Addicted to Love

It seems like everybody’s addicted to their smart phones these days, and we feel as if we’d suffocate if we can’t sneak a quick glance to check our messages and new likes. Some of us are addicted to food, shopping, gambling, video games, drugs, porn, and other substances/activities that momentarily soothe our nerves.

This happens because of neurotransmitter rewards. In other words, each time we get a new like or take another hit of our favorite “drug,” our brain rewards us with a quick shot of dopamine. That hit – the message, food, new shoes, etc. – isn’t what we’re actually addicted to, it’s the dopamine. All those activities are merely methods to stimulate its release.

What would happen to our world if we became addicted to loving behavior instead? To kind words, generous gestures, acts of courage and nobility, healthy self care, kindness, acceptance, and spiritual growth?

Your Love is my Drug

It just so happens that love is the original drug, and one of the most powerful drugs in the universe – or rather, it releases many of the most powerful drugs, like dopamine, inside us. All other drugs or addictions are mere substitutes when available supply of the real thing gets too low, or the “price” climbs too high.

Getting addicted to love is simple: the more loving acts you commit, the more happiness floods your system, and the more your brain learns, “Hey, I LIKE that! Let’s do it again!!!”

Romantic Love is Not Enough

To be crystal clear on which “type” of love I’m suggesting, I don’t recommend addiction to sex, hookups, or mere romantic love alone – not if it’s not tied to a genuine loving relationship. Sex without love provides only momentary pleasure, followed by a more enduring sense of separation and possible brain-structure damage when sex hormones are abused excessively.

If you’re lucky enough to fall in love and begin a healthy relationship, the addiction happens automatically as your brain floods continually with dopamine and other bliss-inducing neurochemicals. A broken heart comes from the very real pain of separation and withdrawal from all those natural happy drugs.

So if you’re in love – great! I envy you. Take good care of that relationship. And don’t settle for only romantic love, because eventually, it must settle into deeper mature love, so begin those habits now.

It’s All About Da Bond

As for addiction to non-romantic love and connection, science has already proven its efficacy. For example, you may have read this popular article in the Huffington Post. Author Johann Hari quotes Professor Peter Cohen arguing that

human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. We should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.

How to Connect

It’s a sign of the times that how-to-bond-with-people requires explanation. We may spend plenty of time near others, we may have hundreds of Facebook friends, we may share what seem like intimate details such as exotic vacation photos, bathroom-mirror selfies, even what we ate for lunch, yet still feel isolated and alone.

So here’s how it’s done; here’s how to make connection addictive: simply make it good, and make it real.

That is, take a risk and LOVE.

Ask a genuine question and listen attentively to the answer, then ask follow up questions to prove that you were listening and you’re honestly interested and not just waiting for your turn to talk. Make people feel interesting and important by showing interest in them, in their thoughts and feelings. Make them feel safe enough to open up and be real.

Accept people exactly as they are, then encourage and support growth if they’re open to the idea.

Make eye contact. The eyes truly are the window to the soul and that’s where the most valuable connection can be found. If eye contact makes you uncomfortable, that resistance reveals that your vulnerability lies just beyond that wall of discomfort – push through your fear until you strike gold.

Share your honest feelings, even when it scares you to become so vulnerable and transparent. Share your dreams, your fears, and express your true passions. There can be no avoiding this requirement. There’s no way around it. It’s impossible to connect if you don’t open up and show your true heart.

Get Going

See? It’s not so hard! You can do this! After all, it’s not so different from the safe, sterile distance of social media: just like, comment, and share – only this time, do it in person and share more of the true you than you’re accustomed to. As you do, you’ll discover that Face to Face can prove far more rewarding and addictive than Facebook. You’ll be happy you did.

And sometimes, you won’t. Sometimes you’ll just feel nervous and scared or intimidated; silly, embarrassed, and even humiliated. Love yourself and everyone else enough to face your fears and keep on connecting anyway. Set a good example and hope it goes viral, even if you can’t measure your influence on a website.

Now get to work. Call up a friend (text if you must) and schedule a get together, or begin with the stranger sitting next to you on your commute. Greet a neighbor and find something in common.

Help an old lady across the street – maybe someone will record you on their phone and you’ll become an internet sensation! When you do, you’ll remember that the genuine, authentic, real, in-person, first-hand experience trumped whatever shallow value that shallow, weak, internet connections can offer.

And next time you feel the urge to check your messages, maybe you’ll phone someone instead, or look up and deliver an IS (Instant Smile) to whoever walks by.

SLIDER

Where do you fall on the “Addicted to Love” love slider?

1: You’re wrong! Social media (or drugs, porn, music, etc.) is better than real-life connection! Wait, I mean, social media (or drugs, porn, music, etc.) IS real life! The only reason to even consider your opinion is that your site has 12,000 likes. 3: I’d love to love and feel loved, but I’ve been hurt and it’s too scary to open up and trust and connect, so don’t ask me to try! 5: I WOULD RATHER JUMP OFF A CLIFF than open up and connect with people… but… maybe… someday, I’ll give it a little try. Just not yet. 7: I’m trying to be more open, vulnerable, and loving both online and in person, and even though it scares me a little, I’ll keep going. 10: I love myself and everybody so much that I often say and do kind things and enjoy genuine connections everywhere I go!

11. Going to extremes: there’s nothing inherently wrong with social media, so you don’t need to delete all your accounts unless you’re truly addicted and that’s the only way to break free. Social media is what you make of it, so show more love and vulnerability there, too.

FOR DISCUSSION

When was the last time you stepped a little outside of your comfort zone to do something loving? How did it make you feel? Did it make you want to do it again?

When was the last time you let yourself be vulnerable and you got hurt or it didn’t turn out well? What lessons did you learn from that experience – did you decide to give up or are you willing to keep trying?

HOMEWORK

Start thinking nice things about everyone you see. When you feel brave enough, say them out loud. See how people respond to unexpected love.

Spend F2F (face to face) time with someone you don’t usually see or improve the quality of time you spend by inserting small acts of love. See how you like it and observe how others respond – immediately and over time.

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