The opponent-process theory of emotion (2010)


69 points | by Obertr 14 days ago


  • slfnflctd 14 days ago

    Good write-up, definitely stuff that applies to everyone. Even if you're already familiar with it, a refresher might be helpful.

    A couple quotes stood out to me:

    > you need only to moderate the intensity and frequency of pleasant stimuli to ensure that the opponent processes do not build up

    This is an essential skill for any long term self-medicating person to acquire. The dosages of the mind altering substances I regularly take to stave off the darkest depths of depression have not increased in years.

    > exposing oneself to the forbidden fruit without partaking can often be more effective in extinguishing addictions than merely abstaining or avoiding the addictive stimulus

    This is also a valuable tool, and indeed can make you feel like you're rewiring your brain. It is very much intertwined with delayed gratification. How long can you go without, even though you don't have to? Can you make yourself fully indifferent?

    An issue I don't think was dealt with here is how to break out of a cycle once you've learned to make it sustainable. I've gotten really good at treading water, but a lot worse at challenging myself when it's not required. I'm hoping it's just the craziness of 2020. I'm fearing it's a more lasting change-- I've become more pessimistic about the future of the human race in general, so my efforts don't seem to matter as much.

    • Ixiaus 14 days ago

      I can relate to your sentiment about getting good at treading water. I think growth can happen in adversity but a lot of growth also happens from a place of feeling safe in the major areas of your life.

      2020 has made me not feel safe in many areas of my life (and I'm privileged), everything from the pandemic, to the upcoming election, to the economic uncertainty. I think giving yourself as much of a break as possible is absolutely warranted. This is pretty hard, even for introverts who do well with solitude and software developers who can work remotely.

      My own pessimism has also grown. I doubt that the threat detection circuits in our brains, that evolved to detect uncertain threats, were ever equipped to handle the scale of some of the uncertain threats that loom over us (and the speed and accuracy of the information about them.) Hang in there, you're not alone, 2020 is pretty fucked up (2019 was hard for me personally, too) and focus on your immediate connective relationships and well-being.

      This article was a recent and good read (sorry for the Medium link, I know HN hates Medium):

      [EDIT] I re-read my comment after posting (as you do) and realized it has an advice-giving tone, I didn't exactly intend for that, I was intending more to relate and empathize (and hopefully be helpful.)

    • TeaDrunk 13 days ago

      > Infants who are given a bottle and start sucking on it experience pleasure. But if the bottles are removed before the infants have finished feeding, they universally cry. And yet they would not have cried if the bottle had never been given.

      This person sounds like they've never had to raise a fussy baby. I can't buy this.

      • softwaredoug 14 days ago

        It’s interesting too in the context of History and Politics, which also tend to be mean reverting over time. As Nate Silver likes to say, people overrate trends (like GOP can’t have a political future due to demographics) and underrate mean reversion (political parties adapt, people have short memories, energy switches to whomever is out of power).

        • ehmish 13 days ago

          When I first heard about this process, it threw me into a bit of a depression: Why try to obtain nice things, if the pleasure/enjoyment from nice things are down-regulated to until they become insignificant? However I since learned that the down-regulation is usually not enough to completely offset the stimulus (My life is much better now!, but this post got me wondering, it seems like the this hormesis process is the thing to target if you want to pursue happiness, not happiness itself, has any research been done into whether it's possible to disable the adaptation process?

          • yboris 14 days ago

            This is brilliant! I love the 7 specific pieces of advice at the bottom of the article.

            One example, #4: seek indirect pleasure. For example: the reward of working hard on a project and finishing. I wonder if this is partially why donating money to charities is a good long-run happiness/eudaemonia tool.

            • JacksonGariety 13 days ago

              Wow this is genius! I find that it's easier for me to accomplish tasks if I understand the science behind how they work. So keeping this article in mind should be super helpful for me.

              • fblp 13 days ago

                Brilliant share. Thank you.

                • calebm 14 days ago

                  Go go right, go left.