Addiction, Self-determination, Flow, Mindfulness, Culture, Emotional Intelligence, and Human Bonding


Addiction, Self-determination, Flow, Mindfulness, Culture, Emotional Intelligence, and Human Bonding

What are the components of addiction? why is addiction less desirable? and what aptitudes help us to avoid addiction?

“Let’s Turn the conversation towards Efficiency and Away from Morals”

The Psychobiological and Relational causes of undesired, addictive, and compulsory behavior:

Flow (peak experience) – Humans are most fulfilled when: Goals are clear, there is regular feedback concerning progress towards the goal, and you have the aptitudes necessary to make the challenge at the sweet spot between too hard (anxiety) and too easy (boredom).

  • Implications – Many electronic devices contain software that was developed to create a sense of flow. This creates a radical craving to engage with the software.


  • Solution – We need to ensure public access to ‘flow’ promoting activities that increase biological, relational, and existential wellness. Historically this includes extracurricular activities such as the arts and sport. Self-discipline with also be necessary – such as not having your cell phone at dinner or while on hikes etc.

Implicit System Conditioning – Most human emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are controlled by the implicit system. Our implicit system is evolutionarily older and significantly faster (more intelligent) then our intentional and rational explicit system. This system is adaptive – ex. you couldn’t drive a car with you explicit system.

It is very important to note that most interventions in the past have focused entirely on an explicit override of the implicit system – for example, we attempt to ‘rationalize’ away from a person’s automatic emotional response to stimuli. Unfortunately, this is not how the brain works (If I give you a rational explanation for why something ‘isn’t’ disgusting this will have no impact on your automatic disgust response).

  • Implication – Most of us have been primed to have automatic behavioral responses (towards a vice) in response to various emotions or environmental stimuli. example of stimuli that often lead to drinking: anxiety (emotion) or watching a sporting event (environmental).


  • Solution – We can set up our environments which allow a mindful reflection on our emotional and somatic realities so that we can our observe our desired impulses, emotions, and sensations with calm attention and without action. We then can learn to feel our feelings without reacting automatically to them. Increasing our ability to tolerate intense emotional experiences will have a positive impact on our ability to avoid the compulsory behavior.

Brain wiring and neurotransmitters – there is some overlap here with the implicit system. “What fires together wires together” Experiences that happen together can wire together – this creates predictable emotional reactions to stimuli and can create associates that are not necessarily rational. 

Neurotransmitters help to control our psychological wellness – deficits and surpluses create issues ranging from depression to mania to attention issues to psychosis etc. Adding substances to a developing mind (or a developed mind) can have unpredictable effects on our neural chemistry. Additionally, substances can impact the brain’s ability to properly uptake, release, and create neurotransmitters – which then leads to deficits or surpluses.

  • Implications – Substances such as ecstasy have been shown to dramatically impact the production of important neurotransmitters.
  • Solutions – Modeling and appropriate structure – We can ensure that we are modeling healthy relationships (including abstinence when necessary) with behaviors that can be unhealthy for our biology. We also should have regular access to nutritional items that promote a healthy biology and a sense of enjoyment.

Human Bonding and Attachment – Many vices (especially substances) impact or interact with the brain area responsible for human bonding and attachment. This means that instead of seeking out a secure relationship with another human – the substance is used (ineffectively) as the relational surrogate. This often leads to isolating behaviors – which leads to dysregulation and depression – which leads to more substance use.

  • Implications – Many people will use pot or alcohol as a means of feeling less lonely and dysregulated – though this can feel helpful in the start – the process can create a feedback loop which leads to exacerbated feelings of loneliness and dysregulation without the substance.
  • Solution – Emotionally significant/vulnerable and authentic connection. It is easier to use electronics or to engage in a substance than it is to be vulnerable enough to share your true self with another person. It is hard to remain open, empathetic and compassionate in front of a person who is suffering or who is offering their authentic self in a way that we don’t yet understand (Our impulse is generally to fix or to categorize). When we grow in our ability to stay present, honest, openminded, and compassionate, we naturally dissipate feeling of loneliness… in turn we gain a felt sense of regulation (and we, therefore, are not in need of the vice to mitigate our fears).

