Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Divinely Wired

Written by: on January 12, 2023

The Molecule of More by Daniel Z. Lieberman and Michael E. Long is a fascinating exploration of the role that dopamine plays in human behavior. This book focuses on how dopamine, also known as the “molecule of more,” impacts our lives from day-to-day decisions to large-scale societal trends and habits. Together they have created a captivating examination of understanding dopamine and how it can help us better understand ourselves both individually and collectively within society today. The authors assess many aspects of this unique, life-changing neurotransmitter; and unpack the benefits and dysfunction that motivate many decisions we make on a daily basis.

I really enjoyed this book but I would not say it gave me a dopamine rush. It was extremely interesting and I love learning about behaviors, especially my own. Like many books I’ve read in this program, I am motivated for self-improvement but often I feel convicted of the negative impacts and slightly embarrassed of my guilty pleasures and addictions. I have noticed that I tend to believe that I either have control over it, or I have convinced myself that it is not affecting anything that “matters.” I learned that the small things are slightly more dangerous and have me struggling a little this week.  I’m not addicted to drugs, I don’t cheat on my wife, and I am not an “adrenaline junkie,” however, I lack self-control in many other areas such as energy drinks, over-working, over-committing, and I believe the Spirit is pressing on me to find my satisfaction in Christ alone.

My wife is a medical doctor as many of you know, and she on the other hand had an extreme dopamine charge when I mentioned the topic this week and summarized the book for her. She is an expert in neurobiology and I really enjoyed her explanation of the science, the role of dopamine, HDS, compulsive cycles, and her take on God’s amazing biology. She echoed many of the points Lieberman and Long addressed and was two steps ahead of me on anything I could add to the discussion. This book created a great opportunity for the two of us to reflect on our own motivations as both a couple and leaders.

One area in The Molecule of More that stood out to me is its exploration of how dopamine affects human behavior when it comes to relationships between people or groups of people such as love or politics. By understanding what drives each person’s motivations within any given relationship dynamic, one has better insight into why certain behaviors are exhibited by either party involved; allowing them to make decisions based on observations rather than assumptions about what would be optimal. In addition, the authors discuss various ways individuals can increase their levels of motivation both internally (such as setting goals) and externally (like seeking out new experiences) all while keeping balance with other aspects of life such as family and work/life balance.

Going into this book, I assumed dopamine was simply a gratification release and was surprised to learn that “dopamine isn’t about pleasure at all. Dopamine delivers a feeling much more influential.”[1] This concept identified early in the book is what really triggered my personal self-assessment throughout the reading. It reminded me that God already created us with everything we could possibly need. We often think that we need a pill, a drink, or excitement, but the anticipation of it all, or what we believe it will provide, triggers our motivation or behavior. We create habits and form addictions and before long, we’re stuck physically in a cycle of detrimental conduct. This is where we need to seek the “bread of life” and not supplement it with worldly alternatives. It is the only place we will find true satisfaction.[2] We’re reminded of this in John 6:35 and I believe there is a much deeper message than just food and water in this passage.

There is definitely a dark side to dopamine that is a tad frightening to me. The fact that dopamine supports addictions through a chemical response of positive reinforcement from my brain does not sit well with a control freak like me. My wife helped, and scared me when she said “dopamine plays a major role in regulating motivation and pleasure-seeking behavior; however, too much dopamine can have negative consequences on mental health as well as physical health outcomes such as heart disease or diabetes.”[3] For example, “people with addictions often have higher levels of dopamine than those without them due to repeated exposure to drugs or activities that trigger large releases of the neurotransmitter (such as gambling). This excessive release leads to impulsive behavior which further reinforces addictive patterns even if they are not beneficial long-term goals – ultimately leading down a path towards destruction rather than progressiveness.”[4]

I pressed into this and learned from both her and the authors that in addition to addiction issues caused by overstimulation from too much dopamine production, there are several other potential dangers associated with this molecule. Among those include increased risk-taking behaviors due to a lack of inhibition control resulting from high amounts being present within one’s body chemistry. Also, elevated dopaminergic states increase anxiety and depression, stemming from difficulty managing stressors and emotional regulation problems. Furthermore, diminished cognitive performance manifests, making it more difficult to focus on tasks requiring concentration and attention span needed to complete objectives efficiently.

