learning chemicals + podcast

In the interests of creating a less threatening ‘space’ for today’s ideas, I am renaming “emotions” as …


learning chemicals.

These state-of-the-art learning chemicals are at the heart of everything humans are, & do.

In return we treat them as poor, threatening &/or …

poor relatives

… embarrassing, relations.

By misunderstanding & misusing these learning chemicals, humans have been trained to equate success with rising above or getting clear of, emotion, while failure is a …


… collapse
into their shameful grip.

Recently a commenter challenged my present focus on pain.  Yet I have to start from where I am. If I cannot be honest about my current reality, there is no possibility of creating a reliable map to where I want to go. It was only through Robert Fritz’s spectacular work on ‘structural tension’ that it became clear how poor was my ability to see & acknowledge my current reality.

It has taken years and years to go from silence, to voice, & there is an exultation – to have finally reached the point where I can utter the unacceptable.

We have been chained into silence for too long. We sold out our voices …

selling out

… a long time ago.
It is a very great thing to get them back.

Anyway I think it’s extremely important to rethink emotions.

Today I want to contemplate the idea that one can be both strong & hurt. In pain & indomitable. Vulnerable & victorious.

What if we can rehumanize emotions &
learn to work with them –
creating the space for them
so they can rehumanize us.

First things first let’s get clear – learning chemicals do not weaken us:

Feelings of anger and fear and elation emerge from deep inside of us and I think blocking them out is an artificial habit. In my experience, competitors who make this mistake tend to crumble when pushed far enough

Instead of denying my emotional reality under fire, I had to learn how to sit with it, use it, channel it into a heightened state of intensity … I had to turn my emotions to my advantage

It has been my observation that the greatest performers convert their passions into fuel with tremendous consistency” Josh Waitzkin

Learning chemicals make us remember things – both pleasurable & painful. What to avoid, what to go towards.

When we experience a surge of learning chemicals, we learn something very quickly and very deeply – as if it’s carved into our very bones.

Whether by accident or design, we seem to have learned a fear of these learning chemicals.

What we fear becomes bigger to us, & in turn,
we ‘shrink’.

Our fear of our own learning chemicals has created a scenario rather like the dictator gods of mythology.


A very,

Surely everyone knows that …


… gods need to be kept
on a leash.

Emotions, like gods, need to serve us
not the other way round.

But something twisted happened. We made fear into a god & then accepted living in fear as a kind of religion.

We’re so used to it that we never asked “who gave it its divine right to rule?

Living through fear is NOT healthy or natural:

The first thing to know is that natural creatures, although instinctively shy or timid, are not wildly governed by fears and terrors, as we have been misinformed from our youth up. The “reign of terror” is another of those pet scientific delusions, like the “struggle for existence,” for which there is no basis in nature. Fear is an exclusively human possession, or affliction; it is a physical and moral poison, as artificial as sin, which the animal escapes by virtue of being natural. It is doubtful, indeed, whether anything remotely resembling our fear, a state of mind arising from a highly developed imagination which enables us to picture events before they happen, is ever born into a hairy skin or hatched out of an egg. The natural timidity of all wild creatures is a protective and wholesome instinct, radically different from the fear which makes cowards of men who have learned to trace causes and to anticipate consequences … The very attitude or visible expression of birds or beasts …


… when you meet them in their native woods, feeding, playing, resting, seeking their mates, or roving freely with their little ones (all pleasurable matters, constituting nine-tenths of animal existence), is enough in itself to refute the absurd notion of a general reign of terror in nature … To go out obsessed with the notion of fear is to blind your eyes to the great comedy of the woods.” ~ How Animals Talk – William Long

In 1933 while the world watched warily as Hitler came to power, the new American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt  …


lubricated his country into its future position as Fear Capital of the world, by getting its people to swallow this slippery little pill:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself

This reminds me of the hypocrisy of execution – in order to proclaim that ‘murder is a crime‘ you get a man (the executioner) to commit murder.

Perhaps it now makes more sense to find a way to use the language of learning chemicals & work with them according to their laws. Let’s look some ways of returning to natural sense by facing our orchestrated fear of fear.

The following comes from a book called Fix Your Phobia (Anthony Gunn). I really don’t think we are far from phobia in many areas of our lives now. But we don’t have to stay there. Facing fear teaches you so much & widens & deepens your life. It helps to unfreeze you & get you flowing again.

