In my English 101 course at Glendale Community College, last year, I put together my own outlook on the sensations of love. I was in love at the time and wondered, why do I feel these odd sensations and why can’t I focus in class? Why can’t I get my mind off of this love that I’m feeling? So I decided to write about it. Love is now something I feel everyday with my girlfriend Maddy, and so I thought I’d share my views on what the sensations of love might be.
Love is one of the strongest sensations that the brain feels while it is functioning. Whether it is the brain of a human or an animal, love has the power to control the mind and the heart of many. Dr. Helen Fisher spoke in a Ted Talk meeting in 2008 titled “The Brain of Love”, and quoted “Around the world people love. They sing for love, they compose poems and stories about love as well as myths and legends about it. They live, kill, and die for love.” Love has its theories, like the triangular theory developed by psychologist Robert Sternberg where according to his theory, everyone mostly desires what is in the center of the triangular diagram of love called “Consummate Love” which consists of intimacy, passion, and commitment.
Many of these aspects from the triangular theory of love define love. No matter how free or painful the experience may feel to someone, this feeling also has scientific effects on the brain. Neuroscientists believe that love affects the brain with chemicals and other hormones that give the individual pleasure, adrenalin pumping in the heart creating sweaty hands, and where the brain can release dopamine to respond to pleasure stimuli. This is all the result of lust, attraction, and attachment to another. Love is a type of deep affection one individual has for another. This feeling of love can be better defined through its effects on the brain, theories, and experiences through the vision of others.
Initially, love can be defined by its scientific effects and behaviors on the brain. In 2005, Dr. Helen Fisher conducted a study where individuals who felt love in different ways were placed in an MRI, and 2,500 college student’s brains were analyzed after they had viewed pictures of people that were dear to them in comparison to how they viewed pictures of their acquaintances. When the college students viewed pictures of people who they loved romantically, it caused their brains to become more functional in the region where dopamine is responsible (specifically the frontal lobes of the brain). Dopamine is also considered as the feel-good transmitter, which brings pleasure when at its peak, and also causes the individual to lose contact with their reality when dopamine levels are high. This comparison can be linked to the saying of “Being high on love” because it has been said that the brain appears the same while being high on love or being high on cocaine. The caudate nucleus was also seen as active, and this region of the brain plays a role in how we store information learning about others and storing memories. Another active region of the brain that was observed during this process was the ventral tegmental region, which is in the midbrain also associated with dopamine and serotonin. High serotonin levels can affect mood, social behaviors, and sexual desire. In the same way that drugs effect the brain where the reward pathway is active, the reward pathway is also active while being love-struck because it is activated by dopamine causing similar feelings of euphoria while on drugs. The reward pathway is involved with the ventral tegmental area, the nucleus accumbens, and the prefrontal cortex area of the brain. When the reward circuit flood of the brain is high while falling in love, multiple physical and emotional responses are produced such as racing hearts, blushing cheeks, sweaty palms, and feelings of anxiety. During the phase of romantic love, the stress hormone cortisol rapidly grows while serotonin decreases. Low levels of serotonin activate feelings of obsessive behaviors related to compassion as well. On the other hand, cortisol levels tend to rise during feelings of depression and heartbreak. By observing and understanding the scientific effects of love on the brain, love can be better defined as addicting and also as a pleasurable feeling.
Additionally, love can be understood and defined through observing its theories. Pondering the whys and the hows of love can be a way to come to a conclusion on what love is. Is love really a trick to increase the process of reproduction? Is love just another distraction from loneliness? Is love really both of these concepts together? In the way that theories about gravity and other subjects have been discussed, many scientists and philosophers, and psychologists have also developed their own theories about love. Psychologist John Bowlby created a theory called the Attachment theory, which indicates that the attachment to one person can increase a sense of security and stability needed to take certain chances while growing and expressing one’s self. For example, those without a certain attachment are less willing to take chances and learn from new experiences similar to how a child attached to a sibling or parent can rely on them in certain situations. Those with an attachment can become more adventurous with their significant other and become more motivated which initiates “attachment behavior” (later identified by Mary Ainsworth). An example of attachment behavior is when an insecure child hopes to reconnect with an absent caregiver in his or her life, and is said to be related to the feeling of not having a romantic attachment according to the attachment theory. Another theory about love was developed by Greek philosopher of ancient times, Plato. According to Plato, humans love to simply be complete which can lead back to the theory of attachment. He once wrote a story about a dinner party hosted by comic playwright Aristophanes. Aristophanes told guests a story where humans were once creatures that had four arms, four legs, and two faces. One day, humans upset the gods, and Zeus eventually split them in half. Till this day, humans have been longing to find their other half, their soulmate. A third theory of love was later developed by German philosopher Arthur Schopenhaur where love is based primarily on sexual desire and is considered as an illusion that tricks a couple into having babies. Nature is leading us to the idea of procreation. We only become successful as a species if we maintain the cycle of procreation. Buddha also predicted the idea that we love to satisfy our cravings for passion and to distract ourselves from loneliness. Love is the state of being in peace, clarity, and maintaining wisdom of or from a significant other. Thus, love can be defined in many ways, especially when looking at different perspectives of loves from others.
Lastly, love can be defined by developing a personal outlook on it from personal experience. Like Helen Fisher stated the many ways that people feel love, love is a way of self-expression, but for someone that is special in the eyes of one individual. The emotion is powerful and can be defined as an addiction that controls not only the thoughts and feelings of one person, but the body of a person as well. Humans all experience the same stages of love from friendship, to relationships, and some even experience marriage eventually continuing on with a family. However, it’s unfortunate that we all go through a breakup or heartbreak in life. Heartbreak can be the outcome of a breakup in a relationship, a divorce in a marriage, or simply the loss of a loved one. Love can exhilarating, and love can be devastating. The definition of love can be entirely based on personal experience.
In conclusion, love can be better summarized as a way that humans grow. Love is a necessary factor in order to survive in life whether it is felt from family, or from a romantic love. Independence is acceptable when observing the idea of love and taking a break from the feeling, but love is something that pulls someone in causing them to break from their shell. Many people are eager to be a part of the emotional roller coaster ride of love, and some people break away from it. Love is truly everlasting in many ways.