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The pathology of willpower

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What is Willpower? (ie Definitions)

 

"The trait of resolutely controlling your own behaviour"

(synonyms: Self control, self possession, self-command, self-will)

[source: Wordnet]

 

Some people seem to have more willpower than others. Willpower that causes them to fight on, when things get difficult, in preference to quitting. They quit after more reps in the gym, than their 'lower willpower' counterparts. The knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail characturises it for me, after loosing his limbs, he still is taunting his opponent. So is arnie towards the end of The Terminator, after being damaged, he still gets up to fight.

 

Mechanisms

 

I feel that Willpower may be associated to the independance of a persons planning faculties, from mutaable constraints , and prior conditioning, but beyond that, any definitions or models I have are sketchy at best.

 

What causes it and how do we change it (Etiology & Modulation)

 

A neurochemical perspective

 

As I have confessed on many occasions, my understanding of headchem is very poor so please exuse my limited and flawed apprasal. I have two indicators of neurochemical modulation.

 

Seratonin - I have anecdotal evidence that persistant use of Pot/THC seems to cause a loss of motivation (not just during intoxication, but in the days post consumption), but is this the same as willpower?

Dopamine - I have also seen people on coke, which seems to make them act in an arrogant manner with promoted sense of self importance. These people seem to be less responsive to perception of inficators of failure.

 

Whilst I am not attempting to reduce willpower purely to dopamine and seratonin, what is their influence on will?

 

I have also come accross some lit of the use of GABA promotion to help alcoholics overcome the pavlovian conditioning component of alcoholism. Would the promotion of GABA assist in breaking other pavlovian conditioning, thus providing more freedom of planning in a particular context. Would this increase willpower?

 

An experience based perspective

 

Extreme conditions

If a person becomes repeatedly attempts to act and persistantly fails, then their willpower seems to be lower, as are persons exposed to chronic & persistant torture/abuse, and children whose parents have set them up to fail (encouraging a path of action to which they know failure will result, then post failure, explain that it was just that the child was inherently a poor performer).

 

These anecdotes, whilst extreme, seem to reflect a form of conditioning that distorts the plan - action - feedback loop. Is willpower reduced when planning faculties fail? ( Am I confusing willpower in these examples with confidence? ) Is willpower promoted from repeated perception of successful plan execution?

 

The gym

What about in the gym, at the point of failure, when your muscles are saying no more. You hold on, to push yourself a little further. Does this increase your willpower? Is there crossover into other non-gym aspects of life

 

What do you think?

 

J

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Plato talks a lot about spiritedness, or thumos, what it is, why it is important (essential for development), how it can be developed, and the relationship between physical training and strength of soul - megalopsychia. Plato is actually a nickname, meaning 'broad' (shouldered, i.e. Plato was "ripped"), although he was most broad in his wisdom. His real name was Aristocles. If you wish to really give thumos the sort of consideration it deserves, you should read and reread Plato's Republic, which is simply the most exhaustive analysis on the subject. Thumos or spiritedness is essential to excellence, however it also has great potential to be corrupted, when it becomes informed by ignorant opinions it resists reason, resulting in stupidity, mulish stubbornness, or beastial depravity.

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Does this increase your willpower?  Is there crossover into other non-gym aspects of life

From my experience the will can be worked out although transference isn't as easy considering that the mind is often litered with thoughts and memories which can affect the flow of will. It is all too common for someone to excel in one interest and fail miserably in another. The only difference could be a question of discipline which in turn is a result of emotional interest and attachment. Clearing this detritus, in my opinion, has a profound affect on the will, actions and habits.

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[Royish response] No.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ph34r.gif and Plato. ph34r.gif

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Willpower is not something that can be achieved through reading philosophy texts.

Tell me something I don't know.

Obviously willpower can't be brought into existence out of nothing just by reading something.

