Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What Is Love? Part I

Love has so many definitions, it's hard to pin one down. Some people believe it's a feeling of knowing someone is right for you. Some feel it's an unconditional commitment to a person you adore. Others believe it to be an uncontrollable force that sends you on an emotional roller coaster ride. And sadly, many even believe it's not real at all. I believe there's a science to it all- there's a rhyme and reason to the most complicated emotion to ever affect a human being. None other affects our lives in such a way. In some ways, love can derail our entire lives. So why is it that we learn so little about it? We experience it, fail at it, enjoy it, run from it, bask in it and even fall in love with the pure idea of it. In this, the first part of my series, I want to examine the exact science and psychology of love. Disclaimer: In no way am I suggesting that love lacks free will or destiny and fate. Being spiritual myself, I would never attempt to tamper with that ideal. But we also have to understand that every emotion has a chemical correspondence with our brains that triggers and, to an extent, controls who or what we love, attract or aroused by. In Part I of our series, we want to attempt to unveil the true definition of love, including infatuation and love vs being in love. These are all natural parts of love and to understand it, is to understand it's meaning and functionality. Webster's Dictionary defines love as a "strong affection based on kinship, personal ties, sexual desire, admiration, common interest or unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another". Also, as a "tender and passionate liking". This sounds reasonable, right? We've all felt this for loved ones. But arguably, you could feel this textbook definition for ANYONE! From your mother to your best friend, even your dog! So what causes this love to be heightened to such an extreme extent for that special someone? The answer is that there IS a difference. All love is not the same and equal. There is a huge difference between love and romantic love. Romantic love consists of 3 key elements: 1) Physical Attachment- the need for approval, to be cared for on a physical level 2) Emotional Caring- the need for your wants, needs and happiness to be valued 3) Mental Intimacy- the need to share thoughts, dreams, feelings and desires Within the confines of these elements are other important sub-elements. For example, in order to comfortably share your innermost thoughts with someone, you have to TRUST them. And a major tool in developing trust is COMMUNICATION. Guy's Note: This is the real reason why women need to communicate with you. She's not just long-winded and needy, fellas. In order to give you 100% of her love, trust and affection, she must be able to communicate who she is to you. And she has to see that the lines are open both ways and that you trust her enough to confide in her, as well. From a psychological perspective, there are 4 major theories of love: 1)Liking vs Loving- based on Zick Rubin's Scale of Liking and Loving, it rates a person's like or love for another on a specific scale determined by a series of questions and answers. 2) Compassionate vs Passionate Love- this theory by Elaine Hatfield gives the definitive difference between love and being in love; compassionate love begins and lasts with mutual respect, understanding, affection and trust. Passionate love is a period 6 mths- 2 1/2 yrs. filled with intense emotions, sexual attraction, anxiety and affection. The difference between the two is that passionate love is about temporary infatuation and not realistic respect, understanding and acceptance of who a person really is. 3)The Color Wheel Model of Love- based on the 1973 book, 'The Colors of Love' by John Lee, which we will cover in Part II of this series 4)Triangular Theory of Love- this theory by Robert Sternberg suggests that different combinations of intimacy, passion and commitment result in different types of love While the above listed theories, go far in helping us to understand how love works, it doesn't necessarily tell us what love is. However, modern science has sought to seek definition by using MRI machines to study the neurological effects that feelings of love have on the brain. Neurobiologists Andreas Bartels and Semir Ziki, of University College London, performed a study on young men and women recently in love. They were shown pictures of their loved ones, which resulted in drastically different brain activity. Based on this and similar research, romantic attraction activates the pockets of the brain with large concentrations of dopamine, which has been linked to feelings of euphoria, and has also been known to stimulate cravings and even addiction. This explains the initial stages of being in love. How you can't think of anything but that person all day and night. Or the way you run for the phone when you think it's them. Or how you get so terribly sad when they're not around. After all, the first two stages of passionate love is self-disclosure(the stage in which you feel the need to share your whole life's story) and interdependence(the need to be around each other all the time, even if you're doing absolutely nothing). This is what we call infatuation. And have you ever wondered why you never realized just how crazy or stupid or lazy your loved one was in the beginning? You actually didn't choose to overlook anything. It's been discovered that neural circuits that would generally assist you in making assessments of a person or situation are actually suppressed when in love. So what's the definition of love? It's an emotional attachment, where you are willing to unconditionally care for and be intimate with one person solely, because your feelings have adversely affected your mental ability to see them for who they are since they've stimulated and aroused you to euphoric levels of obsession and lust. There we have it: Love. Truthfully, science can only tell us so much. Emotions are an uncontrollable chemical reaction, but what you do and how you react to them is based on the exterior factors. Upbringing, religious beliefs and past relationships all affect how we respond to and handle situations within our romantic love relationships. It's important to remember that you really chemically cannot help who you fall in love with, but use the active parts of your brain and be reasonable. Feel free to embrace love, but do so openly, honestly and realistically. In other words, no matter what you feel, look deep before you leap.

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