits. Vertical Renewal. Delayed gratification.
Rather than succumbing to your boredom, you go in and discover your desires that are below the surface. You awaken the life that’s within you and reveal your essential self. You are okay with feeling the discomfort that comes with life. You aren’t afraid to feel. Vertical renewal, unlike horizontal is upright. Alive and thriving.

Learning to access vertical renewal evolves the human programming. Your animalistic qualities to act on impulse and urge.

What I will say to those of you who say you are a better partner because of your affairs is this:

It’s not the affair, but what you are thinking and making it mean about you and your relationships.
And how do we know it’s your thinking and not the affair?

Because I imagine if you asked your partner that you are cheating on what they thought of your affair and whether or not it made you a better partner in your marriage they would have different thoughts.

This is what I mean by circumstances are neutral until you and everyone else has a thought about it. In some cultures affairs are considered normal and acceptable. In France, it’s common. In America not so much. People feel the need to hide and lie about them. There is a common belief that men can have them, but the women who do are whores. All thoughts. Not facts. Affairs are neutral. Until you have a thought about them.

I’m not judging the drinking or affairs or surfing the gram. I’m not saying don’t do them. The best part about being an adult is you get to make your own choices; just be clear on why you are choosing them. Is it because you are mindlessly showing up and reacting to your impulses? Or are you conscious of the decisions and in choice. Can you own your choices or are you blaming your partner for your affairs? Or your friends for your drinking? Or your drinking for your behavior. I was once guilty of blaming my ex-husband for my affair. And my drinking for my affair. I never would have done those things if they hadn’t been fill in the blank. After being sober for a number of years I learned a lot about myself including I’ll do a lot of things because that’s how I learned to cope and how I handled my stress. No one made me. Not even the alcohol. That’s the way I dealt with life before. By taking zero responsibility for my actions and blaming everyone around me. He died. We moved. You’re not making enough money. It must have been the alcohol.

Now I recognize that that is part of who I am. Owning that and my decisions, knowing I wasn’t a victim and taking responsibility for my actions has, in turn taught me why I did those things.
I also see how I was reaching for things to get my highs in life. I was so unhappy. And the answer seemed at the time. This person who I feel passion and love for. It seems so real. I can’t even tell you when I look back now and see myself and how I was behaving. It was like I was on drugs. That is horizontal renewal. I wasn’t able to use my voice and go to my husband with that or to not have the drink and just be present with what I was feeling. I looked for all the other ways to feel better.

It has taken me some time, but I have learned that vertical renewal is the hot spot. I try to choose the highs that challenge me, take time and keep me growing. It’s how I’ve learned to overcome myself and old way of being. Running long distances. Learning to cook. Listening to French. I’ve been working my ass off to stop picking up my phone every 3 minutes. I really don’t know who or what I’m trying to find out from it, but I see myself in the horizontal loop, if you will. One of these days I’ll realize the answer I’m looking for is somewhere within. Until then, I celebrate the tiny victories. I celebrate having and enjoying one glass of wine. Taking my time with a series. Passing up tv to read. Producing podcasts episodes each week. Um, hello. Next week will be 50, Renegades. Huge victory in my mind. That’s what fills me up these days.

What about you? In what areas are you living in that horizontal renewal and what areas are you vertical? Spend some time this week consciously thinking about it and witnessing yourself wanting to pick up your phone or have a drink or eat the cupcake. Narrate the experience of an urge passing through your body and sit with it for a minute. If you’re like me, you’ll witness a teenage rebel who acts like her parents left for the weekend. She’s like, what? We are in charge now. You can totally have all the things. What’s the big deal. Yolo bitches. Or I’m like a toddler throwing a fit that I can’t do what I want. But that’s just me.

Why don’t you head on over to my comments and tell me how you respond to wanting and not having?

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