Monday, November 18, 2013

How Running Can Trick Your Brain Into Thinking You Have Agency

"Agency" is a word Mr. Aurini taught me (among many others).  It not only refers to an organization you might work for, but also means purpose or usefulness.  It also happens to be a mandatory requirement for all men to attain happiness.

If a man doesn't have agency or purpose in life, he becomes depressed and lethargic.  Sometimes even suicidal.  Just look at what happens to men after they retire from a successful career.  Many, at best, go through a funk.  Others get angry, irritated, depressed and don't know what to do with themselves.  But forget men who are lucky enough to have a "successful" career.  Consider young men today.

Most young men today have had the three main ways they can attain agency denied to them:


And this was done largely at the hands of women (and lefty pansied men) who voted in government to supplant men in these roles.

The economy is shot and offers no employment opportunities (let alone something as idealistic as a "career") as it is no longer focused on the private sector and growth, but rather wealth redistribution and supporting out parasitic classes.

Becoming a husband is becoming impossible as feminism has turned the quality and caliber of women into this.

And without a wife, let alone a career, it's pretty hard to become a father.  Oh sure, men will inseminate women.  Sure, they'll breed.  But they won't raise a child or spend time bringing the child up.  Besides, that's now the job of state-run schools and divorce courts.

So there sits about 2 full generations of young men, full of capacity, full of potential, laying idle and twiddling their thumbs.  And just as government has supplanted their roles in society, these men have turned to video games, booze, drugs, porn, even crime to replace women's.

But drink all the booze you want and save the princess a million times, in the end your genetic hard-wiring will take over.  And no matter how much you fight it, you will get depressed you have no career, you have no family, and you have no future.  The environment is hostile to men's nature and it is an uphill battle to find agency and thus happiness.

But may I make a suggestion?  It doesn't solve the underlying problem, but does, in a sneaky way, provide men with a substitute for agency.

Start running.

Running is a way to trick your brain into thinking you have agency.  In the darkest days of my life I would get up and literally be incapacitated.  I could not move.  Not because of neural damaged, but every choice, every action I had available to me led nowhere.  So why choose any of them.  It had no purpose.  And so I laid there on the couch, getting up to get food or go to the bathroom occasionally.  My frontal lobes knew, however, this was not a viable long term plan.  I had to do something, but with no career, no desire to meet girls, and no (at that time) obvious entrepreneurial opportunities, I did the only thing I could do.

I ran.

Not that I hadn't ran before, I always knocked out 3 miles every other day to keep in shape.  But now I was running to kill time.  And so instead of my short 25 minute run around Lake of the Isles, I was running 10 miles, everyday.  I'd return home and for once I felt completely normal.  I wasn't sad, I may have even felt like going out that night to an old haunt.  But soon the endorphins wore off and I was back to incapacitation.

Time for weights.

Understand at this point in time I was so defeated I also wasn't eating much.  I had dropped from 150 pounds to 125.  But, add the running and weight lifting, I was ripped.  Not an ounce of fat on me.  I could bench press 180 pounds and knock out 150 push ups non-stop.  But I wasn't lifting weights to get ripped.  Matter of fact, I LOATHED lifting weights.  It was the "normal" feeling I wanted after.  I refused to do anti-depressants and so weights it was.

Sure enough, after an hour or two, I was feeling "normal" again.

Ideally this would last me into the night at which time I would pop two sleeping pills to knock me out to the real world.  And sure enough, my internal organs would not fail me, and I would wake up the next day to start the whole miserable process over again.

This lasted about a year, but inevitably things turned around.  When a recruiter called me I was drunk and went into a rage, tirading against the banking industry and how I wasn't baby sitting "dumb, mother fucking, middle aged bankers who can't do Excel."

I got the job.

I had self-taught myself salsa and ballroom dancing.

My dance class revenues tripled.

And though I hated every second of lifting weights,

girls were throwing themselves at me.

Then one day (ironically listening to this song of all things-have to get to the 55 second mark) I all of the sudden realized something - I was happy.  I had created my own agency despite society's best efforts to deny me any.  I was getting up to do things in life, not merely to run.

Since then, of course my running and weight lifting has tanked.  I only knock out 6 miles every other day.  I lift weights, but only do enough to keep in shape, and my girlfriend is an outstanding cook, nursing me back to 150 pounds.  But I will never forget the role running (and lifting) played in my overcoming that depression.  Not because it made me feel normal, but because it didn't make sense at the time why it did.  But in hindsight I now know why.

Running or any exercise directly stimulates the lizard part of your brain and tricks it into thinking you have a point or purpose in life.  When you are exercising your hindbrain is thinking, "We must be doing something productive. We must be hunting mammoth or toiling in the fields.  We are being productive.  We have agency." which then continues to have your various glands produce various hormones and chemicals that make you feel good.  Of course you don't have purpose.  YOu don't have agency.  And once you stop working out your frontal lobes that are acutely aware of this fact take over, sending you back to Cameron-ville (Ferris Bueller).  But for that hour of working out and the two hours after that your brain and body are given the much-needed "normal feeling" you need to get through the worst bouts of depression.

