Actual Freedom & Dopamine

I’m wondering about the chemical nature of what the actualism method achieves. Maybe it’s something the actually free people have thought about. @Srinath you obviously have expertise in neuroscience, but as far as I’m aware you communicate about self/being without translating that into a neurochemistry framework - so maybe what I’m asking here is not helpful or correct.

Isn’t the method, enjoy and appreciate, kind of training the brain to experience dopamine (“enjoyment”) around the clock? In all these situations like work or an argument where one does not experience much dopamine (compared to high dopamine activities like sex, video games etc), you switch to enjoying them - making them as enjoyable as other activities that one naturally likes (whilst dealing with the feelings/beliefs that stand in the way of that).

I do also remember Richard being told he had an excess of dopamine in the post-synaptic synapses or something.

I’m not saying it’s necessarily as simple as that - but just as a loose way of thinking about the method, is there any relationship there? I’m aware it’s probably a fairly reductive formulation but I’ve noticed it creeping into my “view” of actualism, so thought I’d ask….:stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Of course dompamine can play a role, but probably others like endorphins, GABA and serotonin are more related to felicitous feelings…

I wouldve thought serotonin as more of a “love” chemical would not be much involved - I have at times wondered if serotonin is to enlightenment as dopamine is to actual freedom in a way.

I’m very aware I’m setting myself up to get absolutely pawned here for my oversimplifications and pseudoscience :sunglasses::nerd_face:.

From what I have discussed with medical professionals I have seen in the past, they said there were still a lot of gaps in understanding serotonin. My discussions were more around doubts regarding SSRIs in treating depression, as more scientific doubts were creeping in around 2015, which it now seems the whole depression theory/model regarding certain neurotransmitter levels like serotonin might not be correct.

It seemed that there was a right level for being well balanced emotionally, too high leads to increased anxiety/irritability and lower levels could happen in falling in love and too low in depression/ocd behaviours. Though it sounded like a lot more evidence was needed in this realm.

Dopamine and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) are involved in love as well. With oxytocin more so for the deeper kind of bond, like mother and child or long term love. There are is a lot of interaction between the neurotransmitters as well to add to the complexity.

Obviously there is still a lot to learn and new information to come out in this area.

I think it is too simple to say this. When the model looks like a complex interplay of dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin, norepinephrine, melatonin…there might be more.

Yeah I’m sure in terms of identifying a single chemical, it’s too simplified. I’m gonna regret writing this post for sure haha

Also because I don’t think enjoying and appreciating feels like being pumped with dopamine all day :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

Dopamine hyperactivity in brain regions linked to reward-related motivation, such as the nucleus accumbens (NCC) and prefrontal cortex, also leads to **increases in impulsive and aggressive behavior

Role of Serotonin and Dopamine System Interactions in the Neurobiology of Impulsive Aggression and its Comorbidity with other Clinical Disorders - PMC).

I had similar ideas to you. I ended up doing some significant research and it seems a lot of these chemicals that are also associated with happiness or pleasure are also associated with negative emotions as well.

There are studies that inidcate that increased serotinin inhibits people from falling in love.

“Love lowers serotonin levels, which is common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders,” said Mary Lynn, DO, co-director of the Loyola Sexual Wellness Clinic and assistant professor, Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, SSOM. “This may explain why we concentrate on little other than our partner during the early stages of a relationship.”
What falling in love does to your heart and brain -- ScienceDaily

Anyway, at the risk of “absolutely pawning” you here (pwned you mean?), I think your current beliefs about the roles chemicals play in causing us to feel good may need to be refined by some legitimate research. I’m finding that nothing seems clear cut in that area.

Anecdotally, having suffered from lifelong depression and having habored a prejudice against anti-depressants I eventually changed my tune and ended up requesting Prozac and Wellbutrin. They work on serotonin and dopamine respectively (as well as norepinephrine).

My take-away after 8mos is that they can help make it easier to enjoy things. But I could be an outlier with a genetic condition that causes me to be defficient in the chemicals. I don’t know for sure because as far as I can tell there is no way to know for sure. But for me, they seemed to help.

I am now in a period where I’m off them and intend to balance out as best as possible to compare-contrast.

But I don’t want to derail things too much. I think the main thing I’d like to point out is that Richard doesn’t know a ton about how any of this works either, and his psychiatrist was theorizing about a condition they knows nothing about. You’re in the same boat, minus the years of study and PHD.

My final comment will be this:
The drugs that most often “trigger” PCEs are psychoactive substances that primarily work on Serotonin: Weed, MDMA, Shrooms, LSD… for instance:
" MDMA causes greater release of serotonin and norepinephrine than of dopamine"

Anyway, worth some reasearch if you’re interested. It cleared up a lot for me and lead to new questions.

