Wednesday 3 October 2012

LOVE:  What  makes  us  fall  in  love?

 I read an article in the September 2006 issue of National Geographics about love and this inspired me to write an article on that subject. The source of some of the information in this article was based on some of what I read in that article.  

 What took me so long before I finally found the mate I was looking for? It wasn’t as if I hadn’t tried to find the right mate. I had a number of young women living with me over the years but none of them were the kind of women I really wanted to have as a mate for life. Some of them were extremely beautiful but alas I later realized that those women were either greedy or outright dumb and an embarrassment for me to be seen with them in public. Further, sex is certainly not a prime reason why a person should get married although it is a factor in marriage that is important in a marital relationship. One woman who lived with me for a while was extremely sexy but at the same time, she was keeping me up all night with her sexual demands. Having brains is important but some of the women I lived with didn’t use them. A couple of women actually stole from me. In one case, one of the women stole my colour television set while I was at work. I traced her movements and called the police. She got eighteen months in jail for that caper. Two women wanted me to give them a child but not marry them. Needless to say, I turned them both down.  I found many women who would make an ideal mate but they were going with other men and I don’t cut another man’s grass if you get my drift.

 I was 42 years of age before I finally got married. Six months earlier, I had met a beautiful and charming 24-year-old Japanese woman while I was in Switzerland giving several speeches at a United Nations crime conference at the UN headquarters in Geneva in September of 1975. She was traveling around Europe for several months on her extended vacation before she was going to return to her home in Japan.

 We met on a train while traveling to France so that we could go part way up Mount Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe. Within 24 hours, I knew that I had found the mate I was looking for. She was smart, witty, kind, friendly and sexy. She came to Canada with me after the conference was over and I married her six months later and we have been married 36 years, have two university-trained daughters who both have permanent jobs and between them, they have given us five beautiful grandchildren.                                                                                                
How reliable is romantic love, when it is used as a means of choosing one's mate? Can a marriage be successful when passion is diminished to some degree over time and is replaced with friendship, respect and a desire to make the marriage work?                                                                       
Let me be clear: I still love my wife. There is no woman I desire more. But it's hard to sustain romance in the day-to-day lives we share together with problems that every married couples endure. We are no different than other married couples. We also have problems; be they very small or great that has become part of our daily lives. The love that has bound us together has been frayed by mortgage payments (now paid in full) along with tax payments and the cost of living expenses and with our children, those little imps who somehow had managed to tighten the knot that held my wife and me together while weakening its actual fibers to some degree. If this all sounds like a miserable marriage, it isn't. My marriage is like sitting in comfortable sofa and even the occasional arguments have not diminished to any real degree our love for one another. We treat each other as equals. Each of us has abilities that the other cannot match or desire to have but those differences in our abilities compliments our marriage so that we blend together as a single unit.

 The successful marriages appear to have recognized the autonomy of each of the partners which makes it possible for each partner to continue to maintain his or her own identity and strengths without weakening the cohesion that keeps their marriage secure—that cohesion being the love we each have for the other.

 People around the world have for centuries, written poems, stories, plays and songs about the variations of love in ways that even as the centuries progress, those variations of love are still diverse powerful incentives for one person to mate with another. That is because passion grabs us by our throats and flings us into another’s arms.

There are in various parts of the world different cultures and customs that place women in a subservient role in the family unit which makes me wonder just how much love is lost between couples living in such a unit. In other parts of the world, polygamy marriages are the rule rather than the exception and the love between the husbands of such marriages are divided amongst the other women in the family unit. In many parts of the world, love is not the prime motive for marrying a person of the opposite sex. I am speaking of arranged marriages. In many parts of the world, premarital sex is frowned upon whereas in other parts of the world, it appears to be a normal practice. In some locales, racial differences hinder attempts at loving another person and in extreme cases, both lovers have been murdered by so-called outraged families in what is commonly referred to as `honour killings`. In some of these cases, the love is fleeting and in other cases, love is sincere and everlasting. One common denominator shared by couples where the difference in cultures, customs and religious views are vast, is the feeling of both parties to a marriage that they have stepped outside the boundaries of their own ethnic and religious backgrounds.  This can put a strain on their relationship.   

When my wife and I were married, her family disowned her for marrying out of her own race but after we had our first daughter, they came to the realization that our marriage was one of love and devotion for one another and subsequently they accepted our marriage as evidence of our love and devotion to each other and thereafter gave us their fullest approval. She has flown to Japan and visited them three times during our marriage and they have greeted her with open arms. Alas, if she was born in other countries, (such as in the Middle East) they may have murdered her soon after she visited them. They would have called her death as an honour killing.

