He – or she – is the first thing you think of in the morning and the last thing you think of at night. He’s – or she’s – your lover, your soul mate. You can read each other’s minds. You are just meant for each other. It’s uncanny – almost a spiritual thing.
That’s what you thought until little cracks started appearing in your dream of ‘together forever’. When he or she decided they weren’t that into you anymore and they departed, taking your heart/world/future with them.
The ‘love of your life’ has walked out and you’re about to discover the dark side of romantic love. Of being devoured by unsatisfied desire – for as Plato said 2000 years ago “The God of Love lives in a state of need.”
Love Like Cocaine
That need is a dopamine-fuelled ‘high’ which brain imaging shows activates the reward/pleasure centres in the brain in ways very similar to cocaine and heroin.
And that’s the first important key to getting over love sickness, says Dr Helen Fisher, an expert on romantic love. Understand it is an addiction and some of the principles of the addiction counselling – like 12 Step programs – are helpful in getting over it.
Romantic love is associated with high levels of dopamine and probably also norepinephrine – brain substances that drive down serotonin. And low levels of serotonin are associated with despair, and even suicide.
If nothing else, hankering after “what-might-have-been” can waste years of your life. It also kills some people. When a love affair turns sour, the human brain is set up for depression, and perhaps, self annihilation… The Japanese even glorified “love suicide” as evidence of one’s devotion.
The idea, says Dr Fisher, is to ‘trick your brain’ into producing dopamine in response to new stimuli.
Despair from unrequited love will most likely also mean plummeting dopamine levels. As you focus your attention and do novel things, you elevate this feel-good substance, boosting energy and hope. We can also utilise new research on brain functioning which shows we are wired to integrate thoughts and feelings. We can in other words, control our drive to love.
Woody Allen (in Sleepers) quipped “My brain? It’s my second favourite organ” – and he isn’t alone. In this “golden age of the brain” neuroscientists are gaining increased understanding of our decision-making processes – and what they are learning can help us take control of our thoughts and feelings. We are wired so we can choose to think before we act (the high road) or we can allow our emotions to dictate our actions (the low road).
The love addiction can be conquered. It takes determination, time and some understanding of brain function and human nature. Says Dr Fisher: “Someone is camping in your brain; you must throw the scoundrel out.”
Foods to beat love addiction
Many of the neurochemicals involved in sex and love – including dopamine, serotonin and testosterone – are affected by the stress of severe loss. Divorce can add ten years to a man’s testosterone levels in just a few months. The good news is, the ‘chemicals of love’ can be boosted by eating the right foods – including cottage cheese, chicken, dark chocolate, yoghurt, eggs, and oats, or by herbal and nutritional supplements like Herbal Ignite. Visit www.herbalignite.com to find out more about.