But don’t rush it. If you like what follows, the book is small & easy to read – it’s a friend when you can feel very alone.

Phobias are incredibly common … it’s a strong, involuntary fear of a particular object or situation. The fear reaction is irrational because it is way out of proportion to the actual danger the object/situation presents. People with a phobia will usually completely avoid the object/situation (called phobic stimulus), or endure it with intense distress


The degree to which a phobia disrupts your life generally depends on the ease with which you can avoid your phobic stimulus

Certain phobias may make a person feel more disgusted than afraid

Many people with phobias believe that nothing can be done to treat their problem because it is a part of who they are … Others live in denial … ashamed to admit that they even have one

Many parents … keep their children’s phobias alive by preventing their kids from facing and mastering the situation that scares them. In a similar way, phobias can be passed down through families

anticipating fear

… via modelling, or other learning styles

your phobia stays strong …through you physically avoiding it, and using medication, drugs and/or alcohol to numb your feelings

The problem with …

on the run

any form of avoidance … is that it not only prevents you from learning that you can manage the fear associated with your phobia, but also fuels your phobia … [a] phobic person will experience a … feeling of relief when they narrowly avoid being in contact with their phobia. The problem is that this feeling is like a reward, which means that the avoidance will be repeated, further strengthening the phobia

people learn phobias in three ways

  • direct personal experience
  • watching other people
  • sharing information

Phobias can also be learned through sharing information about a fearful object / situation … such information is spread through books, magazines, newspapers …

psycho active

... movies, TV, rumours, the internet, radio or just listening to people recall their experiences. Unfortunately, the media are masters at sharing fear-provoking information and they capitalise on people being drawn to stories about terrorism, shark attacks, child abduction, plane and road accidents, crime, murder, epidemic diseases, road rage, killer insects and animals, earthquakes, storms … the list goes on

Most people are terrified of experiencing intense emotion, so to avoid triggering them they will remain…

trapped in an old shape

… prisoner to their old behaviour patterns

Viewing the expression of emotion as a weakness is fuelled by the misconception that success is based on not feeling. When the action hero fights the bad guy, we assume they do so without being ‘limited’ by their emotions. Likewise we usually hear the confident assertions of athletes before they compete, never their fears. This  implies that if you feel or show any emotion …


… then you are weak and inadequate

Accepting that emotions motivate you, and that they cannot be controlled by logic, is the first step to managing them

If you ask yourself why you chose your partner, your home, your work, your car and even your clothes, it is likely that your reasons were not practical, but rather emotional. Yet we continue to believe that to be victorious in any endeavour, we must push emotions to the side

People cannot talk away a phobia because phobias are learned in the part of the brain called the amygdala – which is off limits to facts and so-called common sense. The only language that the amygdala, and therefore a phobia, understands…


... is the language of emotions

To be able to conquer your phobia … you need to be completely fluent in the language of emotions – this means you need to be able to accept your emotions and to learn to ‘sit’ with them. This is quite a challenge because, subconsciously, most people believe that avoiding emotions will actually protect them from pain. To lower the defences that prevent you from experiencing emotion, you … take small, planned steps … If you can recognise your emotions and see them as completely normal, then you are engaging them. The more you do this, the easier it will be to sit with your emotions instead of trying to avoid them

By ‘sitting’ with emotions, I mean noticing when you are feeling nervous or afraid or disgusted and then being able to observe the feeling without automatically reacting to try to get rid of it. Think of it like riding a wave. At first a wave rears up strongly and seems as if it could dump and pummel you, but the longer you ride it, the smaller and weaker it becomes


… until finally it reaches the shore a fraction of its original size and strength. The same happens with intense emotions

To take control of your phobia you first need to understand how it has controlled you. It does this by triggering automatic avoidance behaviour

Most people with a phobia do not really know much about the situation or thing they are afraid of, due to avoidance


… their minds fill in the blanks & make the fear worse

Safety behaviour is anything you automatically do to avoid confronting your phobic stimulus … but this behaviour is not triggered by the phobic stimulus itself …


but by the feelings of discomfort … that you associate with it

Phobic safety behaviours are powerful. This is why the technique of facing a phobia head-on rarely works – our phobia safety behaviours will simply not allow it to happen … The key to getting round phobia safety behaviours is to sit with the feelings of discomfort that trigger them

