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Perspectives on love

Perspectives on love

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Perspectives on love

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  1. Perspectives on love Neurochemistry revelations vs. 12th century passion and commitment

  2. What is love? • A growing, giving, voluntary feeling of intense affection and commitment to another? • OR • An intoxicating, overpowering mix of neurotransmitters fine-tuned by evolutionary processes to draw us together to reproduce?

  3. Does this sound familiar? • You meet and subsequently become deeply attracted to someone. • You constantly think of them. • You tingle in their presence. • You plan on reunion whenever apart. • You worry about whether they share your feelings. • You are utterly devastated if they do not.

  4. The real chemistry of love • Just as they influence our mood, energy levels, motor skills, and impulse control, neurotransmitters have a profound effect on sexual attraction. • Two appear to have a particularly dramatic role to play – phenylethylamine (PEA) and dopamine.

  5. Phenylethylamine “pea” • A neurotransmitter closely associated with intense passion and attraction • Surging levels accompany the initial elation and intense excitement and euphoria of new love • Chemically similar to amphetamines • “ When we meet someone who is attractive to us, the whistle blows at the PEA factory.”

  6. examples • Love at first sight • The “thunderbolt” • A “crush”

  7. dopamine • Allied to pleasure, reward, and addiction • Its release produces great pleasure, “telling” us what we like • Also similar to amphetamines • MRI’s of those passionately in love demonstrate that a picture of our beloved leads to heightened activity in parts of the frontal lobes saturated with dopamine receptors

  8. Effects on behavior and experience • We can talk all night • We’ll sacrifice sleep – we don’t seem to need it anyway • The whole world seems to pulse with new beauty and excitement • We focus on the object of our desire • We take risks

  9. The down side • We are anxious and awkward like never before • We can be overly sensitive and emotional • And if things go bad …. We feel searing emotional pain We can’t sleep or suffer “early rising” We feel worthless, humiliated • It’s like withdrawal from an addictive drug

  10. As time goes on … • Even if we stay together, the potency of this “chemical cocktail” slowly fades • We just can’t maintain this high • Maybe it’s a simple matter of building tolerance • Or maybe it’s because we just need four years of intense bonding for two parents to conceive and nurture their child

  11. Chemistry and love part ii • But just because the neurotransmitters aligned with infatuation fade, does that mean that such chemicals play no further role in keeping couples together? • Nope, different neurotransmitters and hormones exert their influence to keep us together.

  12. Endorphins to the rescue • Some theorists contend that as the intense passion and lust prompted by PEA and dopamine fades, the brain produces more and more endorphins soothing us with their morphine-like effects • They give us security and serenity • But if their source vanishes, for whatever reason, nasty withdrawal ensues

  13. The “cuddle” chemical • Another chemical influence that keeps couples together is the hormone oxytocin • Released when we express physical affection, especially through skin contact • Hugging, massage, foreplay, and especially, breast feeding • Strong feelings of intimacy and contentment • Prairie voles have it in spades, until ….

  14. And then there’s testosterone • A hormone crucial for sexual interest and response for both men and women • Women have much less, but are more sensitive to its effects • Produced in the male’s testes and women’s ovaries • If a male endures castration (surgical removal of the testes) his sexual interest and activity diminish dramatically

  15. Behaviors that bind us • Gottman examined why relationships last and thrive or fade and fail • The 5 to 1 ratio • Successful relationships have at least 5 positive interactions to every negative interaction • More important than compatibility, frequency of fights, etc.