Nordic Track Book Club Review: Positive Addiction

I read William Glasser’s Positive Addiction in the 80’s and was looking forward to re-reading it now that I started running again almost four months ago.  Every runner should read this book at least once. 

p.1 Addictions are positive because they strengthen us and make our lives more satisfying.  I call these people “positive addicts” because they are almost always stronger than non-positively addicted people who lead similar lives.

p.6 If we haven’t enough strength we attempt to reduce our suffering by partially giving up.  We never throw the sponge in altogether but we tend to give up in part, to try to reduce pain that always comes when we can’t get the job done.

p.37 1973, Roger Kahn’s “The Boys of Summer” describing the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers, including George “Shotgun” Shuba who had a great natural swing.  He decided while growing up, wanting to be a great baseball player, that one thing he could do on his own was to improve his swing.  He knotted a piece of string so that a row of knots covered the strike zone from top to bottom, and hung it from the rafter in his basement.  He then took a heavily weighted bat and every day from age sixteen through his minor-league career and into the majors–this is, every day he didn’t play major-league ball–he swung the weighted bat at the strike zone on the piece of string six hundred times.

What I believe is that Shuba had a mild positive addiction to an activity that he believed would help him and which I believe not only helped him physically to become a better hitter, but also helped him mentally to gain the strength to fight his way to the major leagues.

p.49 Whatever the state of positive addiction is, it is almost always easier to reach it if you decide to do whatever you do on your own.  It is not a group activity.

It has to have an inherent value in itself so that they will stick to it long enough to reach the PA state, which, in many cases, may take up to a year.  Once they have reached PA it is easily recognized by the fact that if they attempt to stop the activity they suffer withdrawal, some sort of pain, discomfort, anxiety, or guilt that is satisfactorily relieved only by resuming the activity.

p.56 For anyone to go “out of his mind,” to let his brain spin free in whatever activity he is in, physical or mental, he must learn to engage in the activity in a non-self-critical way. Positive addiction activities have to be noncompetitive.  Not only must we not compete with others, we must learn not to compete with ourselves if we wish to reach the PA state.

p.64 I believe that within the brains of the strong the ten billion neurons that we all have available to us are interconnected into many more pathways than most of us have.  These pathways are not only greater in number and complexity but they are also more readily accessible to serve them than ours are to serve us. 

The key to strength, much more strength than we ordinarily would have, is somehow to learn to create the optimal conditions for these new pathways to form within our brains.

p.67 What I believe happens, when the brain is allowed to spin free in the highly pleasurable PA state, is that during this time our neurons are, more than at any other time, free to hook up in new, different, and complex ways.  It is the spinning-free, mentally relaxed PA state that provides an extremely optimal condition for our brains to grow.

It is almost like a Brownian movement.  The neurons are set free like molecules in an unrestricted field to send out electrical or chemical feelers which then hook up into any possible pathway arrangement.  They go ahead on their own, calling on the remotest of stimuli past, present, and future, eventually going far beyond any stimulus and experience and moving into new, unused, “virgin” areas to arrange and rearrange themselves in ways that have nothing whatsoever to do with anything we have experienced.  We become strong because somehow or other a pathway that has newly formed can be called upon to do the job.  It’s the expansion as these new paths are formed which causes the PA state to feel so good.

p.80 The key to the whole process of gaining mental strength through postivie addiction is self-acceptance to the point where you are able to leave your brain alone long enough to experience the PA state.

p.103 The addiction to running does not come quickly.  It rarely happens until the runner has built enough endurance so that he can run effortlessly for an hour.  For most this takes at least six months, for many longer.

p.106 More of a sudden flash of insight that comes when you are least trying to find an answer.  I think worrying and running are impossible to do at the same time.

p.110 I can’t carry a personal or job problem all the way through a run.  They fade into inconsequence, thoughts become long, slow motion, drawn out.  I often kick my mind out of gear.

p.113 I don’t think at all.  My awareness is only of the present.  Even that cannot be called awareness.  Brain chatter is gone.



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A long time developer, I was an early adopter of Linux in the mid-90's for a few years until I entered corporate environments and worked with Microsoft technologies like ASP, then .NET. In 2008 I released Sueetie, an Online Community Platform built in .NET. In late 2012 I returned to my Linux roots and locked in on Java development. Much of my work is available on GitHub.