In a very real sense we are addicted to thoughts and especially addicted to thoughts that cause suffering. In fact – and this may be very hard to admit and even harder to realize on a level deeper than merely intellectual, at a lived level – we are addicted to suffering itself.
I notice a certain set of physiological phenomena within me when I indulge in miserable thoughts. There is a racing of the heart, a dropping sensation in the belly. In fact I believe the symptoms are similar to those that we experience in moments of panic or danger. It is the fight or flight response. When the body performs the fight or flight response a whole cascade of hormones and neuro-transmitters come into action. One of these is dopamine. Dopamine is the pleasure neuron-transmitter. (I am of course talking from the position of a highly uneducated laymen when it comes to biology in general and neuro-biology in particular. So this may not be highly accurate though I hope it is – in all relevant aspects – good enough). Is also the compound responsible for addiction.
Not only do painful thoughts cause these symptoms but intense situations. Have you ever wondered why arguments are so prevalent? Why people shout so much at one another despite the fact that raising your voice adds no information? (Well it may tell the other that you are unhappy but surely “I am unhappy” is a superior means of conveying the same information!) It’s because the fight or flight response is at the helm and you let it stay there because you’re loving the rush! You may not admit this to yourself… Indeed your conscious mind may be fully convinced that it doesn’t want to argue but if this were true why would you continue exhibiting such irrational and self-destructive behavior? Ask the drug-addict why he persists in taking a drug which he claims to want to stop and you’ll get the answer for why you think painful thoughts and have domestic arguments!