Surrendering to discomfort in order to gain self-control may well seem counter-intuitive … A common misconception is that to conquer a phobia, you need to be able to feel that you can control the thing that scares you … This could not be further from the truth. Yo do not have full control over anything external to you. … Trying to gain control things that are external to you … only brings disappointment

In order to sit with the discomfort associated with your phobia, you first need to build up your strength of mind. This is similar to building up your body’s fitness: you start with lighter exercises and gradually build up intensity:

  • Take one square of chocolate, place it on your  tongue and close your mouth … Keep [it] there for two minutes … Under no circumstances are you to react by swallowing, biting down, moving your tongue, lips, jaw or head. Laughing is also out. You must remain still for the whole two minutes. … Sit wit the discomfort and rate it. First it will increase rapidly, and then just as quickly decrease

All phobic thoughts are distorted in the same way… They will always:

burned out

  • overestimatea negative outcome
  • underestimate your ability to cope

Phobic thoughts will grow in strength the more you avoid facing them … start challenging then, just a little, by identifying and labelling them as they arise … [this] stretches your mind, breaking your usual reaction cycle … whenever the human mind is stretched by thinking in a different way, it never goes back to it’s original shape

See yourself …


… facing your phobia by doing whatever it is you are afraid of … if you find the discomfort too intense, break down the visualisation into parts … eventually building up to 10 minutes … or until the discomfort is no longer an issue … If done properly on a daily basis, you’ll notice a dramatic drop in your discomfort levels withing a week

And finally from a champion chess player turned world champion martial artist:

I have come to believe that the solution to this type of situation does not lie in denying our emotions, but in learning to use them to our advantage … Mental resilience is arguably the most critical trait of a world-class performer, and it should be nurtured continually … When uncomfortable , my instinct is not to avoid the discomfort but to become at peace with it … My instinct to always to seek out challenges as opposed to avoiding them”  Josh Waitzkin ~ Art of Learning.

This is not a be all end all remedy, it’s just another few steps along a path I’m exploring. As long as I find it has interest or merit I shall continue.

Susan, the commenter I mentioned at the beginning of this article also had a valid point – there is a need to focus on the positive. Yet I think if we are courageously honest we will find that we fear happiness. If we can learn to tame our fear-frenzy, then I think we widen our future prospects exponentially, & all the energy we are currently putting into avoidance can be…

creation of future

… directed toward
phenomenal creation.

Text in this colour from Fix Your Phobia – Anthony Gunn
Text in this colour from Art of Learning – Josh Waitzkin

~  ~  ~

Last night before putting this article together, Max, Fitzy & I teamed up for a podcast which has a life of its own as well as touching on some of the points made here. It was a great conversation – thanks guys.


Or listen to our podcast below:


September 22, 2013. Uncategorized.


  1. chiller replied:

    yes, the emotions are not the problem, they are our natural feedback system. it’s avoidance and becoming unsensitive to them , estranged to them , wich is the real problem. and we pay a heavy price, we lose ourselves and real inner strength, we become cold and weak.

    and the emotions are our friends, they never abandon us like other people can, even if we ignore them , they still silently wait until they are called for.

    thank you for sharing again and again.

    i feel these songlyrics are fitting :

    I dont mind the pain by Glenn Danzig :

    Remember to call my name
    I adore it
    If you speak my name
    I implore it

    If with all these things
    We invoke here
    Call you out our name
    But before warned dear

    I don’t mind the pain
    I don’t mind the pain

    We hear you call our name
    We adore it
    Hear you all these things
    That we invoke here

    If you call our name
    Rest assured dear
    See you all these things
    But before warned dear

    I don’t mind the pain
    I don’t mind the pain

    And I stay so arcane
    In the shadows of your brain
    Will I come to you again?
    Remember that I don’t mind the pain

    Hear you call our name
    Can you afford it?
    Racked with all these things
    And beyond hope dear

    Remember to call our name
    And we assure you
    Trip with all these things
    That we invoke here

    I don’t mind the pain
    I don’t mind the pain

    And I stay so arcane
    In the shadows of your brain
    Will I come to you again?
    Remember that I don’t mind the pain

    Come to my heart
    Come to my heart
    Come to my heart
    Come to my

    • alex robinson replied:

      wonderfully said – the more voices there are to tell this story – the easier it is for those most frightened & stuck, to hear.

