As I publish this blog, I'll probably keep checking to see who likes it, who shares it, who comments, etc. etc.. and who am I kidding, it's not probably, it's a definite. I will check. Just like I check my instagram, my Facebook, and my snapchat. The same way I check to see who texted me in the morning while I was sleeping. I'm not even expecting anything specific or looking forward to anything, I've simply gotten into the habit of checking for the sake of checking.
Checking, checking, checking, seeking, seeking, seeking. So much attention that is externally focused, it makes it hard to imagine how we ever get to really truly focus on ourselves! I thought more and more about this external seeking especially after listening to the Friend Zone podcast Dopamine Loop episode (I highly recommend, they talk about real issues and are so relatable and informative). It was fascinating to me; I always thought dopamine was only associated with pleasure, a chemical released in your brain if you have an enjoyable experience. Turns out it's a little different than that: dopamine is a chemical released in our brains when we are SEEKING or WAITING for something. So the rush a gambler feels after they've made their bet, BEFORE they see if they won or not; an addict that is on their way to get their fix; a compulsive shopper's high when they're in the store looking at all the clothes; this positive feeling that comes just from the act of looking for the desired experience, without even getting it yet!
We all have this Dopamine system, and the nature of our relationship with our social media makes us particularly more vulnerable to getting caught in a "dopamine loop"; where the act of seeking itself becomes addictive and we actually become addicted to the act of "checking", as we wait for "likes".
Dopamine is actually a GOOD thing. It gives us motivation to go out there and get stuff done in hopes of results. The not so great thing is when the dopamine loop continues to get activated without any real substantial results (because when's the last time you could pay your bills with "likes" and "comments"), and it gets stuck in this repetitive loop where we are always seeking, and not gaining anything tangible towards our own growth and happiness.
The dopamine response can be even stronger if the results are inconsistent; like not knowing when that "like" or "comment" will arrive. This extends to relationships with others as well: that inconsistent guy/girl that was sometimes so attentive, and other times would be dismissive. Sometimes seeking attention from someone that inconsistently provides it to us can actually be an addictive process because it releases dopamine in our brains.
I'm the type of person that really likes the idea of being content with myself. And I say "like the idea of", because I'm not there yet. I'm working on unhacking my dopamine loop. Delaying the urge to "check". And for me social media isn't so much of an issue; it's more so how dopamine gets activated in my love life.
Dating is hacking my dopamine loop: spending energy and time focused on how and when another person meets my needs/expectations. The rush of anticipating this person's response and affection. So much energy and attention focused outwards, but not with any real substantive results towards something meaningful for my personal growth and happiness.
I'm not saying that it's bad to look externally for comfort and pleasure, because we are creatures of connection and connection is a beautiful thing. I just know for me, personally, the idea of being dependent on or craving external responses in order to feel okay is NOT okay for me. So I am de-railing this dopamine loop. When I crave external validation, or that "I miss you"/"good morning beautiful"/"happy Thursday"/"insert random statement here" text, or whatever, I'm writing my own self a love letter. When I find myself wanting to seek comfort externally, I'm asking myself what I need each moment, and seeing if I can provide it for ME. For so long I have been in the habit of looking to another person to meet that need for me I hadn't stopped to learn more about myself and figure out how to truly take care of me. I've been working on this for a little while now, and it's actually surprising to me how much more time and energy I have to put into the things that make me a better overall human. My dopamine has been getting activated by seeking knowledge to better the work I do with my clients, improving my friendships, and finding new ways to improve my overall fitness and wellness. Call me a cat lady if you want, because I absolutely am that, but it's starting to feel pretty damn good.
Learning about the dopamine loop gave me some insight into how much I need to embody my own definition of self love by feeling content on my own, so that another person in my life is a complement; not needed, but wanted and enjoyed. And because the seeking, the checking, is reactive and habitual. I want to act and connect from a purposeful place of listening to my intuition and doing what feels right, rather than what feels comfortable/familiar and going back to old habits that no longer serve me.
Let me know what your thoughts are on this; is there anything hacking your dopamine loop that you want to detox out of your system? If so, what is it and how do you plan on doing it?
***SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT****
Light and Love,