The Black Box Problem

In the world of Science, a “Black Box” is a system, device, or object in which you can observe inputs and outputs but cannot see what is happening inside.

For me, as an addict, my addiction feels like a “Black Box” too (I can see what is going in and see what is coming out but rarely what is happening inside the box).

Many times, I felt like there was some other person or thing else behind the curtain of my brain manipulating my reactions and actions without me having control of what was happening. I remember coming out of acting-out fugue states wondering how in the world I started acting out in the first place.

What Is Going On “Behind The Curtain”

Our brains specialize in creating shortcuts.

The brain tries to make as many products automatic as is possible in order to always maximize the amount of computing space for our everyday use.

So, when a relationship is created and reinforced between a trigger and a behavior, the brain builds a short-cut (or neural pathway) between the trigger, the behavior, and the reward.

One of these relationships, with an addict, can be between triggers and acting out behaviors.  In particular, the brain likes to avoid pain, confusion, and dissonance.

For me, it always seemed like someone else was driving my car. Like I was experiencing the black box problem in my own head.

Breaking Out Of The Box

The key to breaking out of the box is creating new shortcuts.

For me, creating new connections between my acting out behaviors and positive behaviors like connecting with other people, exercising, or meditating confounds my brains deference to a particular shortcut.

The more I practice the new behaviors the less automatic is my brains deference to the original shortcut.

Over time, as I have learned to understand my triggers (inputs), create alternative neural pathways (new shortcuts), and identify the different emotional outcomes (outputs) my Black Box moves it from opacity (Black) towards transparency (See-Through). I have noticed that this builds both emotional muscle memory (that works against my acting out) and makes it easier to see (or slow-down) the process.


Writing Your Own Best Story: Addiction & Living Hope is available as an eBook on for only $2.99.

5 Stars “Author’s been through hell and back and remembers everything he learned on the way.”





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