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Kourosh Dini, MD

I'm Sorry. I Can't Do the Laundry. I Just Don't Have the Dopamine - [A Weekly Wind Down Newsletter]

Published 6 months ago • 2 min read

“I’m sorry. I can’t do the laundry. I just don’t have the dopamine.”

I’m paraphrasing the above from a social media post. It was humorous as these videos often are.

But similar to what I’d described recently, the conversation usually stops here. We are left throwing up our hands,

“Hell, I can’t do the things.”

We might even point to authority figures to lend support to this helpless position. For example, Dr. William Dodson describes the following as a list of characteristics that tend to motivate those with ADHD:

  1. Challenge
  2. Interest
  3. Novelty
  4. Urgency
  5. Passion

(I’ve heard this nicely put together as “CHIN-UP”)

The list is posed as a contrast to those who are more able to do things based on associations of importance, rewards, or punishments.

Maybe we go further, accusing “dopamine” of being the prime player in a reward system lurking deep within our brain. Its only means of access must therefore be medication or perhaps trickery, things outside of direct agency.

One primary dopaminergic pathway, known as the mesolimbic, is often paired with words such “pleasure”, “reward”, and then further with “drugs”, “sex”, and “food” as if this were all it were good for.

I believe, however, that we can unify much of these principles under a single concept: Play.

Challenge, interest, novelty, and passion at least are all aspects of play. The ADHD mind has a powerful sense of play.

Play describes so much of what goes right when we are deeply invested and what can make it so difficult to engage when it is isn’t there.

Meanwhile, our brains are not full of buttons and levers.

When we are engaged well, we are in a flow. The motions of molecules and the firings of the neurons, from one node to the next, from one nucleus to the next, create a flow no less nuanced and deep than our climates and oceans.

We move through a process to becoming engaged, a motion from one state to another. It’s not like we go from “I don’t feel like it” to “I feel like it” with some sudden revelation.

From our unconscious depths, our emotions gather and our ideas form as they crest on the surface.

We are not helpless against ourselves. We have agency. We can position ourselves to begin those steps that make the transition.

That transition can begin with a Visit.

In other words, we can show up to the difficult task. Whether that’s laundry, budgeting, or a report, we can bring the materials of work in front of us, move distractions aside and then for a few moments…

simply be.

We don’t have to force ourselves to do anything.

It may seem strange. What good is it to do nothing?

Too often, we privilege action. “Just start” is one piece of advice given. But such advice can be destructive, a repeating admonition that says you cannot trust yourself to make a decision and act.

But by being with the work, you are not doing nothing. You are engaging the emotions, the true realm from which our decisions are made, from which action of true conviction might be born.

Whether we begin with anxiety, shame, irritation, or more likely an entire mental ecology of emotion, any real flow begins in being with those sensations.

In this way, we:

“Show up, be, and then decide”

Gentle winds of dopamine, interest, and engagement may even begin to tickle the sails.

  • Kourosh

PS. The Visit can be a centerpiece of a working system, one in which you begin to take charge of the world around you. Consider how you can begin with Waves of Focus


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Kourosh Dini, MD

Kourosh Dini, MD is a psychiatrist, productivity expert, author, and musician.

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