 

That said, for people who have a strong will, there are often enormous obstacles that stand in the way of it leading them to become anything great. To put it bluntly, many people who have a strong will become no better than the most spineless cretin, who is -- by his weakness alone -- kept from too much mischief. People with great willpower are almost the only people who will ever amount to anything, but the largest portion of strong willed people are superficial, corrupted, and full of unjustified pride. So sure, reading philosophy is not the only route to overcome the obstacles faced by the fertile soul, but it is a very efficient one. If you do not think so, then I am not sure whether you have been reading the wrong things, or reading the right things in the wrong way. You don't need to tell me, nor has any philosopher been unaware of the fact, that most booklearned academics don't have much willpower, to put it mildly. If you read Plato or Nietzsche and come away with the conclusion that you've got more 'stones' than they did, what can I say, other than you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. -- That said, I don't know you, and I don't know what you were trying to imply.

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Strateg0s you make interesting points that coincide with my beliefs. You state,

“Reading philosophy is not the only route to overcome the obstacles faced by the fertile soul, but it is a very efficient one. If you do not think so, then I am not sure whether you have been reading the wrong things, or reading the right things in the wrong way.”
I would like to ask you which particular pieces of literature you are referring to, and which were the most insightful on the current subject matter? Nietzsche and Plato produced considerable amount of literature, which books you found most influential?

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As I stated, Plato's Republic is the single most important work which addresses this subject thematically. As for Nietzsche, it is a constant preoccupation in his writings. A wonderful example of his (justified) disdain for effete scholars occurs at the end of Schopenhauer as Educator. To 'get' Nietzsche's considered opinion on will, one must do the not unpleasant work of carefully reading through his corpus. I can think of several million worse ways to spend your time. Rousseau's discourse on heroic virtue is very interesting, and shows how hard he really was, in comparison to his romanticized reputation. Descartes' Discourse on Method and his Passions of the Soul are likewise masterpieces, so long as you approach them without prejudice - forget everything you've heard or read about Descartes and follow what he says very closely, abstaining from making leaps where they are not warranted. Montaigne, Machiavelli, and Bacon all make remarkable contributions. -- So there is no shortage of discussion of this all-important subject by very first-rank minds. If a person has natural spiritedness, there is no quicker way to overcome impediments to meaningful self-development than a very serious consideration of these works, followed by active exercise and development outside of study. I will also PM you the title of a piece of secondary literature which could be of great assistance if you are of a serious disposition.

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What is Willpower? (ie Definitions)

 

"The trait of resolutely controlling your own behaviour"

(synonyms: Self control, self possession, self-command, self-will)

[source: Wordnet]

If this is the defintion, then everyone has absolute will power.

 

When people talk will power, they mean whether you have the rationality to stay with a productive task rather than stopping on whim--usually because of a negative emotion. The emotional reaction to tasks are psycho-epistemological, and Roy discusses how to change these emotional responses in his article.

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The way I see it, willpower can become detrimental to one's goals if one relies too heavily on it.

 

IOW, willpower definately has its place in day to day activities, however it is only good for short-term goals; i.e., finishing a high-rep set, the last mile of a run, the last hundred feet of a mogul feild, ordering a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a deluxe cheeseburger, etc.

 

For long term goals, acceptance of pain and suffering, or aesthetic threshold is much more important. For example: every morning I drag my sorry ass out of bed ad 4:45 am to go to work, bust my ass all day, then hit the gym ad 4 pm. Willpower is ill-suited for the long-term maintence of my life. Instead, I accept the fact that this is how I choose to live my life and trying to fight the urges to sleep in or skip the gym only leads to a sour mood for lack of a better phrase, and a general malaise towards life. I wrote an essay on this topic for issue #2 of BN's The Bull.

 

In addition to the texts Stragegos recommended, Herman Hesse's Sidhartha is another great work dealing with not just willpower, but how a person can overcome the eventual failure of willpower. The idea here being that given constant bombardment with temptation, the human willpower always fails. Even the Koran preaches this ideal; that it is better to avoid temptation than to try and use willpower to fight it.

 

Sorry Roy, I don't have any of those cliche's that you love so much to throw in to my reply. tongue.gif

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I accept the fact that this is how I choose to live my life and trying to fight the urges to sleep in or skip the gym only leads to a sour mood for lack of a better phrase, and a general malaise towards life.

...and how is this any different than will power or discipline?