Overall, I feel blessed to have become aware of the negative effects of dopamine as much as I appreciate the benefits. The Molecule of More provides readers valuable insight into darker aspects surrounding this important chemical messenger found throughout human biology. This book offers individuals a deeper understanding of both psychological and physiological functioning. In conclusion, it is clear to me that we must “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” and have faith, discipline, sacrifice, and humbleness to His plan.[5]

[1] Lieberman, Daniel Z, and Michael E Long. 2019. The Molecule of More : How a Single Chemical in Your Brain Drives Love, Sex, and Creativity-and Will Determine the Fate of the Human Race. Dallas, Tx: Benbella Books, Inc.

[2] John 6:35

[3] Nicole O’Neill, MD

[4] Ibid.

[5] Matt. 6:33

About the Author

Michael O'Neill

Director of Operations / Executive Pastor at Kinergy, Inc. Federal 501c3 Non-Profit Organization. An experienced entrepreneur, leader, father, wellness professional, and owner of a multi-location medical practice with my wife, Nicole O'Neill, MD.

13 responses to “Divinely Wired”

  1. Kristy Newport says:


    I like how you wove in Scripture:
    “This is where we need to seek the “bread of life” and not supplement it with worldly alternatives. It is the only place we will find true satisfaction.[2] We’re reminded of this in John 6:35 and I believe there is a much deeper message than just food and water in this passage.”
    Your wife is an intelligent woman! It is great to hear how you can share your learnings with her.
    Thank you for sharing vulnerably as well.
    I know that exercise is a great way to promote health. I am curious if you have thoughts on exercise as an addiction. I have always held the position that exercise, if an addiction, it is one of the better ones to have (almost permissible). Do you have any thoughts on this?
    It is interesting, just this last week I met with a client who has high dopamine levels and exercise is vital for him. He reported 2 hours a day. This is helping him stay away/not want alcohol. This was thrilling news!

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thanks, Kristy. I agree that exercise is somewhat of a permissible addiction but anything that we consume in excess will certainly have it’s negative affects. I don’t think two hours a day is excess though. I have met individuals who exercise almost like a full time job. Usually there are multiple addictions going on though i.e. eating disorders, excessive caffeine, drugs, and a lot of insecurity. I think an hour or two a day is awesome and will provide many benefits although even 10 minutes a day as incredible advantages. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God gave us incredible benefits from exercise and healthy living. I think he wants a clean house. We can cure diseases, cleanse our systems, gain energy, burn fat, reduce injuries, also increase productivity, and energy, and sex drive. You name it, exercise helps. It’s really amazing how great it is, however, it is extremely easy to start worshiping yourself when you start to see the results. Our Kinergy ministry has a no “selfie” rule in our fitness center in an attempt to change the perspective on vanity in gyms and working out in general. Also to teach people that exercise is an act of worship if your heart is turned toward God and the movements are for Him. We try to help people clean His temple (our bodies) and worship Him instead of ourselves.

      Thanks for the comment!

      • Kristy Newport says:

        You are spending an incredible amount of time in answering all our questions. This is obviously an area of passion for you! Thank you for all the thoughtful responses. I have enjoyed reading them.
        At Kinergy you have a NO SELFIE RULE! I can see the reasoning behind this. I am curious if you have had any feedback/push back on this rule? I hope it is receiving full support.
        My son (17) works out/lifts weights for baseball. He has friends who post a lot of their workouts on social media. My son thinks this is pretty vain.

  2. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Michael,

    Well, lucky you! Nicole helped you with your homework! That’s awesome. The insights you shared that you gleaned from her were fascinating.

    I am curious, with your background in training and fitness, I have seen some content on YouTube from voices within that world on “dopamine fasting.” My question to you is, is that even possible and beneficial? What are your habits for keeping dopamine in check and not over running you as it does for those struggling with addiction?

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thanks, David. Yeah, she’s sharp and I don’t always share the blogs but I knew she would like this topic. She actually talked for hours and I could hardly keep up and wasn’t able to remember most of it when I tried to quote her. Anyway, to answer your question, I have not heard of dopamine fasting or a specific technique for keeping dopamine in check. I will look into both of these though and try to follow up with you. I’m curious if you have any thoughts on your own questions. I would have to say God is my balance for everything and exercise is a place where I see and feel God’s presence. It’s all about perspective. If you go into a workout as an act of worship and try and keep His house clean and live to your potential physically, I think he hooks you up. It took 40 years for me to figure this out in real time. I knew it and preached it but it wasn’t until the last few years that I started practicing Kenosis and it has changed my life. Exercise calms me in times of stress, it motivates me in times of worry, it balances me in an argument or anger situation. I really think it’s its the best medicine. The Bible is the ultimate guide but you can bring the Bible into your cardio or strength sessions with audio. You can also spend time in prayer. I may sound like an infomercial right now but I truly believe it. Thank you for the hook up on these questions. I look forward to diving into it more.

  3. Tonette Kellett says:


    I love how you wove Scripture throughout your gleanings from the reading. It was a real blessing that your wife was able to add so much richness to this week’s lesson not only for you but for all of us reading your post as well. The explanations that she added about dopamine further reinforcing addictive behaviors even when they are destructive was enlightening.

    I wrote some about alcoholism in my own post, and her explanations shed light on why an alcoholic will continue drinking even when they have lost everything. It’s sad really.

    Thank you again for your post.

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thank you, Tonette. I look forward to reading your post. She had a lot to say about alcoholism too. We just lost our friend due to alcoholism and it’s so sad. Dopamine played a huge role in it. We have to trust God and find our motivation and worth in Him. Thank you for the comments.

  4. mm Chad McSwain says:

    Hi Michael

    Great post. I’m curious how the increased knowledge of dopamine, particularly the desire of anticipation and addiction, might inform you NPO. For instance, the dopamine effect on those who train regularly or even compulsive about going to the gym to those who need to change work outs to stay interested?

    Also, I’m curious if there was anything your wife learned from the book and anything she disagreed with in their research.

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thanks, Chad. She didn’t read the book but she said she wants to. I just gave her my summary and some topics to talk about. She could have written a 10 page essay off the top of her head but I did my best to catch a few quotes.

      I’ve seen plateaus in results and motivation in many athletes and compulsive fitness gurus. I myself have tried so many workouts and have to constantly stimulate myself. For years I was trying to find the best workout mix, music, time, type, frequency, etc. But it wasn’t until I stopped all of it and dedicated my workouts to God that I started feeling satisfied. It became less about me and more about Him. It humbled me and took any vanity out of it. I see better results, feel less stress, and enjoy it more. I think we need to change our perspective on exercise first and see where the Spirit leads us. We will only be satisfied in our lives through Christ, same applies for fitness.

  5. mm Audrey Robinson says:

    Awesome post. I am grateful for the additional insights from your wife. Please tell her I said thanks!

    What are you thoughts on how we encourage those who do not have Scripture or Kingdom principles to rely on when bombarded with the dopamine pleasure enticements in our culture?

    • Michael O'Neill says:

      Thanks Audrey, I certainly will. As I mentioned in my post, this is not a topic that I am an expert in. I love giving fitness advice and Biblical/God advice to people but I’m not a trained counselor or anything like that. I honestly do not know. I often point people in the right direction in the Bible and encourage prayer and exercise. If possible, fasting is another tool I recommend a lot but it’s not that easy for most people. Even if food fasting isn’t an option, I often recommend that individuals fast from other things that are regular in their lives for example, social media, TV, sweets, pointless entertainment, etc. I always recommend God even if the do not have a relationship. I’ve sat on the bike with many people and introduced them to God but I rely on the Spirit to water the seed I plant. I really do not have answers to many of these questions. I try to keep it simple and listen for the Spirit to speak through me. I think if people are willing, the answers will come. We need to open up our hearts and humble ourselves. Also, keep moving! I believe that the devil wants to keep us stationary and God wants us to MOVE!

  6. Michael,

    You broke this down for a wide audience. Well done!

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