Anthropological Importance of Inclusion – We are a tribal animal. Our cortex developed to its’ current sophisticated state in response to the need to track an ever-increasing amount of social information (currently we max out at about 200 people). Exclusion from the group generally resulted in death for the vast majority of human existence – we tracked information to ensure inclusion (and to track ‘unsafe’ people). This reality has created a substantial fear response related to exclusion – this fear will propel us to make poor decisions to mitigate our fear.

  • Implications – We will often compromise our beliefs, emotional needs, intuition, and ration in order to protect ourselves from the fear associated with exclusion – this can mean that it feels terrifying to be without social media or to ‘just say no’ when the dominant group is engaging in unsafe behavior.


  • Solutions – Create emotionally intelligent communities that promote acceptance of differences and encourage open-minded and vulnerable communication. Through a compassionate dialogue, we can create a sense of culture which is best suited to the needs of the individual and the collective. Within this space of openness and acceptance, we reduce judgment and make it safe to express differences (therefore the culture will be inclusive of people who avoid behaviors that are harmful, though ‘normal’.

Faced paced society with ever increasing stimuli, social dynamics, and expectations with a corresponding reduction of health-promoting options – Currently, our society is not set up to be optimal for our psychological health. We are over inundated with stimuli, we lack sleep, we are responsible for monitoring more social dynamics than is possible, we lack access to nature, there is less access to arts and athletics, we are constantly encouraged to think about the future as opposed to the present moment, and we are often held to unrealistic expectations (such as the average workweek for an adult).

  • Implications – Often it can feel like the only way to ‘deal’ with our life is to disassociate from it, avoid it, repress it, or escape from it. Many electronics help us to completely leave (disassociate) from our current reality. Many substances produce a feeling similar to a state of mindfulness – you are absorbed in the present moment and free from the suffering found by attending to the past or the future. Lastly, many substances give us the permission to be who we want to be – inhibition. Both electronics and substances help us to deal with our anxiety resulting from feelings overstimulated, unrested, unfulfilled, and over-extended.
  • Solution – Intentionality and authentic prioritizing our life choices and values. We can enact intentionality and discipline so as to live within a set of values that promote our well-being.  health diet, appropriate boundaries, authentic expression, secure relationships, exercise, and access to nature are vital for our psychological well-being – these should not be compromised if we have the privilege to not be oppressed from accessing them (many, if not most, people in our world are oppressed from access to these variables).

Variables Impacted by Addiction

Freedom and Self-Determination. Reduced Intentionality – Increased automaticity

  • Remember Pavlov and the salivating dog (rang a bell every time the dog was fed – led to the dog salivating by the bell – even when no food was present)? As humans, we are constantly conditioned to have predictable and automatic responses to certain stimuli (this is adaptive). We can, therefore, develop automatic (and often unconscious) emotional, biological, cognitive and behavioral responses to substances, electronics, and other vices.
  • Conditioning Targets the implicit system to create unconscious associations with the vice (drugs, electronics, alcohol, shopping etc).

Experience: you have a huge problem and there is nothing that you can do about it in the moment – what vice do you want?(sibling lost all their money and they are on their way to your house to live with you)

  • Anxiety = conditioned to have a strong desire (sensation and emotion) for vice – often followed by an automatic behavior to engage in vice
  • The teenage brain is already in a state of re-structuring – pre-frontal cortex (executive control center) is less integrated into brain functioning. (this is an important time for the development of intentionality and good habits).
  • Solutions –
    • Mindfulness – focused attention on the present moment. The ability to notice without judgment and without automatic reaction. With mindfulness, we can observe the stimulus and our mind and body’s desired reaction to the stimulus. With practice, the pre-frontal cortex can override the automatic behavior (though the automatic emotion will likely stay mostly the same).
    • Willpower to engage in life intentionally despite a strong impulse to avoid or otherwise retract from discomfort. (without self-determination we are controlled by the external world and our urges)

Emotions and Body Awareness. reduction of sensory and emotional experience along with a reduced ability to tolerate emotions or sensory experiences.

