Dopamine

Marriage Day“I’m in love” may sound good, but “I’m drowning in brain chemistry” is a more accurate statement. The powerful attraction to someone occurs as a highly potent chemical cascade releases in our brains.

If we had a window into our heads and could take a peek into the base of our brains, we would see these chemicals surging out and bathing our brains in pleasure-producing chemicals. When we fall in love, combinations of chemicals drown our brains in an ecstatic mix of estrogen, testosterone, serotonin, norepinephrine, adrenaline, oxytocin, vasopressin and dopamine…what a cocktail!

When we feel attraction to someone, there’s more going on inside than we realize. We might imagine that it’s actually the person that is so wonderful because we believe that they make us feel so good.

But wait a minute! If the person were so wonderful, then all these good feelings about them would never deplete. Yet, they always do. And that’s because it’s not all about the other person.

Dopamine Pathways. In the brain, dopamine play... The chemical release involving twelve areas of the brain correlates not only with the personality type of the one we find so interesting, but directly with our childhood experiences.  

The love chemicals flow in dominant phases depending on the stage of the relationship. For example, the gender hormones are always flowing which lend attraction in the first place. But the serotonin, norepinephrine, adrenaline, and especially the neurotransmitter, dopamine, are what spark the initial excitement of feeling in love. And it is the dopamine that makes us act dopey.

However, as awesome as it is, the excitement induced by the brain cocktail is so intense that it cannot last for too long or we would become exhausted. As a result, the average time span for the love chemicals to flow usually lasts between six months to two years.

Once we have settled down in to the married with children phase, we need the bonding and stabilizing effects of oxytocin and vasopressin to keep our hearts faithful. These chemicals can help heal any trouble or pain in the marriage. Regular touching is one way to release oxytocin which increases a sense of trust in maintaining a secure bond. Like the mother with her newborn, touching creates a strong bond between spouses.

But…what if the dopamine begins to flow in relation to someone other than our spouse? When we feel attracted to another person, first of all, it is perfectly natural! God created men and women to be attracted to one another naturally and that hormonal attraction does not suddenly die once we marry. The situation can feel awkward until further investigation.

English: Chemical structure of norepinephrine,...There are superficial attractions and more profound attractions. In regards to superficial attraction, do I question my motives looking twice at a group of young, muscular men jogging bare-chested down the sidewalk in the sunshine? Not at all. I may comment to God with a mental wink, “Hey, good job!” I am a healthy woman and am simply admiring His incredible handiwork. Period. It goes no farther than that. I do not entertain any ideas about these young men then or later. Out of sight, out of mind.

In regards to the more profound attractions, problems can arise if our hearts are not grounded in the love of Christ, and we get careless. This situation is profiled in Proverbs 7. We are caught off guard when a dart of passion launches strategically right into the most vulnerable place in the heart at the moment we least expect it.

Compounding the problem is the spirit of lust which likes to piggy back on dopamine.

Sometimes being caught off guard can seem like dopamine is bigger and stronger than we are! It can get tricky walking around with a large dart protruding from the chest, pulsating painfully with every heart beat and spilling trails of blood along the floor.

But, alas! The situation is merely chemically induced, and with the help of the Master, can be mastered. To prevent it from taking over your life, it must be put in its place.

First things first: a dart of passion is an attack from the enemy– an attack that God allowed specifically for His purposes in growing us up into the likeness of Christ.

Secondly, the enemy throws darts at the flesh. Thus, in as much as we identify with our flesh, we will allow the dart to steer us. On the contrary, in as much as we identify with who we are in Christ, we will steer it.

A reasonable formula for self-control and recovery:

