hiiiiiii we are back with da loveeeeeeeeee talk.
if you missed out on part 1 or need a refresher, check it out!
so we left off with the question: “Can we manipulate the brains of two strangers who have zero interest in one another and cause them to fall in love?”
In my paper I get pretty technical and go into the neuroscience and mechanisms of romantic love and the counterarguments to my main claim and well, while all that is nice, for the sake of simplicity we will pluck the feathers off that bird (sorry, not to be morbid). If your pastime is reading research papers, then by all means let me know if you want to read the full paper. 癶(癶✺౪✺ )癶 I’ll include a few excerpts from my paper~
First of all, why does any of this even matter?
Well simply because “love is a state of mind that affects every individual who ever lived on earth in some shape or form. It is peculiar, as a cause worth fighting for, a source of ecstasy, at times the mother of extreme turmoil, and a drive much like that of thirst and hunger.” By understanding the process of falling in love, we can understand more about what it means to do so and how this understanding could or should inform our thoughts and actions.
KAY so we begin with Todd & Aimee (shoutout to 2LC for the names) who each have a distinctive set of traits, cultural differences, and romantic expectations. They meet in the laboratory and well, simply put they find each other “disappointingly unsatisfying in appearance upon first glance and lacking in demeanor.”
Okay, so this reminds me of a random thought I had a couple months ago–Can a gorgeous person be attracted to and fall in love with someone who is butt ugly? Well, it turns out, maybe unfortunately, that physical attraction has a lot to do with how we react to others. We tend to marry at the same level of attractiveness or a tad above. I’m sure y’all have read some research about the bias of beauty, but if not, search it up to learn more! 🙂
In addition to that, there’s a pot full of factors that go into falling in love and most of us have a pretty specific set of criteria in how we want our “dream lover” to be like. While there are some cultural differences in what people want in a significant other, some of the most prominent focuses are:
1). reciprocal liking
3). fulfillment of needs
4). social influence
Basically, we’re all pretty picky and even if one person is desperate the other person has to be equally desperate in order for da whole falling in love thing to even have a chance of happening. This isn’t just passion we’re talking about, its an actual relationship. In a real world, Todd & Aimee would never date one another. When we add neurotransmitters, hormones, electrical brain stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation to the mix though, things get pretty janky (only time i will be more technical).
There’s a variety of neurotransmitters and hormones that play a role in bringing about feelings of attraction and passion, while also increasing a strong desire to be with the other exclusively. We’re not going to get into that here, but basically it’s a great, grand jar of sprinkles of varying functions, full of life-giving energy.
Using transcranial magnetic stimulation allows for the possibility of deactivating regions of the brain because ya when you fall in love certain brain regions are activated and thus, you feel a spectrum of intensified emotions, but there are also some regions that are deactivated. So what’s really profound is that not only can you try to activate a region, but also suppress it.
So hypothetically, (and we’re really simplifying this a lot here), if you kept Todd & Aimee hooked up to electrodes and manipulated their brains in ways to imitate brains of people that are “in love” you could yes, cause them to fall in love.
But it’s not like you can just add some oxytocin and then fire up neurotransmitters to send signals to one region of the brain, you need the whole mix–all the stuff listed above–a variety of neurotransmitters and hormones, using electrical brain stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation.
“None of these factors should be isolated, as love is really a complex state to be in, with a web of activity interacting in the brain to produce the experience of falling in love.”
Whether or not long-term love would be successful is not something we’re claiming here. Simply, the process of falling in love (the initial stages of romantic love) between two strangers,–something said to be so magical, could it really be that there are less barriers to love than we think? Of course, such an experiment may not ever be ethically sound to actually carry out and even then, there are a lot of seams to hem and wrinkles to iron out because humans and the human brain are so, so complex.
Okay so now what do we do with this information?
The implications I found are as follows:
1). “Uncovering some of the mysteries about love is important in a world that is largely based upon a pursuit of love and all the emotions attached to it, as relational beings, to understand love is to understand ourselves.”
2). “By understanding love as something that is highly effected by the brain, we can begin to refute the idealistic images of “finding the one,” putting to rest the desire and self-centeredness that leads one to seek lasting fulfillment and pleasure in one individual. Romeo and Juliet need not commit suicide at the thought of the other dying. Instead, humans have a greater capacity to love any individual simply because they share a desire to form a partnership, not because they meet a certain cultural or external standard.”
We all have expectations and these are good, really good. But sometimes we have an unrealistic expectation that one single person is our soulmate and we create an image in our head of who exactly that is. Then we grow obsessed with the idea of our significant other and decide that everyone else is well, not significant, so basically-insignificant.
Okay, okay not everyone is like this, but recognizing that we are able to love far more than just that “soulmate” and that, really, we can be whole without them, creates a greater ability in ourselves to stop thirsting for a lover who will suddenly fulfill us. It’s pretty unfair to ask someone else to meet your expectations and to get into a hissy fit at the thought of being #foreveralone.
3). So, are we robots? Our brains tell us what to do and we follow it–and is love just a construct? What is love even?
The last day of class, we all sat around in a circle and each shared something we had learned that we found interesting. Somehow, halfway through, we got stuck on talking about my topic–romantic love–and a semi-debate led us to delve deeper and deeper into these questions about love and suddenly something so simple, so often talked about, became something we had an utter lack of understanding about.
In my paper I addressed one such question: “Is love then, just a bunch of interactions in the brain with no value?”
and my response to that is: “No, the explanation of a process does not do away with the experience of it.” In other words, just because we know what creates the feelings and physiological responses that make love, doesn’t make it less valuable or real. And maybe love is something more of a mystery than that.
Love in its smallest and most powerful forms is something that we all know about, no matter how educated you are–and it’s often love that we all want. Why?
Because love— it is an all-encompassing state of being. It includes happiness, passion, energy, acceptance, affection, security–it’s a lot of things. I have yet to encounter a person, in the first to third world countries I’ve visited that doesn’t understand the concept of love.
So it’s a big deal I’d say. So romantic love or otherwise, I think we can all do a lot more in understanding love and the more we do-actually loving.