How longing keeps us from healthy relationships | Amanda McCracken | TEDxCU | Summary and Q&A

September 29, 2023
TEDx Talks
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How longing keeps us from healthy relationships | Amanda McCracken | TEDxCU


Longing can be a powerful source of inspiration and motivation, but it can also become addictive and detrimental when it interferes with forming healthy connections and relationships.

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Key Insights

  • 🪛 Longing can be a source of inspiration, driving artistic and creative endeavors.
  • ⛽ Our materialistic and media-driven society often fuels our longing for unattainable fantasies.
  • ❓ Longing can become addictive, releasing dopamine and giving a false sense of pleasure.
  • 🪡 Society's emphasis on freedom and non-committal relationships can undermine the need for emotional intimacy.
  • 💯 Choice overload theory contributes to the longing for a perfect partner, job, or home.
  • 🥰 Longing intensifies when there is a threat of losing something or someone we love.
  • 👀 Obsessively looking to the past and the future can hinder the chance for a healthy relationship and personal growth.


Transcriber: Belisa Pires Reviewer: Walaa Mohammed (APPLAUSE) (CHEERS) What are you longing for in this moment? Is it the father or mother you lost last year? Or maybe one you never had? Is it the child you wish to conceive? Or maybe the one who just left for college? Maybe it’s that beach on your bucket list. Or a past lover who haunts your dreams... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How does longing become addictive?

Longing stimulates the release of dopamine in our brains, which leads to feelings of pleasure and excitement. This reward cycle can become addictive, as we begin to associate longing with positive emotions, even when it may not lead to what we truly desire.

Q: How does society contribute to our longing?

Society, through media and advertising, often presents idealized versions of relationships, beauty, and success. This creates a sense of longing for something unattainable, leaving people feeling dissatisfied with their own lives.

Q: Is longing always detrimental?

Longing can be a powerful force that inspires creativity and personal growth. However, when it becomes an obsession or prevents us from forming healthy connections and embracing the present moment, it can be detrimental to our overall well-being.

Q: How can we break free from the cycle of longing?

Breaking free from longing requires acceptance, trust, and self-worth. Recognizing that no person, place, or thing can make us whole and learning to receive love are essential steps towards forming fulfilling relationships.


In this video, the speaker explores the concept of longing and how it can become addictive and detrimental to our lives. She shares her personal experiences and discusses the societal and neurological factors that contribute to the allure of longing. The speaker eventually breaks free from her patterns and finds a healthy relationship, emphasizing the importance of self-worth and accepting love.

Questions & Answers

Q: What are some examples of things that people long for?

People can long for a variety of things, such as lost loved ones, children, travel destinations, or past lovers. Longing can stem from various desires and aspirations.

Q: How can longing be both a muse and a crutch?

Longing can inspire creativity and drive, motivating us to fulfill our desires. It can provide a sense of control and comfort during uncertain times. However, it can also become debilitating when it becomes an addiction or hinders our ability to move forward and find fulfillment.

Q: Why did the speaker feel shame when Katie Couric suggested she should just have sex?

The speaker felt shame because she had believed that being empowered in today's society meant choosing when and with whom to have sex. She felt that waiting for a loving and committed relationship was important for her, and Couric's comment made her question her choices and feel as though something was wrong with her.

Q: How did the speaker's patterns of longing affect her ability to form a healthy relationship?

The speaker's patterns of longing kept her distracted from her fear of making an imperfect decision. She was constantly seeking the ideal person at the ideal time and location, which hindered her from connecting with potential partners on a deeper level. Her longing for impossible scenarios and emotionally unavailable individuals prevented her from finding true intimacy.

Q: What is choice overload theory?

Choice overload theory suggests that having numerous choices can lead to difficulties in decision-making. In the context of relationships, an abundance of potential partners may make it challenging to settle down with one person, as individuals may continue seeking a better match. This perpetuates the cycle of longing and anticipation.

Q: How does our brain respond to longing and anticipation?

Longing and anticipation produce a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in our brain. Studies show that our brain releases more dopamine when we anticipate something compared to when we actually obtain it. This phenomenon explains why planning a vacation can be more exciting than the vacation itself. Our brains are wired to crave what we don't have.

Q: What did the speaker learn about longing and grief?

The speaker discovered that recalling the grief of lost loved ones or lost relationships gave her a sense of familiarity and a release of dopamine. Longing for past connections became addictive, and she found herself clinging to the pain of loss rather than letting go. This parallels the neurological patterns of individuals with prolonged grief.

Q: How did the speaker break free from her patterns of longing?

The speaker broke free from her patterns of longing when she decided to give a healthy relationship a chance. She recognized that longing had prevented her from experiencing true intimacy and love. By trusting her partner's transparency, availability, and kindness, she learned to receive and return love, ultimately finding fulfillment.

Q: What advice would the speaker give to her daughter about longing?

The speaker would advise her daughter to let go of the longing for a perfect relationship and instead focus on nurturing a healthy and loving connection. She would emphasize the importance of self-worth, trusting in Providence, and realizing that no person, place, or thing can make one whole. Receiving love and believing in one's worthiness are crucial in building a fulfilling relationship.

Q: What is the key takeaway from this video?

Longing can be both a source of inspiration and a hindrance to our well-being. It is important to recognize when longing becomes addictive and counterproductive. Finding a healthy and committed relationship requires letting go of the unrealistic ideals and patterns of longing and instead embracing self-worth, trust, and the ability to receive love.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Longing can be both a source of comfort in uncertain times and a debilitating crutch that prevents emotional growth.

  • Societal messages and cultural influences often encourage the pursuit of unattainable fantasies, leading to dissatisfaction and longing for something better.

  • Longing can become addictive, releasing dopamine and giving a false sense of pleasure, but ultimately hindering personal growth and fulfillment.

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