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You don't need to know this, but I need to tell you.
Part 4 - This Is Your Brain on Semen Retention
For all you SR homies that aren't as much into the esoteric and more into the down-to-earth, this post is for you. Edit : Also, my apologies, not sure why the images I uploaded show up as hyperlinks and not the actual images.
MotivationThink back to Post 1. I argued that retaining is a just a means to an end, that end being enhancing a type of energy called Jing. Jing is our vitality, which can be physically described as the sum total of our hormones, neurotransmitters, immune system and DNA integrity.
An interesting thing happens to a man during orgasm. Prolactin explodes onto the scene, and dopamine plummets.
Dopamine is that feel-good, tons of confidence, get shit done neurotransmitter. It's key to confidence and motivation. We want dopamine, and we want it in abundance.
Prolactin is a necessary hormone even for men, just like estrogen is.. But it's also the hormone responsible for breast growth and lactation in women. As guys, we want the bare minimum of prolactin floating around.
That sudden depletion of dopamine and surge in prolactin is why guys feel like they "lose their power" after "relapsing". It's a sudden diminishing of Jing.
Now the good news is, if you retain for 6 months and then have sex, you don't go all the way back to square one. It sets you back, but not all the way to the beginning. Even better news, certain techniques can be used as "harm reduction" to prevent the loss of Jing and to quickly replenish it if this does happen. That is beyond the scope of this post, but I'll get into this as we go deeper down the rabbit hole.
Back to hormones and neurotransmitters -
Low dopamine levels are associated with depression, low energy, lack of ambition, social anxiety, among others (Dailly et al., 2004).
Why does dopamine drop? Well, to make sure we attend to other aspects of our life, our brains come hardwired with a neurochemical mechanism of satiety. Prolactin, another hormone, surges right after orgasm, and is considered a reliable marker of such (Kruger et al., 2003). Prolactin works as a dopamine inhibitor, curtailing our sex drives once we consummate orgasm and providing us with feelings of satiation and sexual gratification. So the happy feelings impulsed by orgasm are carried along by prolactin. These secretions are relatively long-lasting after orgasm (Kruger et al., 2012).
Now prolactin doesn't just curtail our sex drives, it curtails our drive in general. And studies have shown this dip in dopamine takes about two weeks to recover. That's a looooong time to have reduced drive, energy and confidence..
When we practice semen retention, we're trying to "stay hungry" and accomplish goals, but prolactin is a "neruochemical mechanism of satiety". No bueno.
Sweet, Sweet DopamineThe problem is, jacking off and prolactin isn't the only thing fucking with our dopamine system. Remember, high dopamine = lots of motivation, drive, desire, and confidence. This is why people love drugs like Adderall and cocaine, and why, if they have nothing better to focus on, they clean the shit out of their apartments. They're on a dopamine high and gotta do something, anything.
But we live in a world that is beyond oversaturated with things that stimulate dopamine release. They're massive time-wasters, and they fuck up our dopaminergic systems.
They hack into our brain's reward system and prevents us actually getting things done.
I'll keep this short guys. In the brain you have these chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. They fit into receptors, much like a lock and key. It's important to remember that the brain and body are always trying to maintain homeostasis.
If the brain detects too much of a certain neurotransmitter, it reacts to maintain this homeostasis. If there is too much dopamine in certain parts of the brain, the brain first ceases to release more dopamine. If that doesn't fix it, it de-sensitizes dopamine receptors. If that still doesn't fix it, it starts removing dopamine receptors completely!
This is how addiction comes about. Look at the image below - see how amphetamine looks almost identical to dopamine? It fits right into that receptor, and over time your body down-regulates dopamine receptors, meaning you need more and more of the drug to get high, and feel worse and worse when you don't have it.
This is how porn in particular, and modern society in general, have been able to ensnare us in their clutches - they make our brain less and less sensitive to its own neurotransmitters. You need more and more stimulus (more exciting video games, kinkier and kinkier porn) to get the same dopamine release, and things that you once found interesting (books, sports, conversations with friends, whatever), are no longer stimulating enough.
- Food is literally engineered by scientists to hack into our reward system. Why eat anything healthy and nutritious when there are Cheetos in the cupboard and Mountain Dew in the fridge? Why eat a nice, big salmon salad when I can just pop in a pizza that floods my brain with dopamine and endorphins and leaves me comatose on the couch afterwards?
