Radiolab (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just listened to a Radiolab episode focusing on people’s attempts to control their future selves—to prevent themselves from doing something that they don’t want to do.

Here’s a video that, focusing on procrastination, illuminates the concept of your present self trying to control your future self. (It’s from a book called, You Are Not So Smart, not from Radiolab.)

The Radiolab episode had two segments that are relevant to addiction.

First, one on a reportedly common and troubling alcoholism treatment in Russia.

Next, a smoker who managed to quit by swearing that, if she relapsed, she would make a donation to the KKK.

Now, it’s easy for people to reduce addiction to an anecdote like this. There’s a lot more to quitting and staying quit than simply constructing the right motivational traps, but it does illustrate the role that structural factors can play in maintaining recovery.

4 thoughts on “Help!

  1. I loved that episode. I was thinking about it just the other day. I was thinking if I could ask myself “What would future Aarik do” or wwfad I could learn to be less impulsive. Even though present Aarik wants a new car future Aarik will not be happy making a$400 payment.

  2. You’re right. It does cut both ways. The video presents future-you as week and prone to bad choices, but it could just as easily be present-you.

  3. “Choosing want over should” – that’s brilliant. Also, “thinking about thinking” is exactly what I struggle to put into words when I’m talking about drug addiction. So many addicts fail to realize that their “future selves” are going to suffer when they give into their cravings “now.”

    1. Thanks trial12321!It’s interesting too that it often snowballs because our future self is often less likely than we assume to use restraint and choose wisely.

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