During my most recent failure in self-control – an obscenely unhealthy Rock of Love marathon that clearly took precedence over essay writing – I started wondering why I am such a servant to my whims. We all like to think that we can say no to a temptation when we really want to, but studies in psychology and metabolism are saying otherwise.
A paper titled “Self-Control relies on glucose as a limited energy source: Will power is more than a metaphor,” published in 2007 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, suggests that self-control is like a muscle – exercising it can tire it out. Active self-control also seems to correlate with high levels of glucose, a carbohydrate that serves as the body’s main energy source, but researchers acknowledge that it is not the only carb-requiring process.
“All brain processes use some glucose, though some use more than others and are therefore more susceptible to fluctuations of the supply in the bloodstream,” according to the article.
So, the science behind self-control may be fascinating, but it comes down to being able to think properly. This conclusion is a little more intuitive than I’d hoped, but it makes a whole lot of sense if we realize the times we are the most unable to think properly and the times we exercise the least self-control really are one and the same – when we’re drunk.
We’ve all participated in the inevitable morning-after cursing of the drink. “Why’d I do that?” “Why’d I go there?” “Why’d I think I could jump off of that, naked?” And potentially the most worrisome: “Why’d I say that?” Exes, friends, bosses, parents: they’re all a call, email, or wall post away, meaning that they could be privy to any embarrassing or damaging tidbit on our glucose-absent minds. And we’re all becoming obsessed with ways to restrain ourselves. Even the technology that gives us this unlimited access is trying to help us be cautious while using it.
I thought about trying a cell phone feature that allows you to block a contact’s number on your phone. No calls, no texts. That person is unreachable for the length of time of your choice. The slogan promises to protect me from myself, but it is not only meant to be an anti-drunk dialing tool; it is also some kind of social norm “fixer.”
“Mail Goggles” is an email feature I downloaded after an unmentionable drunken email mix-up. With this program active, I can’t send an email until proving my competence by first completing five math problems within 60 seconds. Delightedly, I discovered I could also set the days and times of operation myself. It is “student-customized,” so to speak, for those of you who, like me, find that Wednesday mid-afternoon is prime inebriation time.
The problem is that reconfiguring the settings is a whole lot easier than answering five math questions in 60 seconds, and of course, it didn’t take my drunk self too long to realize that. Turns out I’ve found a way to protect myself from the me that’s protecting myself.
That’s the thing. I think if we really want to do something, we will find a way, despite phone number blockers and late night math problems. It is all there in the word: self-control. Technological blockers only mean that we will resort to more drastic measures to get what we want. Maybe instead of calling or emailing, we will go over to that person’s house, throw rocks at the window, probably break said window, and end up paying for the replacement as well as the cell phone feature that was supposed to prevent all this.
No matter how many ways we try to make sure we’re never awkward, embarrassing, or rash, we’ll never be perfect. I like it that way. Let’s all just be awkward, embarrassing, and rash together. Laugh at your mistakes and give in to what you want; just blame it on glucose deficiency.
Get all liquored up and send your deepest, darkest thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.