Dr. Candace Pert discovered why opiate addicts become so insanely enslaved to their drug: the brain has receptors where, incredibly, the opiate molecule fits almost perfectly. Opiates are chemically similar to endorphins, the naturally occurring substance that provides a natural high.
Over time, the brain requires more of the drug to get a high. The receptors adapt and get used to the opiate (tolerance). More of the drug is necessary to get a buzz. And, a lack of the drug leads to acute withdrawal symptoms as the brain and the body rebel against the lack of opiates on the receptors.
This might not be news to anyone. However, Dr. Pert also demonstrated that humans can also become addicted something a little more surprising: bad emotions. That’s right, your chronically negative aunt who just can’t seem to stop being a jerk? Her brain might actually be addicted in some fashion to the chemicals of negative emotions.
It works this way. Our emotional states are chemical reactions in the brain. If the chemicals associated with certain emotions flood the receptors often, those receptors become used to the chemicals. When negative emotions aren’t present, the body, which is used to them, craves more.
This means that, on a chemical level, chronically negative people need their negative fix. Their brains are literally dependent on the negativity (whether sadness, anger, etc.). Like a druggie who needs his fix to be “normal,” negative people might need their negative emotion to be “normal” too.
What are the implications of being addicted to bad emotions? It means that being positive and hopeful about life after years of negativity can be very difficult. That negative aunt who is pushing seventy? It’s likely she’ll never change without some hard work.
However, change from negativity is very possible. And, that’s a good thing since negative people are rarely admired or desired, whether for friendship or dating, except maybe by other negative people who might enjoy fueling their own emotional addiction.
The best way to become more positive is to actually be positive. Replacing negative emotions with positive ones gets the new, better chemicals flowing. But, it might be painful at first because the brain is so dependent on the old ones.
We recommend positive affirmations in all of our books. Saying them and living them counters the negative brain wiring that so many people have from the past. To learn more about changing brain wiring through positive affirmations, check out our book:
Also, to learn more about the addictive process of emotions, check out Molecules of Emotion by Dr. Candace Pert.