Healthy relationships offer understanding, connection and comfort, giving people the feel good chemicals of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine to name just a few. Cannabinoids, or marijuana, give a person comfort when those chemicals don’t seem to be available through their relationships.
Notice I said “don’t seem available,” because people perceive love and relationship differently. Sometimes love is available, but we communicate differently and become strangers to the very people we love most. Not feeling close leaves the brain low on chemicals that it needs. Empathy restores chemistry. Empathy is different from sympathy. Empathy says “I am able to feel your feelings, not pity you for having those feelings.”
You can learn to be your loved one’s “marijuana” so to speak. Learn to be their drug of choice by offering empathy, expressing understanding, and showing support for their feelings and ideas, in that order.
When you do that, the brain detects empathy hundreds of times per second eliciting a feeling of “together.” Your understanding tells several parts of the brain how to work together, which tells other parts of the brain how to go back and forth (acting like a gear-shifter), between emotional and logical thinking and feeling, activating and balancing higher reasoning. Empathy tells the brain that “someone is with me, I’m not alone.”
People function best when they are not alone. Think about that. Our best feeling and thinking comes from feeling acceptable and connected with another person, even when they are not physically with us. Chemical dependency stems from the brain needing chemicals to feel good and function. You can be your loved one’s chemical support by giving their stress response system what it needs.
Conversely, talking to a person about the “bads” of marijuana seldom works. Down deep, their brain knows it needs empathy for some “bads” that they feel alone with. Maybe they don’t even know what those are. Maybe your “addict” is a child or person of divorce, struggling with sort of discouragement or abuse that you haven’t previously realized was harming them on a chemical level. Whatever their “bad” is, they are driven to find a way to feel good. Empathy turns “bads,” to “goods” because the feelings or problems become a connection, powerfully reducing the stress chemical, cortisol which is hurting them to the point of needing marijuana.
The higher regions of the brain are where the identity center is, which is strengthened by this prescription: Empathy+understanding+support=feel good chemistry for higher reasoning. This is cutting edge brain science. At The Center for Empathy, we know that relationship is the drug of choice! Please give some to your loved one today!
Sharon A. Kuhn is Certified/Trauma Informed Care author, founder of the Attach, Attempt Achieve Program. The Center for Empathy, LLC