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I accept the fact that this is how I choose to live my life and trying to fight the urges to sleep in or skip the gym only leads to a sour mood for lack of a better phrase, and a general malaise towards life.

...and how is this any different than will power or discipline?

because willpower has a time-limiting threshold. It simply does not hold out over the long term. Discipline is a better description of a lasting form of willpower. However due to a semantic misunderstanding of their inherent definitions, willpower and discipline are often confused. But a closer evaluation of the specific functions of both willpower and discipline demonstrates how different they are.

 

For example, a five year-old can have an extrodinary amount of will power. Junkies have more willpower than almost any other person. Ever see what a junkie's will is capable of when he/she is in withdrawls and trying to score? Discipline however needs to be forged over time, and therefore has a more lasting effect.

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However due to a semantic misunderstanding of their inherent definitions, willpower and discipline are often confused.

 

My mistake, here's a couple of definitions to clear up the semantics:

 

Willpower->The trait of resolutely controlling your own behavior

 

Discipline->Controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training; self-control.

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I have lately been preoccupied with the fact that willpower occupies no current place in the discourse of mental and physical health within certain interest groups. To be specific, I am thinking of the neuroscience board and places like imminst. While there is something about its lack that concerns me, I wonder what this critique can do... ie should it be factored in and how. All I know is that if it has been considered at all, it has been pushed to the margins or presupposed in most discussions. Any thoughts?

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The pathology of willpower, What is it, and how do we get more?

 

Activate Mogo or Korugar, or equip a Green Lantern Ring or Yellow Power Ring.

260574[/snapback]

 

Please die.

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On a slightly different track, do you fellows believe that the adoption of a stoic and ascetic lifestyle, modulates willpower?

 

J

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thread, revive!

 

I have been battling my willpower, lately, through what I can only call an epic struggle. I've thrown a lot of chemicals at it. this may not be the wholesome answer.

 

retrack a little bit.

 

I believe every man has a healthy willpower, initialy. thus, the title of the thread is key.

 

What do I mean by "Every man has a healthy willpower"? I mean - its the direction the willpower is initally applied at and the results, which feed back into our willpower and can strengthen or weaken it. as I see it, if one is living a life of waste and immediate self gratification, he got there by the power of his will. he HAS willpower. his willpower is just abused, deformed, reduced to whatever smitherins remaining. but its still there.

 

Pratically, as the practical SOB I am, I've tried to cure my willpower.

 

there is the CBT approach, that traces everything back to values and beliefs. IE, what you value, and the order of your values, and what you believe(beliefs are what you dim as manifestations or conditions for the values) is what determines your behaviour. discipline - is a value. in someone's ladder it could be higher than immediate harm or pain avoidance. while others can have it the other way. its clear to see that the former person will make different chioces and live differently than the other one. and the values are aranged by our subconcious - in the order of pleasure or pain avoidance.

 

so order of values is key. another key is beliefs.

 

A belief is what a value means TO YOU. for instance, for me willpower ment overcoming a neccesary pain, boredom, confrontation and a slew of other negtives. for others, having a willpower means passion, commitment, a purpose in life, the strength of unwavering. youcould see the difference. if a person like me rates pain or boredom high in his negtative value scale, my willpower will be valued less.

 

I'm sure that if you dwell on this a little bit these things I just talked about will very clear.

 

now, as much as I like this method, I feel I'm still stcuk.

 

IE, here is the algorythm.

out of all the possible poistive values in your life, list them in the order of "pleasure" or importance.

do the same for the negative values, list them in order of "pain" or "wanting to avoid the most".

 

for each one, attach a beleif. meaning, describe what does this value mean to you, how does it manifest in your life, or what needs to happen for you to have this value or feel it. this is your set of beliefs.

 

so I did that. and what I got was alittle baffling. when I write this things down, its clear to me that my limiting beliefs, aren ot limiting enough to damage my willpower or discipline. and my values are not ordered optimally but not that bad. so why is it that I procrastinate or fail to move towards my goals so often? it seems like the answer is at my fingertips, playing with me...

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Humbug - I just wrote a massive post only to be told on submission that I was not logged in! Baa humbug indeed.