1. Put it in perspective: You have a crush. Big deal. Who hasn’t? It’s a situation common to man (1 Cor. 10:13). Remember that you are not alone.
2. Remember the scary (and hilarious) fact: It’s difficult to tell the difference between brain scans of people who are “in love” and those “legally insane.”
3. Remember that you are united in a marital covenant, what that vow with the LORD means, and the lifetime of pain and regret you could bring upon yourself, your loved ones, especially your spouse and children. Like alcohol, dopamine blurs potential reality.
4. Take the person off the throne you have placed them on and choose to see them in reality as a broken human with faults and failures. Imagine them hurting your feelings.
5. Ask God to deliver insight into your boundary breaking and what your need is in trying to run away from something/someone or toward a particular trait in this other person. Then learn to get that need met in a healthy way, preferably within the marriage.
6. Fast-forward your life past the dopamine experience to mundane daily life with this other person where you would face many of the same issues you do now since you would still be in the picture.
7. See this person as someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother.
8. If you feel it has a real grip on you, get help, let go and grieve, as long as it takes to release yourself, the loss of this person/thing, and the loss of your desired reality and false hope.
9. Apply James 5:16 regularly and immediately attend the Every Man’s Battle workshop (New Life Ministries).  Next best option, read Every Man’s Battle book.
10. Lay down your life (1 John 3:16). It’s not your own. Let God mold your heart (Ps.139:23).
11. Fix your eyes back permanently on Christ and His healing body (Heb. 12:1-2).
12. Receive comfort and courage from others, your new habits and new thought patterns (Gal. 6:2; Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23) as you make healing changes.
13. Ask God to give you a teachable heart with thanksgiving for the lesson He’s teaching you.
14. Give grace to yourself while you get back on track. And in everything forever.
15. Apply daily everything you’ve learned, especially guarding your heart (Prov. 4:23).
16. Embrace wholeheartedly God’s will for you, especially invest in yourself (See Motto and Meditation posts) and your marriage as best you can.
17. Participating in marital and/or individual counseling to ensure that both partners grow up in Christ to get and stay satisfied in life (See also Living Waters and New Life Ministries on Resources page.) If your spouse won’t go, you go!
18. Hold yourself and your spouse accountable for marriage responsibilities, including ending all communication with the other person, if necessary.
19. Regularly get your needs met in a healthy way, especially any that remain neglected within the marriage relationship. Lean on those faithful, same gender friends.
20. And finally, it’s fun to get to the place where you can just thank God for the dopamine rush –and leave it at that.

Needless to say, the goal is to promote dopamine in the marriage relationship. However, sometimes this can be nearly impossible depending on the circumstances, hopefully temporary.

Next best option is to feed dopamine in your relationship with God! He created the dopamine, your unique brain, and is most helpful in guiding you through the process of mastering this chemical.

Dopamine release can be further promoted by purposefully scheduling pleasurable daily activities for yourself, and of course, seeking out supportive friends who love you and want to help you master the chemical invasion.

Rainbow of chemicalsDo the right thing. Let your thoughts guide your actions and soon your feelings will follow. After all, it’s just a chemical, right?

Proverbs 7:23 Till a dart [of passion] pierces and inflames his vitals; then like a bird fluttering straight into the net [he hastens], not knowing that it will cost him his life.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Proverbs 4:23 Keep and guard your heart with all vigilance and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.

Proverbs 25:28 A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.

Psalm 139:23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts

James 5:16 Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart]. The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].

1 John 3:16
By this we come to know (progressively to recognize, to perceive, to understand) the [essential] love: that He laid down His [own] life for us; and we ought to lay [our] lives down for [those who are our] brothers [in Him].

Hebrews 12:1-2
THEREFORE THEN, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us,

Looking away [from all that will distract] to Jesus, Who is the Leader and the Source of our faith [giving the first incentive for our belief] and is also its Finisher [bringing it to maturity and perfection]. He, for the joy [of obtaining the prize] that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising and ignoring the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Galatians 6:2
Bear (endure, carry) one another’s burdens and troublesome moral faults, and in this way fulfill and observe perfectly the law of Christ (the Messiah) and complete what is lacking [in your obedience to it].

Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

Ephesians 4:23
And be constantly renewed in the spirit of your mind [having a fresh mental and spiritual attitude],

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About ashleydwille

Author Ashley D. Wille was always searching for spiritual answers. “True and lasting satisfaction always proved just out of reach. Now, in midlife, I have come to find my soul satiated in God. Through sweet surprises, difficult climbs, and excruciating valleys, the Master’s hand has shaped me. All along the way, God has taught me many things. What He has taught me most is that many of my beliefs about Him were wrong.” Her book, My Journey Through the Cross, is a personal insight shared by an amazing woman. Through her profound experiences and inner struggles, Wille shows how she was able to break through false layers of thinking and move into a deeper relationship with God. Her beautiful journey is just waiting to be shared. If you are ready to live your life free of guilt and shame, you too can learn how to walk in spiritual freedom.
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