Dopamine Dumpster Diving

Girl leaning up against a dumpster to represent dopamine dumpster diving

Millions of homeless people eat out of trash cans every day. It’s not ideal, but it keeps them sucking air. Likewise, humans have learned to survive on junk relationships and emotional scraps. No, it’s not healthy, but it meets their basic needs, and that’s good enough.

Met Needs Don’t Inspire Growth

If I was actually starving, I could mow down a whole kilo of gummy bears and chase it with a jar of cheez whiz if I had to. Then there’s a good chance I’d thank God for that delectable feast before curling up and taking a splendid nap.

When my needs are met, I’m satisfied. Simple as that. Many people do relationships the same way.

Someone likes me? Ok. That’ll do.

From an evolutionary standpoint, our biology sets the bar pretty low. A lone glance from a stranger across the room evokes a visceral response deep inside. Many a child were born of such glances.

There’s nothing to be ashamed of. We’re animals, and we have needs. But we also have rational thought and metacognition. Let’s see if we can use those to rise above the apes.


The inherent desire for connection — to be seen, heard, and touched, to feel loved and validated, to have a sense of belonging — this craving is such an incredible driving force for humanity.

The desire for connection is behind many multi-billion dollar industries, from social media, TV, and cell phones to dating apps, porn, and prostitution. TikTok came out four years ago and has already cleared a hundred billion dollars. If you wanna make a bundle of cash, sell a new way to connect.

There is no shortage of ways to feel connected, but it’s so important to question the quality of these connections. How and why are we using them? In what ways are they affecting us?

No technology will ever replace integrity. Emotional maturity is the bottleneck in every part of our lives — the glass ceiling of any human endeavor.

The quality of our relationships can never exceed the level of our personal development. I cannot emphasize this enough.

When Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough

We can get our sexual needs met through one-night stands, porn, or “friends with benefits.” But how is this eroding our capacity for true intimacy?

We can get our social needs met by having a thousand “friends” on Facebook. But how is social media deteriorating our real-life social skills?

We can get attention and validation by posting scantily clad bathroom selfies on Instagram. But how does this attention affect our appetite for healthy human connection?

So many emotional needs can be met from the convenience of our own empty lives. All we need is a cell phone and internet connection.

People usually don’t fix things that seem to be working.

A Better Way

If your relationships are painful, manipulative, or unfulfilling… if you struggle with shame or low self-esteem… if you have all of the things that are supposed to make you happy, but still feel discontent, I encourage you to take a look at how you’re getting your needs met.

You must first understand what your needs even are. Feel free to do your own research on this, but Abraham Maslow would tell you something like:

  • Physiological Needs — air, food, water, sleep, sex, shelter
  • Safety Needs — security, space, freedom, health, employment, resources
  • Love and Belonging — friendship, family, intimacy, connection
  • Esteem — respect, self-esteem, confidence, achievement, recognition
  • Self-Actualization — morality, creativity, desire to be your best self

Write them down, then identify the ways you’re attending to each need. Humans have an uncanny ability to get their needs met by any means necessary, even without conscious awareness. You may be shocked to discover the various ways you satisfy primordial urges.

Next, identify healthy alternatives to what you’ve been doing. There are ways to nurture yourself and ways to be nurtured by others. Both are necessary to achieve a wholesome level of interdependence with your fellow earthlings.

Finally, cut out dysfunctional patterns and start implementing your new, healthy strategies. Bad habits usually fill fundamental human needs, which is why they’re so challenging to kick. You can’t remove them — you have to replace them.

If all of this sounds like rocket science, take this relationship quiz and book a free consultation. I’d be happy to help. You can also check out these resources, subscribe to my blog, or follow my social media below.

Please stop expecting your soul to thrive on gummy bears and cheez whiz.

Your soul needs more.

Published by Adam

Mentor, coach, speaker and educator for over 12 years. I have recovered from and triumphed over many obstacles and afflictions. It brings me tremendous joy to help others overcome similar circumstances so they can live their best lives.

Share Your Thoughts...