If Only to Touch Tenderly the Faces of the Gods (otherwise known as Dopamine)
Dopamine. How I love thee not, yet how I long to feel thy effects. You let me know I am alive.
It doesn’t work alone, this neurotransmitter. But it is the central chemical of wanting and longing, of the pursuit of pleasure and achievement. When we are in unhealthy, obsessive lust, or addicted to drugs, it is an imbalance of dopamine that tells us we absolutely need to possess and ingest the object of our affection/addiction.
Dopamine is a neuromodulator. It dials up or turns down the feelings we get when we focus our attention on our desires and goals. It is the feeling behind the desire for achievement, no matter what we decide the object of achievement may be.
Scientists are coming to understand that, as humans, we are not satisfied with mere happiness. When we achieve our desires, we are not necessarily in heaven. Actually, the dichotomy of humanity is that we need to keep the drive toward achievement going. We are never satisfied. We live for longing, for reaching, for pushing toward that which may or may not be attainable.
Part of what make human sexuality so fun is the excitement of the unknown. When dopamine gets to rise along with its neighbor and friend, serotonin, things get very fun indeed! Ooooo! What is this? What’s going to happen? I’m not sure about what this is, but I’m sure I want to find out!
This is why it is important to explore new situations and sensations with your love partner. When serotonin settles in and dopamine drops, things can get a bit stale. Sexual excitement is very important in maintaining a healthy romantic relationship.
Variety is the spice of life and love! Try the chair or the living room recliner for a change from the bedroom! Take a feather or the bud of a rose and explore the wonderful feeling on your skin…then turn the feather or the rose over and see what a tender touch with these might elicit!
Don’t worry about overdoing it. Healthy dopamine and serotonin balance is good for you. Many studies, one of the latest being a study on dopamine and its receptors in the Journal of Neuroscience (DRD4 Genotype Predicts Longevity in Mouse and Human) tells us that the balanced, healthy expression of these neurotransmitters are associated with reduced stress, anger and a longer happier life overall.
Addictive drugs are especially horrible because they mess with the natural expression of dopamine. We really don’t want dopamine to be out of balance with other neurotransmitters. Things go extremely awry when that happens. When dopamine rises or drops drastically in response to a lack of a certain chemical, it can make us crazy.
In my experience as a health advisor, I have noticed that some patients of mine drop their efforts toward weight loss or quitting a bad habit like smoking or drugs the closer they got to their goals. In moments of insight, they would sometimes report that they were worried that once they achieved their goal, there would be nothing else left for them.
That’s dopamine talking. Dopamine tells us that it is the journey – not the destination – that is important.
Knowing this, our goal setting should always include further achievement past our present goals. If your goal is to lose 50 pounds, then there should be a reason beyond the fifty pounds that makes it important. For example: “I want to lose 50 pounds so that I can pursue my life-long dream of training to win the New York Marathon.” Or, “I want to quit smoking so that I can be alive and well to guide my children well when they have their own children.”
If you want a first-hand feeling of experiencing the effects of dopamine, you need go no farther than the sonnets of Shakespeare.
Shy love, I think of you
As the morning air brushes the window pane,
And how much time of all it takes to know
The movement of your arm, the steps you take,
The curves along your head, your ears, your hair.
For all of this, each hand, each finger,
Each lip, each breath, each sigh,
Each word and sound of voice or tongue,
I would require an age to contemplate.
But for your heart your mind your thoughts, all these,
To love them all I need at least five centuries.
Sometimes I think
Our heads might be enclosed
Closer together upon the pillow’s space,
And how into the dark deeps of your eyes
I’d look and think of angels. Then your breath
And all the aura of your body’s breathing
Intoxicatedly would overwhelm me
And I would die. For it is too much
That such a thing should be and I should live.
Surely the thought is greater than reality,
The sum of you and love outsteps infinity.
If happiness were like
The flowers of June then I would take
The best of them, roses and columbine,
The lilies, and bind them in your hair.
They are not more beautiful but they add
Meaning to my love. For all our words
Are short and lame of breath and stumble,
And you surpass them though I know not why.
Shy love I think of you as the day wanes
And as the sun sinks deep into the ocean
And as the stars turn round above in silent motion.
If that’s not enough for you (what’s the matter with you????), or if Shakespeare is a little long-winded for you to take (all right; I can concede that), take a few minutes, hook your earphones up to your device, and look and listen to this visual interpretation of a budding classic of American pop music and a fabulous dopamine excitatory progenitor (disclaimer is in the commentary).
Feel that? Those tears and that choked up empathetic longing and sympathetic sadness is a flood of dopamine. Pretty powerful stuff.
Here…let’s balance it with some serotonin.
All right; you’ve figured it out. I’m a Trekker (NOT a Trekkie!).
So don’t do drugs. Do love. It’s good for you!
Until next time: good health!
Posted on 01/16/2013, in Uncategorized and tagged Amok Time, Doctor of Philosophy, Dopamine, Health, Journal Neuroscience, Journal of Neuroscience, Serotonin, Spock, Trekkie, United States, William Shakespeare. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.