      “I don’t mind the pain” – what a powerful statement – its not that anyone wants pain – but when we understand that running away makes it stronger words like these begin the process of helping it to soften & flow again instead of pooling & becoming stagnant

      • chiller replied:

        most of us as children learn to only be and feel and exhibit so called positive emotions. as the adults do the same , we learn to do the same.
        in my situation i learned to be happy no matter what really happened.
        so you learn to bury the real emotions in your core being and operate from a proxy version of you wich the contextual world finds more agreeing.

        if you dont comply you are a rebel and punishment is there.

        and children are physically in a disadvantaged position, so they twist themselves in strange beings to survive. and most adults misuse their authority to get relief of their own feelings of powerlesness in society.
        and this chain of crazyness continues from generation to generation. most children grow up to become fucked up as well and pass the shit on.

        it’s sad that most people dont find the way out of their misery and dont even know it’s there, that they are operating on a fraction of their true potential as magically endowed wonderful beings that we are.

        i think it’s necessary to have the full capability to feel and endure and enjoy all emotions, if you dont allow sadness, anger, frustration, then the extent to which happiness, joy etc is felt is also a mere fraction of the real depths.

        i think unconsciously thats why i chose the nickname ”chiller” , as that was my state, frozen to the core. what you dont feel and dont move and use, becomes useless and dead. so i was a living dead, zombified, but nobody could see this, as i had learned to ACT extravertely and social and engaging. Even i forgot about this tíll many years later.

        I never felt like having children as i knew something was not right with me ,and i did not want to pass on my dysfunction. And i have friends abd family who are passing on their crap, and i cannot communicate athis to them. as they live safely on the surface, and i dare not stir them, it might be too much to handle for them.

        Even With awareness and wisdom comes pain and sadness. not just kumbayaa joy and transcending this material plane bullshit.

        Pheeewww. this takes a load off me. i stopped running away and embrace everything i feel and think. it’s not wrong.

        i would like to end with another poem relating to this about being so estranged to oneself, that it becomes terryfing to be alone like in your last post. :


        The Stranger

        Lights dimmed down,
        Awareness increased,
        Come in the darkness
        now you will SEE,

        I feel a chilling cold,
        The Stranger is looking into my soul,
        I have never been so scared,
        For my life I start to fear,

        I cant look the Other in the Eye,
        My mind starts to run and fly,
        My body is left on its own,
        Fragmented it behaves like a pawn,

        Stalked by this terrible Thing,
        When i cry, it starts to sing,
        When i get Mad,It starts to Laugh,

        Oh my God, what have I done thats so bad ?
        I cant take this shit anymore man,
        Try to escape in every way,
        Hoping not to be slayed,

        I try even to end my life,
        But the creature still finds,
        Our connection is very deep,
        No way i can escape this beast,

        I get more paranoid everyday,
        Running on the dock of the bay,
        Life becomes more and more edgy,
        And the Darkness follows me silently,

        I ask it who are you,
        It just stares back at me the fool,
        I tried many times to strangle IT,

        But I hold only empty fists,



  2. Minti replied:

    Fantastic podcast.

    Nice to hear your voice Max, and of course nice to have Fitzy back again!

    I recognize the ‘face’ thing Alex, very brave of you to share it with us, it helps me a lot!

    • alex robinson replied:

      Thank you Minti! your understanding & echoing of the ‘face thing’ helped me in return.

  3. Fitzy replied:

    Learning Chemicals indeed! It was lovely to have a chat with Alex and Max, and discuss what we’ve learnt/are learning.
    Turning off the TV, and playing with your own imagination is the key, your ideas matter, the things you love enough to create matter. And as Alex has pointed out, your emotions matter too.
    Great session Alex and Max, I look forward to the next one.

