And why the success of Alcoholics Anonymous is based on the fact that it does!
In my last blog posting I described the recorded lecture series from Audible.com, which is also a book, called the Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal. I enjoyed it and much of what I heard I found interesting and, as I described in the last posting, very helpful in many ways.
Whatever her personal beliefs on spiritual matters are, she approaches this subject in these lectures as a pure scientist who observes what influences human behavior in order to help people have greater self-control. I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of her observations of general human behavior or her methods for controlling personal behavior based upon those observations. As I mentioned last time, much was consistent with traditional methods for controlling behavior. There were some insights that were new to me and when I tried them out myself they were very helpful in my self control.
However it was when she started to describe why we had these difficulties in the first place that I found myself less convinced.
If you remember, her assessment of the sort of problems in self control arose from an inner conflict. Part of us knows what is good for us in the long term but some people have a problem because they don’t have sufficient self control to live in accordance with what we know is good in the long term. This is because we are drawn to what will give us pleasure in the short term. So even thought the dieter knows he should eat healthily, he still can’t resist the cream cake when it is put in front of him.
All pretty reasonable so far.
But then she starts to give her reasons as to why she thinks that this conflict exists. She accounts for it in terms of evolution. She begins by assuming that in prehistoric man, all instincts would be in perfect harmony with each other, and with external circumstances. Because man had evolved to deal with his natural environment, she assumes, our emotions and instincts would work well for the sort of situation that prehistoric, precivilization man would have to deal with. When food is in short supply for example, it is important to eat as much as you can when it is available, she says. That instinct remains with us even though the situation has changed. Nowadays (Read More)