- Social media, with its fast pace, endless novelty in the never-ending scrolling, and system of intermittent reinforcement is addictive as hell. Why go through the work of actually hanging out with friends and family? God, you gotta sit there, actually listen to what they say, and then formulate a response? Not enough dopamine for me, I'd rather do the scroll of death or post a photo and revel in the brief, short squirts of dopamine I get with each like.
- TV shows, immersive video/PC games, constant music playing.. Again, engineered to be addictive and hack into our reward system. Who has the time to learn actual skill sets? To learn how to play a musical instrument? To read a book? How many more pages do I gotta read till I get some damn dopamine?
- And of course, our personal favorite.. We can have "virtual sex" at any time with an ever increasing variety of women with bodies that are just rarely found in real life. Why go out and try to meet actual women (and face possible "rejection"), when we can stay at home and get off to our weirdest, kinkiest desires? You know how long it's gonna take to get my hit of dopamine by actually trying to learn to talk to girls?
Now here's a caveat - the less you partake in dopamine-depleting acts, the more dopamine your brain has for daily life, and the less you'll crave these time wasters. This is why after a certain amount of time, you longer no miss porn. It doesn't even sound appealing.
As time goes on, and your receptors become re-sensitized, they become that much more sensitive to dopamine. Things that are "less exciting", but probably more beneficial, become more enjoyable. That's a big win. That said, addictive behavior becomes that much more pleasurable. So you gotta be careful, because it could quickly spiral way out of control.
Our goal then is to re-sensitize our brains to our own natural production of dopamine, and use to it ravage our women and crush our enemies. I mean, uh, to accomplish goals and shit.
The True Meaning of Brahmacharya
"All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” - Blaise PascalI would argue that preserving dopamine is as important as preserving semen. Really.
Semen retention is the doorway to realizing this. Semen retention is step one.
People think Brahmacharya is just celibacy. The word literally means "to live in higher awareness". What does this mean in relation to semen retention? Yes, retain. But you must also not squander your dopamine, just like you wouldn't squander your seed.
You are in the market, but not to buy anything.
This is a very important concept, and is the true meaning of Brahmacharya. It means you are immune to the seductions of the world, and those seductions come in the form of enslavement to dopamine.
You have controlled your lust for sensual pleasure, sensual pleasure meaning pleasure derived from any of the senses! One who has command over his mind and its lust for constant stimulation - that is a true Brahmachari.
It goes far beyond celibacy.
If you can't get through a few pages of a book without going crazy with the itch for dopamine, you need to work on this.
If you can't go even 20 minutes, never mind an hour, without checking your phone, your Snapchat, your texts.. You need a lot of work here.
Can't go a couple days without gaming? Need to work on this.
If you can't eat a home cooked meal without enjoying the flavor, and coming away satisfied, you need to work on this.
Perhaps most terrifying of all.. can you just sit and be still with your thoughts for five minutes? Ten? No phone, just you and yourself? Go to the local park, leave your phone at home, and just watch the world go by for 15 minutes. It will be torturous. Now ask yourself why the hell simply being is such a painful thing? I dare you to try out a float tank some time.
Addicted to ComfortWe're addicted to the good feelings dopamine provides us, but we're also addicted to our modern comforts. We're weak, weak little babies, and the slightest discomfort makes us cry for mommy.
This is where Stoicism and guys like David Goggins and Jocko Willink come in. According to Stoic philosophy, "the path to eudaimonia (happiness, or blessedness) is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain, by using one's mind to understand the world". Stoicism doesn't mean running from pleasure, but it does mean not mindlessly chasing it or shirking from a little discomfort.
Everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of laziness, fear and discomfort, and it would do you well to remember this. Conquer those three, and you've conquered yourself.
If y'all aren't familiar with David Goggins yet.. Y'all are missing out. The guy went from a self-proclaimed pussy to probably the toughest guy out there, being the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete SEAL training (including two Hell Weeks), the U.S. Army Ranger School (where he graduated as Enlisted Honor Man) and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. Then he went on to break a fuckton of records, including the Guinness World Record for pull-ups, completing 4,030 in 17 hours.
Peep the dude's athletic accomplishments here.
Funny thing is, he started off as a self-proclaimed pussy, clocking in at 300 lbs.