  4. amj replied:

    fear is the mind and body killer. it para-lies-iz us. emotion, feelings, instincts, senses… whatever we call them we must “embrace” them all, good and bad in order to innerstand ourselves. completely.

    fear happiness? oh yes. we have been trained to believe that we are not worthy. a longstanding sick joke played on most all of us.

    face, embrace, or sit with fear and we shal indeed come to conquer, eradicate it. contentment, peace, happiness ensue. they move back in to inhabit their natural and rightful place. Comfort followed by joy imo. with fear no comfort. without fear you have comfort. nature abhors a vacuum ergo fear gets displaced or replaced by comfort…

    this is great where you’re going alex. imo tis a loving path you’re on. tis tasty affirmative reading for me.

    thanks so much for sharing it all,
    annemarie :)

    • alex robinson replied:

      Hello annemarie, I’m glad you have the clear sight that allows you to acknowledge this fear of happiness.

      We need to get clearer about how fear deflects us – it’s like a padlock on a door we so wanted to travel through – we walk away without ever seeing that it was made of cardboard.

  5. alex robinson replied:

    hello again chiller, your last comment was full of wonderful honesty – I thank you

    “so you learn to bury the real emotions in your core being and operate from a proxy version of you wich the contextual world finds more agreeing”

    I think that speaks to many people – these subjects we are diving into here are treated as alien & repulsive yet they are as real as our breathing. This frozen-ness which many of us have lived in all our lives does exist – yet we have to pretend it does not – it takes a terrible toll, this split-living.

    If we stop being afraid of reflecting out our reality I think we can change the world – for at last the frozen people will have a chance to see that they are not alone or crazy & they can begin to feel human & start creating a place to warm themselves

    • chiller replied:

      thanks for your comment.

      the fucked up thing is, that i unconsciously did try to end my life, in stupid accidents, not preplanned as some do. and i almost succeeded a few times. and the fucked up thing is that i knew rationally that i was doing this, but some program took over fueled by my inner unrest and fear of everything.

      even when happy , after a short time, the tensions and fear started up automatically, and never left. that was the constant factor.

      lately i am for the first time feeling freedom from it, and feeling stronger and more able to deal with the world .

      and also suicide is still a big taboo, it’s covered up by society and religions, in wich they sell you that you go to hell for comitting suicide.

      and it’s tragic that some of us are so estranged and desperate that they do not reach out for help and rather leave this world prematurely, especially teenagers, and let’s not forget the war veterans, who are mindraped by their job and left in the shit afterwards, and for what ? the greed and bloodlust of the elite.

      i wish to explain that by embracing i do not mean that i agree with everything i feel, or i have the absolute truth, but that like you said, we have to start from where we are, in order to get out of the labyrinth we are stuck in.

      so by just acknowleding yourself and listening in on the inner dialogue and watching everything, you start to unfreeze and thats the goal, not a mad-prophetlike mania as some become.

      and from a true version of yourzelf, you can really enjoy the world and be safer against predators and zombie’s, and have a sense of freedom in thinking and actions, as the old negative programs from the childtime start desintegrating as you consciously choose not to energize them any longer. the energy you direct to better things.

      time to take the bandaids away, look at the festering wounds so they can finally start to heal. and it takes time and the process is individual and general at the same time. but going through is better then staying stuck and having to participate in life from a disadvanteged and unreal basis.

      • alex robinson replied:

        Thank you chiller – shared words like these make a world of difference to those who are stuck.
        This unfreezing process is so worth the effort – it’s lead to experiences & sensations that I’ve never felt before. I am also just so grateful for an alternative to running – I’ve had a gutsful of that.

  6. amj replied:

    p.s. overjawed is my fav drawinf
    g of yours

  7. Max replied:

    @alex & fitzy
    That pansy photo is my new desktop image!

    This podcast was another important step forward to me. Now they have my voice recorded on the internet. ;-)
    I’m definitely in for another one.

    I can relate to what you described, here. My parents teached me that having “negative” emotions is a bad thing, too. As a far as I know, I’ve never tried to kill myself accidentially or intentionally, but I sabotaged myself on several occasions in my life. Many people in society don’t want to understand why a person commited suicide, so they pick the dumbest explainations and sometimes even shame the suicide victim as coward.
    I wish you much healing chiller.

    Thanks! Good that you enjoyed the podcast, minti.
    Happy creating!

  8. alex robinson replied:

    Thank you Max & yes you are done for – so might as well give up & make your stand :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Trackback URI

%d bloggers like this: