Being in love is one of the greatest joys in life. It leads us to form relationships, and possibly families. But then, it wears off. Nature incentivizes reproduction through an irresistible dopamine high. It doesn’t care about fragile human feelings, which arise after it’s too late.
We can be depressed when this happens, or try to mitigate the disaster. Depression is a response to feeling powerless. I propose that something can be done. You can take the drug Ecstasy.
Do I have your attention? Ecstasy immediately boosts empathy to the point that your lover seems incredible. Like when you were in love.
Unfortunately, street quality is suspect. Even the best quality only lasts for a few hours, and the crash can take you right back to depression. But the model of feeling good is there. Ecstasy proves that a change in brain chemistry can invert attitudes towards a lover. From frustration and anger to love, and even worship.
Such extreme positive states feel fantastic to the giver and receiver. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that without drugs? As it turns out, you can. Through a combination of thought improvement, body self care, and empathetic action, you can manufacture a good attitude.
If you hold pleasure, love, and respect as the model you compare to, you can notice when your point of view strays from that. Cycles of repeating critical, judgmental, and angry thoughts create actual pain in your body. Similar to anxiety, or fear. You can’t wave a magic wand to fix your lover, but you can smack your own head to try to transform your painful thoughts.
No one can be held responsible for the formation of thoughts. But sane people can be fully responsible for managing their thoughts. If thoughts about your lover hurt, use pain to motivate changing them.
I know, that can seem impossible. You may need help, in the form of empathetic behavior. That means doing something that is exactly the opposite of what you feel like doing. For example, you may be exasperated talking about a sticky subject, making you both tense.
Stop talking, take a deep breath, move in close for a sweet hug, shoulder massage, or a little dance. Anything that demonstrates the opposite of tension. With luck, your thoughts about the interaction will mellow. Purposely choosing to influence thoughts or mood via empathetic action is what I call Conscious Cognitive Dissonance.
As silly as it may seem, CCD is very effective. If you let it, the activity of empathy stimulates the feeling, or experience, of empathy. Empathy feels good, like love, or Ecstasy, and is under your control to create for yourself. You are the only one stopping you.
You can influence your own mood, and therefore, your lover’s mood. Manipulation, straight up. But for a good cause. To help both of you feel better. Feeling good, or better, is where it’s at. That is the direction back to the love, pleasure, and respect ideal.
You may be very attached to your current mood. I understand. I have struggled with mine for decades. But I discovered two things about mood. One, my mood is not sacred. If my lover’s mood is better than mine, resenting it is my own limitation. Two, a mood can change. My belief about my mood’s permanence was inaccurate. I had to let go of a whiny, depressed, insecure, pitiful self image.
In reality, a mood is just not very serious. It has no meaning, and can disappear like a puff of smoke. Good moods are prevalent during first love. They take no effort. But, as dopamine production declines, better moods have to be manufactured.
You can decide to make that effort. In my experience, the effort exerted pays off like a long term investment, because fewer bad moods, and heavy conflicts pop up, as the underlying state of appreciation ticks up.
Practicing CCD has shown me that my thoughts and moods can swing from a horribly cranky state, to an ecstatic state, very quickly. The transformation can be so dramatic that my partner and I replace conflict with hot sex, and completely forget what was antagonizing us.
The CCD prescription applies to everyday types of moments when thoughts start to stray from the ideal. More deeply felt emotion is a topic for numerous future articles.