Now, is every Millennial male and young Gen X man in the throes of a crushing depression?

No, of course not.

But they are without agency or purpose, and they are in a hostile environment that will never provide them the opportunity to have those things.  This will at minimum put most young men in a funk and lessen their quality of life.  But this does not have to be the case.  All a young man has to do is start running (or working out).  This won't guarantee a job opens up.  This won't guarantee a career becomes a possibility.  And it certainly won't turn women today into the Sophia Lorens and June Cleavers we demand.  But it will, on a subconscious, cave-man level trick you into thinking otherwise and make it much easier to enjoy the decline.


Anonymous said...

I have been laid off 3 times already in the last 8 years, and have actually been in the longest period of my life without work or school. I compete as an USAW weightlifter and I can tell you the grind and the grueling 2+ hour workouts have really helped me keep my sanity.

I visit your blog occasionally and would like to compliment you on helping the majority of young men who are lost in the fog so to speak.

Anonymous said...

Running, martial arts, lifting, swimming, and going hiking and camping are all great activities to help with the daily grind of insanity. I try to incorporate all as much as possible. I usually get great ideas that I can act on after exercising. Trick is to make it interesting, which is a tough trick. Besides, being in shape will help when the SHTF and we are in TEOTWAWKI. Only the mentally strong will survive, and exercise definitely helps with becoming mentally strong.

Aurini said...

Damned straight.

If I'm even feeling depressed about some bullshit that just arrived in my inbox, I'll pump out 20 pushups and start feeling a lot better.

Combine that with forcing myself to smirk (it tricks your brain into thinking your happy - really), and I'm in a surprisingly good mood most of the time.

I recently had somebody ask me how things were going, and I answered "Pretty good..." only to think for a moment and realize - even though I felt awesome - the day had been shit. I've managed to train my happiness set-point to a higher level, so that even bad days are good days.

Iceman said...

"So there sits about 2 full generations of young men, full of capacity, full of potential, laying idle and twiddling their thumbs."

The way I see it, and I think most of the manosphere also, for the tide to turn, large numbers of men -collectively- need to come to the awareness
that they are being royally fucked over.

This requires some rational thinking and analysis on part of these men. They have to stop gambling and investing precious resources in the higher education(tm) casino in the hopes of winning the jackpot (i.e. a career, financial security, a loyal wife and 2 kids). Opt out, and start for yourself. Seek out like-minded men. No man should be content with working on a plantation.

Jose said...

There's quite a bit of research on the effects of exercise on mood, in particular how intense exercise (lifting, sprinting) raises testosterone production and how long periods of above-normal HR and oxygenation (running, or in my case rowing) increase production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which improves memory, executive function, and indirectly mood).

But here's a simple reason for exercise: in a world where everything appears to be a question of judgment, opinion, and -- yes -- decreased agency, exercise is one of the few areas left where the objective reality is immediate and non-negotiable: you either run the 10k in less than 40min or didn't; you either pressed the 100Kg or you didn't.

Postmodernize that!


Anonymous said...

This was one of your set essays of all time Captain This needs to go in Top shelf 2. If you make one, I personally will buy it when I become employed. Im heading out to Alberta here in 2014 it;s the only place right now it seems in North America that has economic growth. I am a dual citizen USA/Canada I was living in the US but left due to economy. I then went to Ontario it's bad here too but as bad as the USA. I have multiple bachelors degrees in arts and sciences and an MBA with IT skills and even in fields I worked before I hear nothing, not even the protein shake shop would call for an interview. Alberta I saw has the best job market in North America Apparently Unemployment is 4.2% and dropping. They have allot of drilling and production there. Low taxes. To my knowledge being born in Canada they have never elected a leftist government in their history. It snows in July there, but I don't care at this point

Anonymous said...

There is a reason why I run. Because everywhere I eat and shop is located far from where I live.

So I have no choice but to run on average 40 km a day.

I don't have a car and I don't use mass transit. So I run to where I want to go.

coolstud said...

Great post, just got a job in sams club but only temporary though. Do medical research studies just to have dollars on my pockets. Training to get back into pro mma. Ill tell the young men out there live below your means

Apollo said...

I have noticed the exact same thing after working out. One of my all time Cappy Cap favorite posts. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Captain, I enjoyed half this article.

The other half just doesn't fit a man of your stature. Is the world perfect? No. Has it ever been? No.

I believe in a lot of manosphere values but as a minority, I have no desire to go back in time.

As, I see it there are millions of opportunities and good things in life, and I would rather participate and focus on them.

Billionaires and millionaires have been minted in tech in the last 5 years, the stock market's epic liquidity fueled rally has created another bunch of millionaires.

There are lots of exciting things going on in 3d printing, biotech, robotics, and of course things that we cannot imagine that will transform our lives and create a bunch of wealth.

There's no guarantee that you can benefit from it but you will never benefit by not participating and complaining about how the world has gone to shit.

It is what it is. Even changing some small aspect of yourself is so difficult when you want to change. How impractical is it to expect the world to change for us.

Erik said...

Thanks Cap, this couldn't have come at a better time. I'll be transitioning into the unemployed world shortly and the run will certainly help prevent the slip into the funk.