What happens when human connection is lost? When we become overly concerned with virtual connections? How do we fight back against obsessive technology-use in our homes? This is part 3 of a 5-part series, “Love Touches: Being Human and In Tune; Why We Need Human Connections in an Increasingly High-Tech World.” The series concludes with my ATTUNE formula to help couples and families truly connect and form lasting, loving relationships.
Questions? Contact me at [email protected]
Love Touches: What is Real?
I’ve been a marriage therapist for nearly 20 years and I see a growing trend in couples needing both relationship therapy and addiction recovery therapy. The trend is due to the overuse and misuse of technology’s platforms.
These platforms are fueling higher levels of addictions, such as pornography and painkillers, by making them more easily accessible – while also creating new addictions, such as gaming and social media.
Often, my clients deny they are addicted to technology or refuse to consider overuse of technology as a serious problem in their relationship. So then, what is an addiction?
While there are many clinical definitions, and constant shifting in the political climate of our field, a simple definition is: The process of using a substance or behavior to cope with or avoid pain, rather than engage in the difficult process of wrestling with and solving problems, particularly those related to relationships.
The continued reliance on that substance or behavior results in a brain disorder associated with the reward-and-choice center in the brain. The reward becomes so compelling and its immediacy so desired that our ability to choose wisely becomes weakened.
When we tap directly into the reward center of our brain, we will do anything to stimulate the pleasure center, even to the detriment of everything else. We’ll stop eating, playing, working, having sex, and even stop interacting in a meaningful relationship.
The gamut of online platforms, like off-line addictions, gives us a “safe” way to feel “connected” because we do not expose ourselves to vulnerability, to really being known or open to input from others that challenges us.
And that’s the paradox of being human. While we innately want human connection, we are also naturally inclined to protect ourselves – not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally. We want to guard our hearts and we do so by withholding our true selves.
Technology-based relationships give us counterfeit intimacy – superficial relationships that do not require the hard work of exploring and progressing with a loved one. Without the sorrow that comes with love, we cannot know true joy. And while people often start an addiction with the intention of just numbing out the negative emotional end of the spectrum, they simultaneously limit their ability to experience positive emotions. Our full range of emotion narrows into a thin, limited and limiting band.
In my experience as a family and marriage therapist, I’ve found that individuals and families thrive when they are living life fully connected. Why? Because of the fundamental belief that we have a Divine Creator who set in motion a plan of happiness for us, and that plan includes having meaningful relationships and growing in our godlike capacities into our best selves.
We cannot experience the joy and pain of relationships when we are numb and distracted by technology, or living vicariously through avatars on electronic screens.
Overcoming a Technology Addiction
The first step you can take is to honestly assess your use of technology:
1. Do you often find yourself preoccupied with your technology?
2. Do you hide or downplay some of your technology use from others?
3. Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your technology use?
4. Do the people around you become irritated by your technology use?
5. Do you feel controlled by your technology?
6. After using your technology of choice, do you ever feel depressed or irritable afterwards?
If you’ve answered “yes” to at least one question, then you are likely misusing, overusing, or even addicted to technology. Consider:
1. For what purpose are you using technology?
2. How is it distracting you? From what relationships? From what type of spiritual progress, employment or career progress, physical exercise, or social interactions?
3. How much time is it taking from your day? Do you spend equal time on other areas that you value?
4. Is it promoting feelings and actions of love, peace, goodness, kindness? Or is it promoting feelings and actions of competition, comparisons, selfishness, and contention?
I admit that I am a “frenemy” with technology. I would love to return to the simpler life and time of the old days. However, the truth is technology gives me the opportunity to do things that were unimaginable a few years ago, like publishing this information online. Thus, I do not advocate a complete abandonment of technology.
But, we can properly use technology and be free of its addictive power.
1. Set limits on time and energy spent on technology. Know yourself. Know what healthy limits are for you. Be willing to receive the input from those around you, especially family members who are asking for your time, attention and love. Be willing to accept that you may need to go sober if you’re addicted.
2. Get help if you need it – addictions are treatable.
3. Set priorities: First, God. Second, flesh-and-blood people for whom you have stewardship (spouse, children, extended family). Third, the rest of the world, including yourself.
4. Be open to the influence of a Higher Power to guide you towards meaningful changes, and to cleanse you as you seek change.
In part 4 of my 5-part series, I provide the ATTUNE formula, a method to remove contention (bickering, rivalry, sarcasm, edgy conversation) from your home. It will help you understand how to better physically, mentally, and emotionally reach out to your partner.
THE COMPLETE “LOVE TOUCHES” SERIES:
INTRO to Love Touches
If I Could Pinpoint One Thing That Breaks Up A Good Relationship
Love Touches: Hardwired, Divinely Inspired (Part 1 of 5)
God, Humans and the Need for Connection
Love Touches: The Soothing Touch (Part 2 of 5)
How Your Brain Responds to Touch vs. Tech
Love Touches: What is Real? (Part 3 of 5)
Technology and Fake Love
Love Touches: I SEE You (Part 4 of 5)
ATTUNE: Infuse Your Home with Love
Coming Soon: “Love Touches: Tech Stress” A blog article about couples in distress due to technology. If you or someone you know is dealing with “drift,” a virtual affair, or online pornography – be sure to watch for it.
ABOUT AUTHOR: Caralee Frederic has practiced as a private couples and individual therapist in Colorado, specializing in marriage and family counseling, for almost 20 years. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Recovery Therapist and a Certified Gottman Therapist. Additionally, Caralee is a presenter of The Art and Science of Love, a two-day event packed with information that helps couples with everything from managing conflict to developing greater intimacy. The materials for her Denver-area couples workshop was created by The Gottman Institute, which is famed for developing couples therapy methods and relationship exercises based on concrete, scientific studies.
To see if a couples workshop is right for you, contact Caralee at [email protected] for a free consultation.