Thursday, October 28

How the pandemic got us addicted to longing and why it is bad for us | Mental health

I I was a 35-year-old virgin when I realized I was addicted to homesickness. I got off in high to anticipate sex that I knew I wasn’t going to have, and then he wallowed masochistically as disappointment inevitably followed.

My crushes were the popular high school kids, the elusive seatmate on a plane trip, and the soldiers sent abroad. I Overlooked When Harry Met Sally and I planned weekend trips to faraway destinations in hopes of rekindling an old flame or attracting the attention of a romantic interest who had spent hours lurking on Facebook..

When I was 41 years old, I found myself living a unique form of purgatory. The longing to be in a relationship with unavailable men had become a way to protect myself from the loneliness of being single and the clutter and monotony of being in a long-term relationship. Sexual abstinence amplified the anticipation factor. My friend with anorexia told me that she fantasized about elaborate foods but never ate them. I understood. My addiction to nostalgia was never about sex, but about control.

The fact that I entered a virgin in my fifth decade of life puts me in the minority, but idealizing the past and seeking the thrill of anticipation to avoid discomfort is extremely common, particularly since the pandemic. If you have communicated with an ex during the confinement, you are not alone.

Google search “Why am I dreaming about my ex?” it skyrocketed 2,450% in April 2020 compared to the previous year. Online dating apps have had a surge of activity during the pandemic. Ashley Madison, the world’s leading married dating site, saw its registrations of 15,500 members a day to more than 17,000 a day at the beginning of the pandemic. Most of the members of the site, whose motto is “Life is short. Having an affair, ”they say having an affair helps sustain their marriages. Only 1% of members see themselves leaving their spouse. When asked about this, respondents say that having an affair is a huge distraction or something that expect.

So we can’t help googling ex-girlfriends and trying to have affairs. In fact, recent investigate suggests that we are programmed to yearn and try to connect with unavailable Lovers current and past is just one of the ways we do it.

For others, the anticipation does not come in the form of a virtual stranger, but in a box on our porch. As the pandemic isolated us from shopping, dining, and other experiences in stores, E-commerce sales increased in the US. 44% in 2020. Actually, there is a surprising psychological concept that could explain this waste: When we feel our life threatened, we develop new ways of dealing with the situation. So with routines crumbling and the world uncertain, online shopping provides a way to feel some sense of control.

Mike Miller, an outdoor enthusiast, admits he spent about $ 4,500 online in the first three months of the pandemic, having turned to impulse shopping for satisfaction when he realized that his hobbies The usual travels and experiences had been cut off. “I would look at camping gadgets and sports equipment that I knew I would not be using soon. It would give me the opportunity to daydream about the possibility of life returning to normal, ”he explains.

To feel happy, many of us turn to anticipation without a guaranteed reward. People spent time and money browsing travel sites, even booking trips without knowing if and when they could take them.

Science shows that it doesn’t matter if we do it. And when it comes to shopping, psychologists have found that we get more lasting happiness by anticipating experimental purchases (money spent on making) than material purchases (money spent on having). “Travel doesn’t just make us happy while we’re on it; they also make us happy when we talk to other people about what we are going to do, ”says Amit Kumar, a professor at the University of Texas whowrote an article about this phenomenon in 2014.

But what is longing? Is it bad for us, and if so, is there a way to reduce the habit?

Why do we long for?

Neuroscience suggests that our brains are hardwired to want what we don’t have. Dopamine (known as the happy hormone) is released not when we get what we want, but when we anticipate getting it. Our brains release more dopamine by planning a vacation than by taking it. Even thinking of touching what you long for it can trigger the release of dopamine in the reward system. Once we get what we want, the dopamine wears off, so we crave more. With anticipation being a key stage in happiness, and Depression rates in the US triple last year, it’s no wonder so many people feel longing.

Dr. Kent Berridge, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Michigan, says powerful emotional experiences and stress, such as those that could ensue after being locked indoors for months due to a deadly virus around the world. – exacerbate the hyper-reactivity of the dopamine system. In other words, these experiences increase our appetite for desires (food, sex, material objects, drugs) as a way to escape the malaise of reality.

What could be wrong with that? Well, our “wanted” brain circuits have been exercised this year, and repetition creates a habit.

