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The Arousal Rollercoaster

 

Explanations > Emotions > The Arousal Rollercoaster

Description | Discussion | So what

 

Description

While sometimes we are aroused, at other times we are not. What we cannot do is to sustain a high level arousal for a long period.

Overall, we have an average level of arousal, an activation set point to which we return that is enough to motivate us without draining us. This varies by person and can be driven by personality, age, fitness and so on.

Arousal is also affected by adaptation, where we get used to almost any situation such that, over time, it affects us less and less. This is why we are not happy for ever and can become used to scary situations. Even stimulating new music eventually bores us.

But then being flat does not last forever either. Our needs and goals drive us on. We become curious and intrigued by new possibilities. We put ourselves out there and face the dangers of our world.

Discussion

While arousal can be exciting, it is also draining. When our bodies have been put on high alert for information, danger and so on, our body systems cannot sustain this for long. We can produce only so much adrenaline or dopamine before we run out. Our hearts can pump high volumes of blood only for a while before damage is caused. So no matter the external stimulus, we become exhausted and eventually must calm down.

Arousal can be very pleasant and we can effectively become addicted to it. In fact much drug addiction is really addiction to the arousal caused. Playing games causes arousal too, with the attendant changes in brain chemistry, and can be similar in effect to drug addiction, especially if the games are played for a long period. Highs are later balanced by lows, including exhaustion, irritability and a compulsive desire to return to the game.

Arousal can have odd effects. Looking at pictures of food can make you hungry, but if you look at the pictures for too long, you may become less hungry as your brain 'overdoses' on seeing food and concludes 'I've had enough'. This has been called 'sensory boredom' as too much of the same thing can turn you off, including arousal.

A person suffering from bipolar disorder is sometimes highly elated, yet at other times is deeply distressed. With the extreme highs and lows, their rollercoaster seems out of control.

So what?

Make use of arousal. When the other person is aroused, guide their energy. When they are low, get them going again. If they are tired, a little sweet food can help them recharge quickly.

See also

The Need for Arousal

 

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