Lockdown gave me “treat brain”, says Imogen West-Knights in the Financial Times. Suddenly I was buying make-up I didn’t know how to use and eating pizza upon pizza, “their boxes towering up like greasy Jenga blocks”. Once I had relatively good impulse control. Now “treat brain was in charge”.
Staying at home for 23 hours a day meant easy access to the fridge and Uber Eats, with “no judgement from colleagues”. A charity-worker pal described her “new £77 face serum made of pig placenta”. A friend sent me a long, panicked-seeming text about his growing oyster habit – cycling to buy a box of six and “eating them in the street”. Treats can make you feel grubby, like being a rat in the maze of late capitalism, smashing the “buy now” button for an ever less satisfying lick of endorphins.
When lockdown ended, I assumed I would stop “living like a dauphin in pre-revolutionary France”. But unlike the crying and the “yo-yoing mood swings”, treat brain persists. I’ve learnt to love it. Human beings have a long history of suspecting that pleasure and indulgence are negative things. Epictetus, a Greek Stoic, said people who thought pleasure was a form of goodness should “lead the life of a worm, of which you judged yourself worthy: eat and drink, and enjoy women, and ease yourself, and snore”.
Fine by me. I spent “a dismaying amount of my twenties” training myself not to eat. Since treating myself to a nicer, more expensive wine every week in 2020, I now only want the nicer, more expensive wine. “It’s nicer.” And I want treat brain to feel less like a pathology I am wrestling with and “more like a mindset I am cautiously but actively cultivating”.
Read the full article here.