The Path to Fulfillment

I have a problem. A minor one, but it still bugs me. As you may have noticed in my posts, I have an anxious attachment style. Which means that I am very self-conscious when it comes to relationships that are important to me. That’s a very important distinction to make. If it’s not important to me, I usually don’t care about the outcome.

Hence, the problem. In a select few of these important relationships in particular, I find myself struggling with the infamous activity status. Something that is admittedly useless for anything other than causing anxiety, in my opinion. I find that if someone I care about is active on social media or something with an active status, and I have sent them a text or a message (especially about topics that are important or anxiety producing for me), I automatically assume that their lack of response is due to something I said.

Usually, this is not the case, and I know this. However, it does not stop the old habits loops from triggering. The saying goes, “Neurons that fire together, wire together”. When I look at it, this problem is simply an unhealthy habit loop.

Most habit loops can be broken down into a series of step that go as follows: Cue, Craving, Response, Reward. I find that when I analyze this particular habit, it goes something like this:

  1. Cue: Usually something like boredom. Talking to people I care about is a fulfilling activity for me and fulfills the requirements of a dopamine deprived brain. Plus, for me at least, the feeling of oxytocin is much more powerful and potent than dopamine.
  2. Craving: Well, obviously I crave a response from the person that I care about. Simply, looking at even the most basic brain research, you learn that notifications on phones (like text messages) produce a dopamine response by design. Especially, since the people I have the highest attachment to have their own specific text notification sounds.
  3. Response: In response to the craving, I proceed to check my phone (quite compulsively I might add). Usually, if I don’t see a notification, I go hunting active statuses. This is where the anxiety starts.
  4. Reward: When we get to this point, we have an incomplete habit loop. I see that the person of interest is active on some platform, I become anxious. I question things like, “Am I a priority to them?”

When I think about the question posed in the last step, I come to a clear conclusion. Of course I am important, and of course I am a priority. But people have other priorities in their lives. First, they have to take care of themselves. Otherwise, they will never be able to form a solid relationship with anyone else.

Second, they have to take care of the people close to them, usually family or kiddos. This is where I am in the wrong. I always had expectations that I would be the most important person in someone’s life. Relationships don’t work that way, and if your does, you need to run far far away. That is what you call a toxic relationship. Relationships are about more than a relationship with another person, they are also about a relationship with yourself.

A relationship is not a thing that fills a void in your soul. It is two people coming together as one, to share their lives with someone they care deeply about. These two people already should have a good relationship with themselves. They have to love who they are to be able to share their best selves, and most vulnerable selves, with someone they love.

The imagery here is less of a puzzle piece interlocking with another, and more of a Venn diagram. Two complete wholes, wholly capable of finding fulfillment on their own, coming together in a relationship to share what fulfills them with one another. They have to be able to love themselves first to know what fulfills them. Which means they have to place themselves as a priority.

So, to expect that I be someone’s number one priority is foolish, selfish, and just plain unhealthy. If I really loved someone like I say I do, I would encourage them to spend time doing things that fulfill them even if I means I don’t get a response within exactly 32.63 seconds. Encouraging them to find themselves, and find their own fulfillment, will benefit me in the long run. Why would I not do that? Like most amazing and worthwhile things in life, a long-term perspective is much more fulfilling than short term excitement. And isn’t that what we all want? To live a fulfilling life?



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