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Love, in the time of Dopamine

Love, in the time of Dopamine


This little four-letter word can make a person the happiest person in the world, and it has the power to cut cut you  down at the knees.

We, humans, are hard-wired to seek out social interactions. You may deem yourself a loner, but deep down, your need for connection to other humans is as basal a need as food and water, and that mysterious brain of yours will reward you with a shot of dopamine (the pleasure hormone) when you’re “hanging out” with peers. Primitively speaking, the company of others would reward us with information about impending dangers, sources of food, or how  to avoid becoming something else’s source of food (think saber-toothed tiger)

As we move swiftly down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we come to the continuation of the species, which is something our noggins take rather seriously. Consider Johnny, your typical hormone raging young adult male, negotiating his way through puberty. Johnny meets Mary around the campfire (or in the workplace) and becomes inexplicably attracted to Mary, and one night, when the stars align perfectly, they consummate their mutual attraction for each other in the flesh. For a brief period in his life, Johnny’s pubescent brain is bathed in enough Dopamine to pickle a medium-sized Sabre toothed tiger. In fact, Johnny forgets about many of his other needs, because his Dopamine swathed brain is in full “love mode”. For a while, even the need for food begins to subside, as he now enters the honeymoon phase of his love for love. The physical transmutation from love to lust has him behaving more like an African wild dog than a member of the supposedly superior human race.

Falling in love makes us avoid other homeostatic drives…When love brings the dopamine, other aspects of pleasure become less important…(bonding with other clan mates, food etc.)

…for a while…

But alas, as the novelty of the rose tinted glasses begins to wear off, the Dopamine rewards from the brain begin to slow down. (becoming desensitized) In an attempt to maintain the pleasurable feelings, the couple begins to turn to other sources of pleasure, and with love and sex now a constant, they reverse down Maslow’s little hierarchy and find themselves once again on the food channel. Oh, and is it not too delightful to discover new eateries together?! With Dopamine still cranking from love, lust, and now food, the happy couple enters a phase I have witnessed many friends go through.

They disappear for a while, totally ensconced, frolicking, fornicating and feeding…

And then one day, after much cocooning and ensconcing, a pair of beautiful fat butterflies emerge.

This is a pivotal point in the development of the happy couple. Is there still enough attraction to stick together, or has the blurring of Johnny’s once strong jawline made Mary believe that there’s an even stronger protector of her future brood waiting for her behind the next right-swipe of her tinder profile. (Small disclaimer… if Johnny has an agreeable chariot, she may tolerate his expanding midriff a little longer. – But then, if his chariot is really agreeable, there may be skinnier Mary-Jane’s lurking in Johnny’s shadows of his considerations too). Suddenly, real-life comes knocking at their door.

Love and lust have the power to make or break a person. Personally, I have been under the spell of this dopamine rush a few times in my life, and I have walked blindly into situations that did not serve me. Don’t get me wrong, to be swathed in love is an experience, without which, your life would not be complete. So, with the wisdom of hindsight and because the pink goggles have been slapped off my face more than once in my life, I would entreat you to consider the following…

When struck by Cupid’s arrow, remind yourself that this overwhelming feeling is indeed an emotional manifestation of a very physical response to the Dopamine rush you experience on a biological level, and that even this (Dopamine) can subside. When it does, be sure that you’re sitting around the campfire that is your life, with a partner who fulfills more than just your physical needs. Falling in love is easy, thanks to biology. Staying together presents a greater challenge because you need to mesh with a person on many other levels. Consider these well, and perhaps, if you’re lucky and prepared to work at it, you and your partner are able to step into the etherial, where you will know that you’re spending this precious time on earth with a person whom you can indeed call your soul mate.



Fitness Coach

My name is Thorsten, and I’m into helping Silverbacks like myself on the road to rediscovering their self-esteem, and yes – great abs. My coaching, whilst cutting edge when it comes to the 4 F’s of Fasting, Feasting, Fighting and Flourishing, is aimed at implementing small gradual changes to one’s life-style which are designed to align the system from within, allowing for gradual changes which are easy to follow and staggering in the changes they create. Emotions come from motion, and it’s time to move baby!!

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