 

liorrh - I am not sure if I am quibbling over definitions here, but willpower seems to be more primal and innate than motivation. The explicitation of values as you described is a common technique in looking at motivation and goal setting. Maybe my problem here is interpreting motivation as a concious expression of will.

 

wrt order of values - I sometimes think that having too many values that one tries to incorporate into evaluation can lead to analysis paralysis (both concious and subconcious) and thus inaction.

 

As an aside, I have been experimenting with listening to unorthodox music when in the gym recently. Historically I would listen to uplifting music that inspires one to train, whereas I have been trying downer music eg( lyrics talking about failing, tiredness, sleeping ), and demanding that my mind overcomes the negative external stimulus. Tis still early days yet, but it is certainly a challenge.

 

Gruel, sleeping naked outside and winking at the guys prior to sparring, are all yet to come!

 

J "Adaption through increased environmental challege"

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before I reply, lets define properly motivation, willpower and discipline.

 

discipline: the "continous" expression of willpower?

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I would have no problem with your definition of discipline: the "continous" expression of willpower?

 

There is also roy's def: "Discipline->Controlled behavior resulting from disciplinary training; self-control."

 

What about the definitions of willpower:

1 "The trait of resolutely controlling your own behaviour"

2 "whether you have the rationality to stay with a productive task rather than stopping on whim--usually because of a negative emotion"

 

What about Motivation: Something that increases action towards an expected goal?

 

When I poorly refered to willpower as being more primal and innate, I guess that I was thinking of the general motivation to survive, thrive and generally pursue goals relentlessly.

 

J

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how about the literal route?

 

will-power - the power of one's will.

 

a will can be an ongoing intent or a superficial whim. I believe they are both there. we usualy -refer- to willpower as the display of power where the will is also significant and not temporary. (hope I'm making sense here).

 

the "power" here is dopaminergic drive at its purest: it WILL be, because it is MY will - "it".

 

so the concious pathology of willpower...is when there are other "wills". and one will, the one that conincedes with our rational "willing" does not yield the power of the other "wills". so frustrating to our concious thought, that raises the banner of that will high, other, rouge wills if you would, outdo it, take precedence, fight it.

 

so is will power the rational obliterating the other wills? through stratight on assualt? or through sheer trickery? even mustering the courage to do that takes the same will that is haunted...

 

I feel like the answer is right here. I can realy feel it. its leeping away this time.

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The thread perhaps should have been entitled:

 

"The Physiology of Will Power". WHat is it is, and how do we manipulate functional pathophysiological conditions (addiction, for instance)?

 

The answer is that neuroscience has studied the basis of will. Decision making. And the myriad responses that form the decision cascade.

 

For willpower is the conscious manipulation of outcome options towards a desirable (nonpathological) choice. As in diet control, adhereing to healty choice of habits and routines.

 

Ah, now we get down to brass tacks.

 

We speak of routines, the emotional importance associated with their conduct - as in direct positive reinforcement from endorphins, and indirect reinforcement thru physical influence on body shape, stress control and assocated health status, along with mental stability or balance.

 

The neurobiology of decision making is proabably one of the more energetic and popular focus areas of bavioral psychology - basic and applied (statisticians , and business world has made an art of the modeling of decision behaviors and risk management).

 

There are literally thousands of publications on what has progressed byond the status of topic specialization, and into the realm of multidisciplinary subfield.

 

Manipulation of the tendency towards pathophysiology (improper nutrition status, sedentary and solitary lifestyle, use of drugs, tabbacco and ethanol as *alternative* self medication for addictive functional phenotypes) can be achieved, as deduced here, by two approachs.

 

-Behavioral modification training and deliberate positive reinforcement. This is the assignment of 'value' to a desired outcome choice at a decision node, followed by use of a reward system OR as results of positive action accumulate, the recognition of progress towards specific short term goals, as reward. Tusk this one away; we here often ignore short term goals because attaining them becomes routine. This can, and does, lead to a sort of momentum burnout when as bodybuilders progress from intermediate to advanced training status (years of training).

 

-Manipulation of the neural centers that process decision making inputs by supplements, and drug therapy, reinforced by conscious lifestyle habits.

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