  • What sensations are experienced in an elevator with a stranger (what does it feel like in your body)What emotions do you have as a result? What behaviors are we likely to engage in?
    • Now imagine all the experiences that a teen is going through – Away from home, love interests, making friends, meeting expectations, and figuring out who they are
  • After you have looked at a screen for 5 minutes where is your consciousness?
    •       What effect might this have on emotional aptitudes such as empathy?
    • Electronics and substances often disassociate us from our body (and relationships).
  • We must learn to continually be aware of and to tolerate our emotional and somatic experiences to achieve our ambitions – substances and electronics can rob us of the ability to develop this capacity.

What normal aspects of everyday life require a high level of emotional awareness and tolerance? Public Speaking 😉 Creating an emotionally intimate relationship.

Attachment and inter-regulation through Human bonding

  • New research is finding that substances and electronics target the same area of our brain used for human attachment and bonding (bonding is a primary need like water (orphanage example & cast away example)— the pull is extreme)
  • We are a social animal, and through millions of years of evolution we have developed a very sophisticated system of bonding with other humans that radically improves our ability to survive – Human connection is the #1 predictor of happiness (slope of a hill appears less steep, reduced amygdala activation in FMRIs when shocked)
  • We need to help our teens to bond with each other, with us, with the community
  • Electronics and substances mimic the feeling we get from positive human connection BUT they do not lead to lasting happiness and they do no facilitate regulation (human bonding is the cure for stress).

Conclusion – Our goal is to mentor our community towards becoming Self-determined, Emotionally intelligent, and Relationally able people. This doesn’t need to be a moral argument – Drugs and Electronics are not intrinsically bad or good… Instead, let’s change the discussion to efficiency – what are the most efficient means of developing the above Aptitudes?

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Reflection and Psychotherapy


Reflection is the ability to hold a stimulus in the present moment without reacting automatically. In a state of reflection, a person can notice or observeSONY DSC the presence of a thought or feeling that they are experiencing… noticing or observing can then lead to two different reflective actions; either the person can continue to observe the stimulus (thought or emotion) without judgment or the person can choose to use judgment as a means of guiding their next action (“what do I want to do as a result of this thought or feeling?”).

Without reflection, a person would believe that their actions can be controlled by their environment. This is because of the unconscious belief that the environment MAKES us feel or think a certain way… further, when a certain emotion is felt or a thought is experienced we carry the belief that we MUST react a certain way.

Emotion Examples would be:  “he made me hit him because he made me feel disrespected.” (emotion governed behavior externalized)… or … “He made me stay at home in my despondency because of how disrespected he made me feel.” (Emotion governed behavior internalized)

Thought examples would be:  “He made me hit him because he was being unfair.” (Thought governed behavior externalized)… or…  “I could not go to the same function as him as he is not fair.” (thought governed behavior internalized).

I will go out on a limb and say that the ability to reflect may be the single most important component to mental health. With reflection we become emancipated from automaticity… we are no longer governed by thoughts or emotions as reflection serves as the tool to dis-identify our core self from attachments.

This is where the confusion sets in as people interpret the message of attachment as essentially disputing the validity of emotions… this is absolutely not what I am suggesting. Emotions exist… trying to rationalize them away is a form of avoidance that ironically leads to a life in which there is a dramatic increase in unconsciousness.

To accept a stimulus one must allow the stimulus to exist… denying the existence of a stimulus (such as an emotion) is a form of forced unconsciousness which could be said to be the exact opposite of reflection.

If I can allow myself to feel the sadness which does exist… If I can hold the emotion in a state of non-judgmental reflection, then the burden of that sadness will lessen as I do not fuel the sadness with resistant action (defensiveness, aggression, substance use etc.) or with over identification (ex. “I am the sadness” instead of “I am feeling the presence of sadness.”

As mentioned earlier there are two results of reflection…

The first is intrinsic … reflection is a state of allowing; it is a state of acceptance and presence which allows the clarity and completeness of the moment.  In this moment there is serenity as everything simply is…

The second is instrumental … in a state of reflection a person is given the freedom to choose what actions they would like to engage in as a result of the emotion or thought they are holding in calm observance.

This creates the following sequence: environmental stimulus – automatic thought based on beliefs – reflection (can influence resulting emotion occasionally) – automatic emotion (usually this is automatic as well though with an advanced reflective ability it is not always) – Reflect on the emotion – Choose action based on what would feel most authentic in the relative moment.

The sequence without reflection is generally: environmental stimulus – thought and emotions surface mostly outside of conscious awareness (the person is generally aware of the secondary emotion – ex. “I am pissed” but not conscious of the preliminary emotion = ex. “I am embarrassed.”  Additionally the thoughts tend to be viewed with dogmatic dichotomies ex. “this is the only valid belief concerning this stimulus.” – automatic action or behavior results.

Note: this is not to say that an automatic reaction is never authentic… in fact the resulting action could possibly be exactly the same despite the sequence used, but reflection allows choice, which increases the probability of authenticity (an action which is congruent with the core self).

I have been toying with the hypothesis lately that all effective psychotherapy interventions are essentially doing the same thing… increasing reflective ability and decreasing automaticity.

The reason that this result would be most impact by the therapeutic relationship is that perhaps increasing reflection necessitates a reflective, safe, and accepting space… this would possibly answer why technique (CBT, EFT, DBT, narrative etc) has shown to have very little impact on outcomes… the most important thing that the therapist is doing is holding space.

More on this later

In being a soft reflective water unrippled by judgments we allow the observer to placate the waters of their own existence…  and reflection grows

In reflection we find the existence of dialectics and in this space of co-existing opposites acceptance becomes authentic.


William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Why should I focus on my Breathing? – Worry reduction.


Quick summary –Normally breathing is something which is done automatically – you don’t think about breathing it just happens. When you intentionally focus on your breathing you give your mind something to do and this limits your minds ability to worry, which is often the source of your distress. Breathing is happening in the present moment (as opposed to the future or the past) – when breathing is done intentionally our minds must focus on the present moment (and generally speaking there is often nothing to worry about that is occurring at your present location in the present moment).

People in the wellness professions will often recommend that you focus on your breathing to increase wellness and to decrease stress and anxiety. There are many reasons why this is effective and today I will focus on the cognitive effects – future blogs will cover the physiological, behavioral, emotional and spiritual effects.

Often our minds ruminate or worry about situations that either theoretically could happen, are likely to eventually happen, or already did happen… our mind does this under the assumption that if it can work though various troubling scenarios this ‘worrying’ will increase our likelihood of survival if the ‘worried about situation’ were to happen in the future.

We will also ruminate about negative occurrences that took place – we do this under the assumption that either we can create meaning from the occurrence or we believe (unconsciously) that we could learn to avoid the reoccurrence of the negative instance in the future.

Unfortunately life is not fair, life is not 100% predictable, and things happen for reasons that are not easy for our minds to accept. Our minds believe that worrying is a helpful process which increases our likelihood of both surviving and of avoiding suffering – the problem is that this doesn’t seem to be true.

For one thing, the ‘worried about instance’ might simply never occur in which case your mind created suffering (which is a normal bi-product of worrying) over something that doesn’t and will not ever exist.

There is also a strong possibility that you can worry about something that will definitely happen in the future (ex. you know that your company is bankrupt and you will lose your job)… in this example your mind causes suffering in the present for absolutely no future benefit at all.

Do you know the expression “ignorance is bliss”? – perhaps this expression is meant to suggest that people who have less active minds tend to be happier. I would encourage you to answer the following questions for your self…

How much of your suffering is caused by something that is happening in the moment?

-ex. 1) I just was bit by a rattlesnake and my leg is swelling.


-ex. 2) My best friend is telling me right now that he does not like me.

How much of your suffering is created by your minds desire to worry about the past or the future?

-ex. 1) I have two friends that have separate birthday parties in a week and I can’t go to one party without the other friend getting upset.


-ex. 2) “My boss had no right to accuse me of not doing the evaluation correctly as I did it the way he taught me to do it.”

 – Ask yourself – in what way is it beneficial to you to let your mind ruminate on thoughts such as these?

Try to focus on the breath to help with these unwanted automatic thoughts… below is an exercise designed to help you. As with most things… the more you practice … the more effective the exercise will be.

Exercise –


 sit or stand with your spine straight…follow the breath… breath in deep through your nose for 6 seconds…as the air moves in expand you abdomen, (stomach area) push the stomach out as this will pull air in… now exhale for 4 seconds… repeat this process… notice what is feel like as the air passes down the back or your throat… does it make a sound?… feel the gentle rub of your clothes on you skin as you stomach expands and contracts… your mind will try and tell you something – to get you to think about a plan, a should do, or a have to do… allow this to happen while returning your focus to the breath (if you resist your thoughts your mind will win)… if thoughts enter your mind imagine your thoughts to be leaves floating down a river or clouds expanding, traveling and disappearing…some people enjoy a mantra to further occupy the mind and to add positivity… breath in while saying the word relax to yourself without sound…. breath out while saying release… repeat… notice your heart beat… notice the movement of air as it passes your face… breath.

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Euphoria and gratitude… a runners high at 9,000 feet


Quick summary: If you can teach yourself to feel gratitude for a greater diversity of things… then you can add a positive association to any experience that you want.I have been thinking about health quite a bit lately and my mind stumbled back to thinking about some research that was explaining why exercise routines are difficult to establish… essentially using behavioral psychology ( = we are products of our environment – our behaviors are dictated by the responses that they receive from our environment) the author suggested that the amount of time between initiating exercise and receiving the ‘reward’ from exercise is too long… therefore our minds do not really associate exercise as being positive and often our minds create a negative association as exercise can elicit a degree of pain. Yesterday I ran for eight miles at around 9,000 feet and I had a very different experience. The combination of the breathtaking scenery, the high levels of positive feeling neurotransmitters (brain chemicals which affect your emotions … and most things) that were released to manage the pain of eight miles with limited oxygen, the limited oxygen itself, and my intentionally focusing on gratitude, created a state of euphoria during the exercise. I am going to suggest that by meditating on gratitude a person can counter the negative influence or association with pain in relation to exercising… to a degree. With this positive counter influence in place, perhaps you might be able to push you body to reaching a state of euphoria which arises when you push yourself as much as you can… without such a counter perhaps it is more “rewarding” to stop exercising a bit sooner than is advantageous.

Gratitude – I was engaged in a mindfulness program about gratitude and I was offered a lesson that was immensely helpful to me…

            Try and experience gratitude without being grateful for any one specific thing… contemplate the emotional experience of gratitude and free yourself to experience this wonderful feeling. Allow yourself to essentially live in a moment which is gratitude…

This can be a very difficult experience so let’s take it down a notch…

Start by contemplating gratitude for subjects which are easier for you to observe without judgment… for example allow yourself to feel gratitude that the universe exists, that colors exist, that plants are alluring, that the natural landscape is aesthetically pleasing, that you have the ability to notice existence etc ..

This too will be hard for many people at first as it is the brains job to categorize things as benign and to take things for granted (this is because the brain serves to ensure your survival… as gratitude for the universe has a limited effect on your survival, the brain will often categorize such things as inconsequential…as boring or as useless.)

I am suggesting that the brain is constantly passing judgments on the environment and because the brain seems to assume that novel subjects and experiences are more important to attend to… the brain hinders our ability to feel gratitude for most things in our lives.

As I have said time and time again… you can control your brain… you can free yourself to feel gratitude in new and extraordinarily euphoric ways.

It is easy to imagine feeling gratitude for someone giving you 10,000 dollars… it is perhaps harder to feel gratitude for the color of a plant.

This is the summary… if you can teach yourself to feel gratitude for a greater diversity of things… then you can add a positive association to any experience that you want… you can make exercise more positive if you allow yourself to experience gratitude to counter the negative associations driven by the pain of exercise.

Easier exercise to experience gratitude – Water.  – Imagine the lack of something to feel gratitude for what you have.

I have done a bit of international travel where it was quite a process to attain safe drinking water… in fact I have had many Colorado backpacking experiences where attaining water meant going out and walking ¼ mile in freezing rain.

 How often do you drink water? And how often are you grateful for that water. Imagine an existence in which water was difficult to attain … imagine that the water attained was full of sediment and tasted ‘funny’… now imagine the ease of turning on your faucet or opening your fridge and having fresh and clean water… Imagine a life where you were able to feel grateful… to feel gratitude every time you drank water… many people in the world have this experience… perhaps it would be helpful in this country if we did not take water for granted.

My Gratitude while I was running… I was grateful for: the love in my life, that love exists, that I am conscious of existence, that life was growing, that I could smell, that I could run in a high altitude environment, that my dog was happy, that the flowers were different shapes, that I allowed myself to go running, that I had plenty of water waiting for me in the car, that I have legs, that I could get back to my car without dying if it started to rain, that my parents always encouraged a healthy lifestyle, that my parents bought me a guitar as a child, that my family has supported the person that I am, that I am learning to not fear my own destiny……………………….

I can feel the effects of the behavioral intervention that I did unto myself… I feel myself associating my grueling run with euphoric positivity.

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

Why some fail to lose Weight – Restraint theory


Quick Summary: Restraint theory suggests that restrictive diets lead to failure and in some cases actually increase weight gain. The theory was developed after research was showing that people on restrictive (don’t eat any of these ‘bad’ foods diets) had almost an 80% rate of failure and people were often gaining back more weight than they had when they started the diet. This post will look at how restraint theory can explain some of the failures of weight loss programs and will finish with a more reasonable solution for people trying to lose weight.


Restraint theory has gained increased popularity and as such there is quite a lot of research out there as to its affect on weight loss. From the research that I read (not all of it) it does not appear that the scientific community has isolated why some people can restrain themselves while others cannot.


Restraint theory is based on the age-old truism that people (and other animals) want something more when they are told that they cannot have it.

  • Some researchers have proposed that increasing restraint surrounding the ingestion of something you enjoy might actually increase your desire for that something, which can lead to overindulgence in that something.


Restraint theory goes a step farther to suggest that many people have the intention of restraining themselves from something they perceive as enjoyable yet potentially detrimental, but very few people actually have the self-discipline or self-control to actually restrain themselves.


Currently a large percentage of the population who suffers from obesity is well aware that obesity is linked to a vast array of terminal illnesses… this knowledge has unfortunately not helped to curb the yearly increase in the number of people with obesity concerns in this country…. Why?


Restrain theory suggests that in some cases it is actually more difficult to restrain one’s self from eating a highly desired unhealthy food than it is to accept the consequence of a possible early death…. it can be harder to restrain than to accept death.


If desire is increased by restraint and restraint is not possible for a given person than a restrictive diet can actually lead to an increase in binging behavior… the researchers have been investigating if this is the reason why people on restrictive diets can often end up gaining more weight than they had when they began the diet.


What is the solution? As with everything in life the answer once again seems to be moderation.


Fast and dramatic weight loss is an unrealistic goal for the majority of the population.


Creating realistic eating and exercise behaviors which facilitate weight maintenance with slow weight loss can have success.


Realistic Eating Behavior involves allowing you’re self to eat the foods that feel too difficult to live without in more moderate portion sizes while finding healthier alternatives for food that you have a moderate or low desire for.

  • Write down the foods that you cannot live without and stop when it feels as though the foods on your list would be sufficient to meet your most significant food desire needs (most people have fewer than ten).
  • Write down the ‘not so healthy’ foods that you eat that you only get moderate or low satisfaction from (these are food that you don’t find yourself having a debilitating desire for).


Practical Nutrition Intervention – take these two lists to a nutritionist such as Franziska K Bishop, MS ( or and ask her to help you to create reasonable portion sizes for your favorite ‘not so healthy’ food and healthy and tasty alternatives for your moderate to low desire/satisfaction foods.


Restriction theory suggests that it is better to allow yourself the highly desired food close to the origination of the desire… the theory states that if you restrain yourself all day (as opposed to allowing consumption sooner) you are more likely to eat a larger quantity of the relevant food.


STOP and Pay ATTENTION to your THOUGHTS – many of you are having thoughts right now which will serve to sabotage your chances of achieving physical wellness…

  • “If this blog post can’t tell me how to lose weight quickly I will find another Post that will.”
  • PEOPLE have been SELLING snake oil (False Hope) for thousands of years… you must allow yourself to overcome the suggestions of the manipulators to reach success.
  • The cognitive component of weight loss can be found at


This is only the first of a long series of explorations that I will be making surrounding Weight loss… there is a huge psychological component to this concern and it is time for us to pool our resource to help as best as we can.


Physical wellness has an affect on just about every single topic I can think of related to psychotherapy (relationship satisfaction, depression, motivation etc) … it is time that the fields converge around this topic.





William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.