Regaining dopaminergic tone only takes you so far - you'll only be motivated to do things in order to get that dopamine hit, and that's powerful, that gets the ball rolling, but it only takes you halfway. You gotta push past discomfort to be truly outstanding, or to be "Uncommon amongst uncommon men", as Goggins put it. Motivation is what gets you started - discipline is what keeps you going.
Figure out ways to practice and embrace discomfort, and, key to this practice, reframe it as something positive. You gotta heat iron to 2750 degrees and then beat the living shit out of it forge a sword, so use the heat of discomfort to make the mind malleable and then beat the shit out of it with difficult endeavors to forge a mind that isn't weak, that doesn't constantly chase after the tiniest empty pleasures and mortal comforts.
"You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength." - Marcus Aurelius
“Don’t expect to be motivated every day to get out there and make things happen. You won’t be. Don’t count on motivation. Count on discipline.. Discipline equals Freedom” - Jocko Willink
"I had to build this callused mind, and I built it through suffering... I wanted to be a man who detested mediocrity.. This motherfucker is gonna keep coming after whatever the fuck is in front of him." David Goggins on JRE #1080
Tapas - Toughness TrainingEach time you say no to a useless urge that pops into your head, you level up. You build up personal power. It's that simple. Any time you practice something that is good for you, but that is difficult and that you don't want to do, boom, you level up again. This is callusing the mind. Do this enough times, and one day a Warrior is born.
In yoga there is a concept known as Tapas), or spiritual austerity. Just as heating ice turns it into water, and heating water turns it into vapor, Tapas is the inner heat that sublimates the energy we conserve by retaining into pure, fiery drive. The word tapas literally means "to burn".
Any time you say no to an urge, or welcome and embrace discomfort in search of growth, you level up. It's that simple. That is what tapas is all about.
Stop chasing empty stimulation.
PracticesSo what is one to do?
- Cut out empty, short-lived dopamine highs.
- Train your brain to have to work for its dopamine hits.
- Practice beneficial discomfort and adversity.
Set a time limit on your phone for your biggest time wasting apps. You have to use some discretion here. I first had mine set for 15 minutes, and I'd only allow scrolling for 15 minutes in the morning, and 15 in the evening, and that was for Instagram, Facebook and Reddit combined. Nowadays I just pop on each app in the morning to check notifications, then log off. I also don't allow notifications from any apps except for Reddit, and that's only so I can keep up with you fellas. That way I'm not constantly getting updates on my phone, draining my precious attention and dopamine. Check out the app Forest.
Cut out junk food and eat as much home-prepped, whole foods as possible. A lot of people only find snacks, fast food and restaurant food palatable. Their tastebuds have desensitized and they basically get no dopamine released from actual food. Time to change that.
Practice intermittent fasting - You gotta break the chains to food in general! I have a 8:16 feeding window - all my calories are consumed within 8 hours. This means I don't eat until 10 am, and wrap up eating at 6 pm. Considering I'm asleep most of the fasting time, this is simple. Tons of other benefits, look it up.
Try occasional 24 hour fasts - Once you're comfortable with IF, try out the occasional 24 hour fast. Eat a big breakfast, and then a big lunch. Stuff your face up until noon, and then no calories until noon the following day. Your first couple times you can drink some bone broth if you're really hurting.
Fast for everything else - I highly suggest social media / gaming / Netflix fasts. Do one whole day with no screen time whatsoever. Then do a week. Every year take a whole month off. I can feel y'all cringing - if it makes you cringe thinking about it, then you know you need it. Do the same thing with whatever other addictions you have. You will be amazed at all the stuff you can accomplish when you cut back on social media, gaming and other time-wasters.
Start reducing consumption of booze, nicotine, caffeine, and other drugs. Again, this just floods your brain with dopamine. You're burning through your Jing each time you drink booze, smoke a cig, pop an Adderall or drink a Redbull. You don't have to quit, but reduce consumption of these things in general. Keep track and just slowly reduce.
Use nicotine/caffeine/booze for a purpose. Tie your addictions up to useful actions. I've whittled my caffeine use down to only before a workout or when writing. It's become a tool, instead of an addiction. Smoke cigarettes? Start changing your habits so that you mostly smoke while you're accomplishing some goal, or only as a reward. Love craft beer like me? You gotta earn that shit, son.