“Any habit is formed through three elements: a trigger, a behavior, and a reward,” says Dr. Jud Brewer of Brown University. If anxiety is the trigger, longing distracts us. The emotion is the reward. “The next time we’re anxious, our brain says, ‘This doesn’t feel right. Start yearning again, ‘and the behavior reinforces itself, ”explains Brewer.

What’s wrong with escaping unpleasant feelings?

Ancient philosophy has long held that happiness is found in the present moment. Sciences support this. Incessant daydreaming about the past and future is linked to psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and stress, while thinking about the present. reduce those symptoms.

Bingeing on The Crown or scrolling through the Zillow listings for hours every night can provide a temporary escape, but these habits produce high levels of dopamine similar to those of drugs that cause more nostalgia and anxiety. lead to depression and increased anxiety. The high is so strong that it almost half of Zillow users Respondents this year said they would rather find their dream home than have sex. And the same neural pathways they are responsible for addictions to both heroin and binge eating.

The problem, says Brewer, is that we tend to confuse joy and satisfaction with excitement and anticipation. “If you really look at how emotion feels, it has a restless, driven quality. That is the dopamine that drives us to do something, because we are not satisfied with what is happening right now, ”explains Brewer.

Of course, Watching movies excessively, shopping online, and daydreaming are not inherently bad behaviors. They are a way of finding a momentary respite, of imagining the good things to come, without actually being there yet.

But there is such a thing as too much daydreaming. Maladaptive daydreaming (MDD) involves living in fantasy worlds so vivid that they interfere with sleep, work, and relationships as a means of distracting ourselves from our emotions. In its most extreme form, a person walks while dreaming, carves out hours of his day to enter into his fantasies, forgets to eat, and cannot sleep. Dreamers often enter worlds they created as children and tried to cope with great loss or trauma.

One study shows that the blockage has resulted in elevated TDM levels. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of misfit dreamers have flocked to the MDD Reddit Page Y Facebook group page for support. Many of the posters would agree with the writer of The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas: “When you compare the sorrows of real life with the pleasures of the imaginary, you will never want to live again, only dream forever.”

Nora has been daydreaming for 20 years, but neither her husband nor her teenage son know it. (He asked me to use a pseudonym for privacy.) “Lonely periods, like when my husband is on duty, are worse for me,” she wrote. Nora began daydreaming when she had a prolonged illness at age 15. During that time of isolation, she felt useless and lonely as visits from her friends dwindled. Nora became obsessed with the Lord of the Rings books for convenience; He visits them again in his dreams 20 years later. “I was drawn to a story about the smallest person capable of changing the world. I am always helping at the bottom of my dreams, ”he wrote.

Is there a good kind of longing?

There’s a silver lining to longing, says author Cheryl Strayed, who wrote intimately about longing in her memoir, Wild. On longing for his mother, who passed away 30 years ago, he told me: “A healthy longing, even when you know it will never come true … It feels like nutrition, instead of sucking life out of you.”

Now, most of the time, when he longs for his mother, he says, “In fact, I feel a sense of wonder. What a beautiful thing that I had the experience of loving someone so much that I will truly love him like this forever. That longing has become a gift. “

Can we stop yearning?

To change a behavior, we have to get out of our heads and into our bodies. Beyond the excitement (the dopamine hit) that we get from anticipating, we must consider the cumulative effect it has on us: the post-dopamine dip, emotional energy and time wasted, and the impact on those around us.

Dr. Nirit Soffer-Dudek, a consciousness researcher at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, suggests that psychotherapy for MDD patients should help them become more aware in the present, less critical of themselves, and more aware of what triggers the behavior they want to change. “A lot of people escape these other realities because they don’t like themselves in real life. Self-acceptance should be an important part of treatment, in addition to changing what we can change. “

The key question is: what is the emotion behind the need to want something, someone or some other place that is not what you have now?

Personally, I realized that buried deep in my gut I felt unworthy of love. I felt anxious about failure and guilty about relationships that hadn’t worked. The longing for the ideal partner in the ideal place at the ideal time kept me distracted from addressing this self-loathing. And ironically, it meant that I was looking for men who either didn’t love me or couldn’t love me. During the year of 2019, I broke the yearning when I gave a healthy relationship a chance with a man who loved me.

After three pandemic postponements, I will celebrate my marriage to this man and our daughter this summer at a wedding that I have longed for for years.

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