You ever wonder why hopium is addictive?
Apparently, there is some interesting brain science on this.
You’d think, when you get a kibble (he went to therapy! she says she loves me!), you’d get a reward. (Or in brain science lingo, your neurotransmitters get a dopamine hit.) But this fellow, Robert Sapolsky, professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, explains in the 15-minute video above, it is more complicated than that.
Kibble = reward. Ho-hum.
Kibble = anticipation of reward…. then kibble. Orgasms of joy!
Sapolsky argues that this heightened anticipation of joy keeps people waiting for pay-offs. Many of which never come. And we can sustain the wait, wait, wait, limbo for a verrrrrrrry long time, because that Maybe Kibble is so powerful and the anticipation itself is soothing. (I know it’s coming! She’ll come out of the fog and recommit to our marriage!)
“Dopamine is not about pleasure, it’s about the anticipation of pleasure,” says Sapolsky. “It’s about the pursuit of happiness.”
And we aren’t the only creatures that do this! Sapolsky tested this on monkeys.
Unlike monkeys however, humans “keep those dopamine levels up for decades and decades waiting for the reward.”
Yes, we’re gluttons for punishment.
I found this video going down a Twitter rabbit hole on political divisiveness. Disinformation is addictive, reality, not so much. It’s very unpleasant to wake up from a lizard overlord dream, or a unicorn one, and so people will hang on to their erroneous, harmful beliefs for a long time.
I find this all fascinating. And it could explain so much, including why the same ol’ same ol’ partner doesn’t give the same neurotransmitter bonanza as the Illicit Possibility of New Snatch. Of course, I think we are more than our neurotransmitters, character comes into play, but I think there’s brain science to the irrationality, beyond the immorality. How many chumps thought their cheater had a brain tumor?
It also explains why staying stuck feels oddly okay (HE WILL SEE THE LIGHT AND RECOMMIT TO ME!) even as your personal life burns down. Or why chumps cling to the flimsiest of crumbs of hope. (She sat next to me on the sofa!) And why we give so much weight to these stupid crumbs, and not as much to the unpleasantness of self-protection and lucidity.
It could also explain the whole appeal of the Reconciliation Industrial Complex. Stand for your marriage! I see the Great Pumpkin! He’s coming! Wait… wait….
The Power of Maybe coming soon to a therapist’s office or pumpkin patch near you.