When the dopamine hits
Practice "sitting still, doing nothing" - This is one of the ways Taoists refer to meditation. I'm a big fan of meditation, but even most forms of meditation involve doing something, focusing on something, visualizing, etc. Sitting still, doing nothing, and just being should be your litmus test for how well you're beginning to progress on the dopamine recovery path - if you can just sit and be comfortable for 10 or 15 minutes, you're well on your way.
Earn Your Dopamine
In Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall - My Unbelievably True Life Story, he spoke about how as a child in Austria, his father used to make him do pushups each time he entered the kitchen, earning his meals. This always stuck with me.
A lot of people think that as guys, we have to earn our keep. This needs reframing.
As guys, we GET to earn our keep, and how glorious it is.
Set goals each day - start with 3, make 'em small, and stick the fuck to 'em. You want to achieve that "Winners Effect", where success begets more success. We want to rewire our brain to meet challenges head on, to live off the highs of accomplishments, not mashing buttons while staring at a screen, endless scrolling of social media black holes, or beating our meat.
Put a price on things - 15 pushups each time you open the fridge. 20 air squats any time you leave the house. 20 burpees before any screen time that isn't productive.
Easy Peasy or Worst First? A matter of personal preference here - some like accomplishing their biggest/least fun goal first and getting it out of the way. Other's prefer to ride the high of smaller accomplishments and let that lead into bigger daily goals. Find which one works best for you.
Leverage your addictions - Set it up so that you can only take part in your biggest time wasters after you accomplish one of your goals for that day. That said, don't accomplish one goal and spend the rest of the day lounging on Netflix.
Start waking up earlier - “The test is not a complex one: when the alarm goes off, do you get up out of bed, or do you lie there in comfort and fall back to sleep? If you have the discipline to get out of bed, you win—you pass the test. If you are mentally weak for that moment and you let that weakness keep you in bed, you fail. Though it seems small, that weakness translates to more significant decisions. But if you exercise discipline, that too translates to more substantial elements of your life.” - Jocko Willink
Cold showers - Lots of you guys are already doing this, and it has tons of benefits beyond toughness training. Cold exposure increases norepinephrine 200-300%, meaning an instant energy and motivation boost. It's even been studied for its effects on depression. Start hot and end cold, do contrast showers, cold the whole time, or ice bath style.. However you wanna slice it, this is a great way to get used to being uncomfortable.
Me in my cold tub in February
Exercise - if you already do it, great. You lift but hate running? Start running. You run only? Start lifting. Don't exercise at all? Get the fuck on it.
Meditate - If you don't meditate.. I just don't have words. Your mind is the medium through which you interact with the world, and therefore shapes your entire existence. The mind is how you
- Perceive the environment around you
- Perceive your internal environment (emotions)
- Get shit done
Embrace the Suck - doesn't matter what that suck is. Hate your math class? Nut up and just do your homework. Hate running? Time to start. When you start to get the feeling of straight UGH just thinking about it, recognize that as positive thing. That becomes the trigger for success! Befriend that feeling. Just remember, it will help you build that "calloused mind", and you'll get some dopamine upon completion, which is exactly what we want.
Feel the fear and do it anyway - This one might not be applicable for every single day, but if something scares you, that's your cue to go ahead and do it. Don't think, just act. Reframe it as excitement - in fact, fear and excitement are nearly identical internal states. We don't run from discomfort, we welcome it. We don't run from fear, we meet it head on.
In a nutshell, force yourself to do something you don't enjoy doing, but that is beneficial. And when your mind tells you to quit, keep going until you reach your predetermined goal.
Created an Instagram - @ artofsemenretention
Website is in the works, and there will be posts on the webpage that I won't be putting up on Reddit, because things like "Male Hormone Optimization" technically isn't about semen retention. If y'all like the flavor of these Reddit posts, feel free to check it out
Recommended Reading ~
The Oatmeal - 5 Stages of Caffeine Intake
The Oatmeal - The Terrible and Wonderful Reason I Run Long Distances - comic but very relevant
The Winner Effect - how winning begets more winning
Discipline Equals Freedom - Jocko Willink
Can't Hurt Me - David Goggins
Total Recall : My Unbelievably True Life Story
Recommended Viewing / Listening
Bill Hicks - It's Just a Ride - not relevant to this topic, but one of my favorite clips and relevant to life in general
Goggins on JRE #1080
Jocko Willink on JRE
How to be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable - 43 Weird and Wonderful Ways to Build a Strong, Resilient Mind