Let’s Get Dopey
(Caveat: beware of posts that come with caveats. I don’t usually post scientific stuff because: a) I am not a scientist, b) it’s boring, and c) generally, who cares. With that said, understanding the basics of dopamine helped me clean up some of my messes. In honor of Valentine’s Day, I decided to get dopey.)
When I was 7, a non-animated version of Cinderella with Leslie Ann Warren was released. I dreamed of being her. I dreamed of finding him. I knew that when I did everything would be right in my world 4-ever. Rodgers and Hammerstein provided the music.
Do I love you because you’re beautiful
Or are you beautiful because I love you?
Am I making believe I see in you a girl too lovely to be really true?
Do I want you because you’re wonderful
Or are you wonderul because I want you?
Are you the sweet invention of a lover’s dream
Or are you really as beautiful as you seem?
Am I making believe I see in you a man too perfect to be really true?
Do I want you because you’re wonderful, or
are you wonderful because I want you?
Are you the sweet invention of a lover’s
dream or are you really as wonderful as you seem?
Do I love you because you are wonderful or are you wonderful because I love you?
Who knew that Cindy and her Prince were right to question what was happening to them? Little did they know they were under the influence of dope, a.k.a dopamine. (Yes heroin’s nickname “dope” comes from the neurotransmitter dopamine.)
You know how mice like cheese? How cats dig cat nip? How dogs drool for treats? Well that’s how we humans are about dopamine. We love how it makes us feel (and it makes us feel love.) We must have it (literally.) We’ll do damn near anything to keep it coming once we’ve found a good supply of it. It’s our reward chemical. It’s the chemical that makes falling in love feel so damn good.
When you are highly attracted to someone and you feel yourself “falling” in love your brain is falling into a big ol’ pool of dopamine. It’s not optional. It’s not your fault. It just happens. It is the reason why taking it slowly and not making life altering decisions during the early days of romance are good ideas (and yet so hard.)
Ever wonder why you keep going back to the wrong person even though you know better? Yep… dopamine. Your body is gonna seek it and if Mr/Ms Wrong causes your brain to produce dopamine you are headed there whether you like it or not.
Ever heard (or thought) the dreaded “I love you, BUT I’m not in love with you?” What this really means is “I love you, but you no longer cause my brain to make mass quantities of dopamine so I’m looking elsewhere.”
I wish I had understood about the power of the dopamine when I was younger. Little did I know when an unwanted breakup came my way I needed to find other sources of dopamine. It wouldn’t have fixed my broken heart, but it would have helped me get back on track.
When I was in the throes of doing stupid things like calling and begging to get back together or coincidentally showing up at the places where I might run into him, I was jonesing not only for him, but for the way he made me feel… for the dopamine I was producing thanks to him.
When you “stalk” someone you love after a breakup, you are really just like a rat seeking cheese, hunting around in cyberspace for your dopamine fix. Strangely, even seeing his picture on her Facebook page during their weekend at The Cape (which makes you feel like shit) can still spike your dopamine levels for a moment.
“Stalk” on Facebook ——> Find Stuff (the Rat finding Cheese) = More Dopamine
Result of Seeing the Pictures or Comments ——> Heartbreaking Sobs ——> Now You Want Him More = Rat Wants More Cheese ——> Send Him Texts (or message him, or try to chat with him, or do all of the above) ——> Dopamine Spikes While You Wait For a Reply——> No Reply ——> You Crash ——> You “Stalk” Him More (cycle repeats.)
He Replies ——> You Get Your Fix ——> You Want More ——> You “Stalk” Him More (cycle repeats.)
Things that can increase your dopamine supply include (please note, this is *not* a list of recommendations – just information):
- Dairy Products (hellooooo ice cream)
- Risk Taking
- Stalking him or her on Facebook, etc.
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Brisk Exercise
Whether you are suffering from infatuation with the wrong person or the heartbreak of a failed relationship, you’ve got to find another source for your dopamine. Do not look up your old high school boyfriend or girlfriend! Eat a damn pumpkin seed. Take a brisk walk. Jump out of an airplane (with a parachute,) or even head to Starbucks. You get the picture. You’ve got to find a different source. It would be best if it didn’t come from another human being until you’ve actually grieved the loss of your prince or princess.
When new love does find you, surrendering to the love coma can work if you have a few lifeguards in place. Don’t get married, move in together, merge money, or make a baby (the 4-M’s) during the first 6 or more months of a new relationship and you’ll be much better prepared to find out whether or not you are really compatible with each other. It’s always nice to know there really is long-term relationship potential before you are up to your neck in long-term commitments.
I don’t want to turn this post into a science fair project. I’m not going to get more nerdy on you. If you want a dopamine geek fest check out this article.
All this is to say, if you are having trouble getting over a relationship or are flirting with the idea of starting something you know you shouldn’t, there’s more at work than weak will, bad decisions, or even soul mating.
More Articles in the geek zone…
Listen to Helen Fisher (the guru of love chemicals) speak on the topic – this is a MUST!
The Brain in Love and Lust
How Love Works
Love in the Brain