My Ode to Self-Care 44: “Hold Tight”

I hit a wall today. If I were to include this essay, I have eight more prompts and an epilogue before this four-month excursion is completed. Towards the end of all projects, the creative mind feels depleted; the easy solution is to stop and begin the next one because it is already on your mind. The one we have put our blood, sweat, and tears into has become a chore we are eager to complete in order to chase the next rush of inspiration; a high.

The last sentence gave me a place to start…

“Hold Tight” was in regular rotation in the summer of 2016. I do not always feel this way about the song; nonetheless, today, it reminds me of a friend I spoke to, almost every day, all day. Since she moved from New York some years prior, we touched base and checked in with each other every once in a blue moon. One day, a comment on a post became an extensive conversation.

While our friendship was always platonic, I found the young lady to be quite attractive. Nothing ever occurred, nor did I have any idea if the feeling was mutual; she was a friend who happened to be cute. However, for those few weeks, I could sense chemistry of some sort. Despite our difference in time zones, we flirtatiously chatted all day about any, everything, and nothing. There were no expectations or thoughts of what this could become one day; it was a simple high to get by.

Over the past few days, I have had conversations about dopamine and serotonin on a few occasions. Dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters-chemical messengers-which play a role in the regulation of several bodily functions. Serotonin plays a role in how we sleep, cognition and concentration, hormonal activity, appetite and metabolism, and overall mood and emotions. While dopamine has many functions, it is most known as the chemical which plays a role in our internal reward system, motivation, and desires. A lack or imbalance of these two neurotransmitters are part of what causes anxiety, depression, and many cognitive and personality disorders.

For varied reasons, my talks about serotonin and dopamine gave me the high both are associated with. I graduated from Morehouse College’s psychology department 13 years ago; the fact I still retained information in detail made me feel good about myself. While I am no therapist, I like to think my education is embedded in my work as a writer and content creator. The human brain is the most complicated and fascinating thing on earth; in my free time, I do a little informal, independent study in my field, I guess.

The world is addicted to their phones and social media because they are designed to administer shots of dopamine and serotonin to us. If whenever we open an app and stimulated by our interests or a reward, it makes us feel good. The study everyone who has every taken a psychology 101 class-and in our everyday lives-have learned through Ivan Pavlov’s experiment with his dog is behavioral modification occurs through classical conditioning. The creators of our favorite hard and software are very aware of this because the currency exchange they seek is our time and data. They retain our attention in ways such as whenever we post, they will not display all of our likes at once, so each time we come back, there is a new response to trigger another chemical dosage of the feel-goods.

We drug people into falling in love with us. The infatuation-aka honeymoon-stage of courtship is a series of time in which we are high out of our minds. The first hit comes from when we first see someone and consider them attractive. If the initial conversation goes well and there is an exchange of contact information, we feel rewarded and get high again. As we learn information and find common interests with someone who likes who they think we are us; we get high because someone finds us interesting, despite our internal struggle with self-doubt. Every few minutes we glance at our phone to see if they’ve called, texted us back, slid into our DM’s, and what have you because we like the high and look forward to the next one; with hopes it comes sooner than later. There are dates, affectionate touches, kisses, sex, and intimacy; and they give us all the same feeling. All of it is made possible through dopamine (which creates norepinephrine), serotonin, and oxytocin.

Before we know it, we are addicted to how said person makes us feel; they are associated with pleasure. The “I can’t eat or sleep, shorty gives me butterflies” mindset we have all experienced are the same side effects one can find on the side of a prescription bottle.

Eventually, our body self-regulates and balances itself out. It knows too much getting high can have adverse effects on its other functions. We get used to our drug of choice, go through withdrawals, seek a more intense high, or we need a break. Many of those who are “in love with love,” are addicted to this stage. The unconscious assumption is once the high wears off, so does the love, and are in search of another strain.

The truth of the matter is infatuation, like any addiction to a drug, is rooted in an insecurity. We look for someone to fill a deep-rooted void (loneliness, hurt from past experiences, trauma, our parents and family, etc.). In the context of love, this has no negative connotation because it is part of what makes us all human and our lives one worth living. Once the stage of infatuation has ended, we have become dependent on the object of our affection.

Dopamine creates “the chase.” Through touch and intimacy, the oxytocin stimulates a bond of trust. Serotonin is involved with the status. All three hormones work in a conjoint and perpetual fashion to create the bond associated with love; a verb associated with service. Love can and will disappoint at times because as children, we cannot meet our own needs and are rely on others. At some point or another, for the sake of our own survival, we must meet our own needs.

As social creatures and independent we would like to think we are, we need others. However, anyone we love has, can, and will disappoint us. Our experiences from the accumulated lack of trust in others-and ourselves-can drive us to become wary. We position ourselves to trigger the feel-goods which reinforce what we are used to and associated as love since children. It also comes in varied formats such as cheating, self-serving, or the fly selfie saved in our phone we saved so everyone can like it and tell us how good we look at the right time. All of it is associated with our need and incessant search for stimuli to give us our happy pills.

The ones we choose to love are the ones we can depend on the most. I believe your mate will get on your nerves 70% of the time. However, they have gotten us so high, we have decided they are someone we want to learn about until we expire. As a widowed man, I have told many when it is all said and done, and the person you’ve loved is no longer here, you don’t dwell too much on all of their bullshit and the strife they have caused; you think about who was your good company. For our good company, we do what we can, to make their world a better place because we want to keep them happy and continue to get us high.

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