Pavlovian Diarrhea

Every since yesterday, I’ve been thinking about the psychological underpinnings of diarrheic urgency. Why is it that I can play chicken with myself all day, but not feel that gotta go gotta go gotta go feeling until I am literally unlocking my door? How is it that most of the time (with a few legitimate exceptions) I can hold it together until the bathroom door is closed?

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve trained myself into a gut-brain pavlovian response.

When I’m going through a rough SIBO patch, like right now, there are times that I have to go to the bathroom ASAP. To counter that, I’ve learned how to tell when it’s “time” and act accordingly. But, as I’ve also adjusted my life into healing mode, my gut has been slowly improving. That means that the signs gradually change — but my reaction to them does not.

So now I’m stuck in a feedback loop where I’m hyper-aware of all my gut rumbles and movement, but where I’ll also run to the bathroom at the slightest provocation, which doesn’t help build up between-bathroom-breaks stamina, and so on.

I hear about athletes like Michael Phelps visualizing their races — imagining every kick, every breath, breaking down every turn and the last final moments of the race.

Instead of focusing on what can go wrong, Phelps focuses on what happens when everything goes right. He’s rehearsed it so many times, it’s ingrained into a click-whirr response. And so when something actually DOES go wrong, he doesn’t have to scramble to recover, he already has a mental tape to fall back on. A winning tape.

I’d wager that this strategy would also work for my feedback loop problem. Imagine a positive outcome: walking through my front door calmly, guts behaving all civilized-like.

I like it.

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