EDIT: My main takeaway from the entire experience is that it’s the Identity which will determine how the chemicals are used. Whether they’ll be used to feel good or not is up to you as an identity.


See, ya pwned me. Even about how to spell pawned :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

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I trust it’s helpful of course.

This is where we need a chat functionality. Having threads and public publishing, leaves little room for shittalking haha

Yeah I’m theorising based on no knowledge lol, but the actually free people may have done more research - and Srinath is an expert so keen to hear what he says (apologies if this has been asked before). Although I’m aware that neuroscience does not really understand these things in depth yet - including how antidepressants even work.

But yes I did find your reply helpful and interesting :slight_smile:

Fun “fact” from the attic of my brain is that I recall oxytocin is also present when you form a hateful bond. So it’s literally scientific evidence that love is the same coin as hate.

But I remember when first learning stuff, you would hear some description of a neurotransmitter involved in a type of emotion, they always sort of give some oversimplification then as you dig deeper you find it has other functions and interactions that add to the story.

It is interesting how so many are involved in sleep and the digestive system too.

Yes, and even without these higher levels can be found in being more content, confident, etc. Serotonin seems a better candidate than dopamine maybe lol. But like I said, I doubt it is simple as one or the other. What is interesting though if it goes too high can cause anxiety, restlessness and the risk of other symptoms diarrhoea/shivering/fevers/seizures and the whole Serotonin syndrome. One time I quit my meds without slow withdrawing and got told off that I might have been at risk of Serotonin syndrome…whoops.

Is @Srinath involved in neuroscience professionally?

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Yes, I remember reading this too.
There is this species of naked moles that have super high levels of oxytocin and they have one partner and mate for life, and if the mate dies they don’t mate again. They did this experiment to disrupt their oxytocin levels and then found they started to become polygamous. So, weird interplay in relationship bonding too.

Now they are finding more links with the gut microbiome too, so I am sure there will be some interesting developments.


This world is so bizarre haha

Awhile back I dug more into this topic and discovered 1) That it was 10x more complex than I’d wagered on and 2) I think it has more to do with the logic of how different neurotransmitters are dispensed than it does the amount exactly.

Essentially Dopamine is a motivation neurotransmitter, and it can motivate both in the positive (I want ‘x’) and the negative (I want to get away from ‘x’), so it isn’t just about things that you like. Dopamine is being used when you’re motivated to avoid falling off of something, just as much as it’s being used when you want cake.

Another interesting aspect of dopamine is that it’s triggered the most when you anticipate a reward (or danger); when the actual reward or danger is presented, the dopamine hit is there but substantially less.

And finally the most interesting in my mind is that it’s a part of a circuit which is self-learning: when a dopamine reward is triggered, the mind pays attention to what happens next: if the rewarding outcome occurs, the circuit will continue to feed out dopamine in future occurrences; if it does not, it will dispense less dopamine or none at all.

Cruelly, over time if the same reward occurs repeatedly, less and less dopamine is given. This is why a treat is a lot less exciting when you have it every week

I am of the opinion that it is the organization of this circuit, rather than any specific neurotransmitter itself, which forms ‘self’ in the body.

When the logic of the circuit collapses, ‘self’ evaporates.

The actualism method is the method of inducing the collapse of this circuit.

I wrote up a semi-organized paper back when I was researching all this, you can read it here:

The Carrot and the Stick

I’m not a neuroscientest, just a guy drawing connections - some of which are certainly wrong.

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Interesting stuff Henry!!

Ya know I disagree. This is all speculation on my part of course - that can be answered in due time with research. But I am of the opinion that the circuit continues when actually free also. It sounds like a useful way to organize brain activity.

Rather I would say that the ‘self’ takes it and blows it all out of proportion. ‘I’ get addicted to the dopamine hit. The circuit is self-regulating - the same thing causes a smaller hit each time. The problem is that ‘I’ want the same hit each time, so then I up the dose of whatever to increase it. And then ‘I’ keep doing this far beyond the point of any utility or actual benefit.

‘I’ actively pervert and damage the functioning of the brain, overloading the circuits, by ‘my’ addictions.

With regard to brain chemistry in general I think the influence is more self → chemicals than chemicals → self. Feelings come first, chemicals after. So it’s not that with actualism I train my brain to release a better combination chemicals which is what lessens ‘me’. Rather it’s that ‘I’ become more felicitous which has the outcome of the brain releasing a better combination of chemicals.

This is my general rule of thumb understanding anyway.


I only researched this long enough to convince myself that, given the newness of the field and the utter complexity of its object, no amount of further research by myself of the topic would provide useful answers at this point.
TLDR: I gave up lol.