The Feral Alliance, Adrenaline, Dopamine… and Success!!

It is the best of times; It is the worst of times.

(What Charles Dickens might have written if he had been alive in 2023.) Watch Out, Fingers Many of life's gifts come wrapped in barbed wire. I wrote about the barbed wire-wrapped gift of generational shifts last week. We, the Feral Alliance, (better known as Gen X,) helped to facilitate a crucial “Oh HAIL naw!!!” in the Millennials. Millennials have low tolerance for neglect and injustice. I’m so grateful.

One of the gifts under the barbed wire is a much improved respect for what a healthy, balanced life can look like. Millennials and Gen Z are, by and large, dissatisfied with the American value of BiggerBetterMore. They aren’t often as willing to forfeit sanity, balance, sustainability and life satisfaction in pursuit of stuff or perceived status as Gen X or the Boomers.

We’re Fine, We’re FineWe’reFineWEREFINE!! The Feral Alliance and our forebears sometimes have a hard time grasping that Gen X is over-acclimated to adrenaline, in part because so many of us experienced unrecognized chronic trauma.

Our bodies have become convinced that a constant flow of adrenaline is normal. Of course we will work 60 hours a week! That means we’re dependable, doesn’t it?

No. That means we’re a mess. Not only is adrenaline-based living abnormal, it’s downright dangerous.

Adrenaline and Cortisol Adrenaline is useful when we are in physical danger. It gives us the extra ooomph we need to run away, or run through something awful but necessary. As a permanent state, it’s a hot mess.

Adrenaline and Cortisol are like conjoined twins: We do not get one without the other.

Cortisol saturates our cells as a kind of buffer. If the body is damaged in that run through or away from danger, the saturated cells put us in shock so that we don’t feel the full impact of the damage. It is likewise a hot mess as a permanent state.

Falling Apart at the Genes When cortisol is not physically pushed out of the body, we genetically deteriorate. Not over time, not over years; Every. Single. Day.

Cortisol blocks the creation of the gooey stuff, (telomeres,) that cap off our DNA strands. Telomeres keep our genes in tact.Too much cortisol means too little telomere which means the perpetual daily process of healthy genetic replication is damaged. This leaves us vulnerable to serious illnesses of all kinds. It’s just not good!

(If you’d like to learn how to make adrenaline stop taking over, go through my “Ack Brain to Ahh Brain” reels on YouTube, Insta, or on my website.)

The Feral Alliance has just about made an art out of motivating ourselves to action with adrenaline. We procrastinate, we overload our schedules, and we over-commit as a way of living. Why? Because that kind of stress feels normal.

I’ve got a better idea.

Dopamine The emerging understanding of neurospiciness is bringing with it an awareness of how those of us with ADHD have acclimated to using adrenaline to push us into action. It works, but as mentioned above, it’s physiologically and psychologically expensive.

If we instead pair pleasure-giving or otherwise-rewarding activities that release dopamine with things that give us what we want long term but are tedious or daunting in the moment, we can do the darned thing!

This is much broader than ADHD. Trauma survivors also acclimate to adrenaline-fueled action. Well beyond that, I believe it’s a normalized approach across the Feral Alliance. Intentionally trading dopamine hits for adrenaline motivation is healthier and more effective.

A Gift Within a Gift Across generations, we tend to grow up motivating ourselves with shame. (“I’d better not do X! If I do, I’m trash.) Shame works to motivate change, but only in that very specific moment. Not only does the learning fail to generalize, shame buries us deeper and deeper in making choices based on what we can get away with, rather than what we want and don’t want in our lives.

By choosing a dopamine hit that energizes us without costing us the way adrenaline does, we also un-learn shame-based living. It’s a two-fer!

What Do You Want? Do you want to reach your goals? Do you want to enjoy your life as you reach your goals? Do you want your life to be meaningful, your thinking to be clear and your body uninhibited by suffering? You might want to consider the way adrenaline, cortisol and shame might be getting in the way and trade them up for something that works a whole lot better.


If you’d like help in that endeavor, contact Tiffany today. Let’s figure it out.