Nowadays, we commonly denounce addiction to substances: drugs, alcohol, coffee, tobacco, pot, food and some compulsive activities: excessive gaming, gambling, sex addiction, FB, shopping, watching TV, texting, etc. Then some excessive behaviors are rewarded and considered virtuous: work, running, sports, religion, spiritual materialism or groups, for examples. But as my brother Ralph says: You can’t blame the weapon for the murder.
Research shows that substance abusers and compulsive behaviorists possess a similar dependency on the brain’s pleasure-center neurotransmitter, dopamine. We avoid uneasiness by seeking special states of mind. When we take refuge in any one of these things/activities—favored or not—we’re doomed to disappointment. I didn’t say ever participate in, but “take refuge in.”
The most hidden-in-plain-sight addiction, the most dopamine-filled action is falling in love. And it’s not just rewarded by our society, it’s held as the apex. I’m not against falling in love—I mean it’s the instinctual biological cocktail to ensure we keep our species going—I’m against the mania of it. Even the phrase, “fall in love,” reveals its lack of choice, intention, forethought.
Being in love may be our biggest mega-distraction and certainly the mega-delusion that kills many a potentially fine working human relationship. It distracts from the real work of partnering, which IMHO is why we’re attracted to certain people in the first place: we have esoteric, complex connective work to do on ourSelves. We come together for deeper reasons than just the biological imperative. I believe every relationship is a “spiritual” or profound one and that includes not only our mates but our kids, parents, siblings, friends and our cat or dog.
An old friend of mine has gone through many a delightful woman because he’s addicted to the feeling of being in love and carries the fallacy that the reason it doesn’t last is that he’s with the “wrong” woman. But after about 40 years, I’d say, Look deeper within, Bub. [see: why women don’t date nice (entitled) guys]. I also knew a woman who would hang out with a friend three times a week doing all sorts of fab things only to verbally dishonor this connection by remarking, “I need to find a relationship.” Really? Blind spot!
C.S. Lewis defines four loves:
- friendship/freely chosen
- romantic/being in love
Romantic love is elevated beyond its superficial power. It differs very little from crack cocaine—and ultimately lasts about as long—before the fantasy starts destroying you and your mate prior to the discovery that you love their companionship as well as their kisses.
In my 35 years of work, I’ve often suggested to clients that if they want to find their raison d’être they should try to “overcome their biology.” William Blake suggested we’re half human, half angel. Time to focus more on the “divine” part of ourselves and generate our own bliss, joy, “love” within and stop exclusively thinking we can only find “it” in others, activities or substances. Let’s start elevating the relationships we do enjoy beyond the romantic sort and honor all our loves equally.