 Anthropologist Helen Fisher has devoted much of her career to studying the biochemical pathways of love in all its manifestations: lust, romance and attachment in
the manner in which they wax and wane.
She says that a woman unconsciously uses orgasms as a way of deciding whether or not a man is good for her. If he's impatient and rough and for this reason, she can’t achieve an orgasm, she may instinctively feel he's less likely to be a good husband and father. I recognize that and for this reason, I have not been rough with my wife while we were having sex and certainly I was patient when she didn`t want to have sex at times. I consider myself to be a good husband and father to my children and my wife concurs.                                                                                                

Love lights up the caudate nucleus because it is home to a dense spread of receptors for a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which Fisher came to think of as part of our own endogenous love potion. The caudate nucleus is a nucleus located within the basal ganglia of the brains of humans. The caudate nucleus is an important part of the brain's learning and memory system and dopamine has many functions in the brain, including important roles in behavior and cognition, voluntary movement, motivation and reward, inhibition of prolactin production sleep, mood, attention, and learning. Prolactin acts as an important regulator of the  immune system.  

 In the right proportions, dopamine creates intense energy, exhilaration, focused attention, and motivation to win rewards. This is why, when are are newly in love, we are able to stay up all night, run a race, ski fast down a slope ordinarily too steep for our skill in order to impress the object of our love. In other words, love makes us bold, makes us bright and makes us run real risks that we shouldn`t.
Donatella Marazziti, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pisa in Italy studied the biochemistry that comes about by a bout of lovesickness. She became interested in exploring the similarities between love and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

She and her colleagues measured the serotonin levels in the blood of 24 subjects who had fallen in love within the previous six months and were obsessed about their love object for at least four hours every day. Serotonin is our major neurotransmitter, which can be altered by psychiatric medications—Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil, among others. (Antidepressant medicines). Researchers have long hypothesized that people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have a serotonin imbalance. Drugs like Prozac seem to alleviate OCD by increasing the amount of this neurotransmitter available at the juncture between neurons.
Marazziti compared the lovers' serotonin levels with those of a group of people suffering from OCD and another group who were free from both passion and mental illness. Levels of serotonin in both the subject’s blood and the lover’s blood were 40 percent lower than those in her normal subjects. What this means is that love and obsessive-compulsive disorder could have a similar chemical profile in which love and mental illness may be difficult to tell apart.

This is a condition none of us should be in. If we fall in love, sometimes over and over again with different people, we subject ourselves, each time, to a constant lowering of our blood pressure to a dangerous level which is lower than normal.   When blood pressure is not sufficient to deliver enough blood to the organs of the body, the organs do not work properly and can be temporarily or permanently damaged.

There is hope, however, for those caught in the grip of runaway passion—Prozac. There's nothing like that bicolored bullet for damping down the sex drive and making you feel indifferent about the buffet of sex you are receiving from your partners.

Helen Fisher however believes that the ingestion of drugs like Prozac jeopardizes one's ability to fall in love—and stay in love. By dulling the keen edge of love and its associated libido, relationships go stale. She said, “I know of one couple who were on the edge of a divorce. The wife was on an antidepressant. Then she went off it, started having orgasms once more, felt the renewal of sexual attraction for her husband, and they're now in love all over again.”

Undoubtedly, when couples are young, sex plays an important role in their lives but as they get older, that sexual drive slows down and in some instances, is parked by the side of the road until or unless a younger model of the original is passing by, so to speak.

Why doesn't passionate love last? How is it possible to see a person as a beautiful and/or handsome person when we first meet that person and several years later, to see that beauty or handsomeness as being bland? Surely the object of our affection could not have changed that much. For example, she still has the same shaped eyes. Her voice has always had that husky sound, but now it grates on us because she sounds like she needs an antibiotic. Or perhaps he doesn’t care about his figure anymore or he is in need of medicine to keep him fit. Maybe we are the ones who needs the medicine, because our partner we once loved and cherished and saw as the beautiful and/or handsome of all now appears to us more or less like someone with a low-level infection, tiring us and sapping us of all our strength.

This is not to imply that my strength is sapped because I have less love for my wife. I love her just the same as when I married her but let’s face it, when you are approaching 79 years of age, age your age has a way of creeping up on you and your strength isn’t the same as when you were younger.

Studies around the world have confirmed that passion usually ends sooner or later. Intense passion’s finality is as a natural phenomenon as its initial spark. No wonder some cultures think selecting a life-long mate based solely on something so fleeting as passionate love is a mistake. I have to agree with them.

When I was searching for a mate, there were five things I was looking for in a woman. They were as follows;

Good looking. She didn’t have to be a beauty queen but I also didn’t want her to be ugly. Nice figure. I wasn’t looking for a bathing suit model but I didn’t want her to be a model for the Goodyear blimp or be as thin as a telephone pole. Reasonably smart. She didn’t have to be a rocket scientist but I didn’t want a woman who sounded like she was retarded. Loving and caring. She didn’t have to be a goddess of love but I wanted a woman who was capable of loving a man. Sexually satisfying in bed. She didn’t have to be like a call girl but at the same time, she would be willing to please me as a sexual partner. I certainly didn’t want a woman who confessed to a priest after every sex act we did because she felt that she had sinned. When I met my wife for the first time, I realized within a day that she fulfilled my dreams of finding a woman that I could really love,

Previously, I found women who had at least three of these attributes but three of those attributes were not enough. Later after my wife and I lived together, I discovered to my immense pleasure that she was also a good housekeeper, a good cook and a great mother to our children. I had in my opinion, found what I had been looking for—the kind of mate every man dreams of having. Even my friends tell me how lucky I am to have met her. When you combine all of those attributes in a woman, the mixture invariably becomes one of love. I expect that women seek the same kind of attributes in men also.
In the article in the National Geographics magazine, it said it rather well when it said;                            

“Psychoanalysts have concocted countless theories about why we fall in love with whom we do. Freud would have said your choice is influenced by the unrequited wish to bed your mother, if you're a boy, or your father, if you're a girl. Jung believed that passion is driven by some kind of collective unconscious. Today psychiatrists such as Thomas Lewis from the University of California at San Francisco's School of Medicine hypothesize that romantic love is rooted in our earliest infantile experiences with intimacy, how we felt at the breast, our mother's face, these things of pure un-conflicted comfort that get engraved in our brain and that we ceaselessly try to recapture as adults. According to this theory, we love whom we love not so much because of the future we hope to build but because of the past we hope to reclaim. Love is reactive, not proactive, it arches us backward, which may be why a certain person just ‘feels right’ or ‘feels familiar’.  He or she has a certain look or smell or sound or touch that activates buried memories.” unquote

That may be hard to believe but scientists have proved that we are often influenced by buried memories deep in our memory banks. I discovered that when I was practicing hypnosis in the Canadian navy in 1953 when I delved into the very early memories of a sailor who was being haunted by something that happened to him when he was very young and had no idea as to what it was. I regressed him back into that original period in his life he had been in and then erased that aspect of his past by putting him into a state of amnesia while he was in that state. It worked. He was no longer haunted with that event in his past anymore since it wasn’t there any longer.

When I was a child, I lived in foster homes and one day my mother came to visit me and she noticed that I was sniffling as a result of a cold. She gave me a small Vics Vapor Inhaler she had with her and for years, each time I bought those inhalers and used them, they brought an immediate memory of my mother who had given me the first one sixty-six years ago. If we were living together during that earlier period of my life, it wouldn’t have made such an impression on me when she gave it to me when I was only 12. I missed my mother terribly and it was the only thing I had during those lonely years that constantly reminded me of her.

Love is a very strong emotion that can linger in our minds all of our lives and a sense of smell is a strong incentive that takes us back to those happy memories. I used the inhalers on occasion when I didn’t even have the need to use them as putting the inhaler up my nose and pressing some of the contents into my nose brought immediate memories of my brief life with my mother. This may be similar to surviving spouses keeping perfume vials for women and/or deodorants sprayers for men in the house when his or her spouse has passed on. The scents bring back happy memories.

Evolutionary psychology has ignored Freud and the Oedipal Complex and all that other transcendent stuff and introduced us to simple survival skills as an alternative. For example, we tend to choose as mates, those who look healthy. For example, a woman with a 70 percent waist-to-hip ratio can give birth to a child without complications. Studies have shown this precise ratio signifies higher fertility in women and men with rugged features generally suggests a strong supply of testosterone in a potential male partner’s blood and he probably also has a strong immune system and so is more likely to give his partner healthy children.

These factors should be the first things that should come to mind when we see a potential mate and if so, then love will surely follow close behind if the potential spouse has other attributes that meet the expectations of the person searching for a mate or hoping that the search ends at his or her doorstep.                                   

Today, marriages premised on love alone appear to be on the rise in India, often in defiance of parents' wishes. The triumph of romantic love is celebrated in Bollywood films. Yet most East Indians still believe that prearranged marriages are more likely to succeed than marriages premised on love alone. In one survey of Indian college students, 76 percent said they'd marry someone with all the right qualities even if they weren't in love with the person (compared with only 14 percent of Americans). Marriage is considered too important a step to leave to chance. I agree but there are exceptions. I met my wife purely by chance. If I hadn’t missed the bus in Geneva and caught the train instead, I never would have met her.

However, I don’t agree that even if a potential spouse who has all the attributes the parents are seeking for their children’s potential mates, it is enough if love doesn’t also play an important role in the selection of a good mate. Without love, there can be no happy marriage between the two mates and a loveless marriage is akin to living in hell on earth.

Biologically speaking, the reasons romantic love fades after several years may be found in the way our brains respond to the surge and pulse of dopamine that accompanies passion and makes us take risks. Cocaine users describe the phenomenon of tolerance. The brain adapts to the excessive input of the drug. Perhaps the neurons in our brains become desensitized and need more and more of the passion we originally had in order to produce the original high—to put out more pixie dust, metaphorically speaking that jump starts the passion again.

Maybe it's also a good thing that the sex drive fizzles to some degree. If the chemically altered state induced by romantic love is akin to a mental illness or a drug-induced euphoria, exposing ourselves too long to it could result in us suffering from some form of psychological damage. A good sex life can be as strong as Crazy Glue, but who wants it attaching our bodies together forever?

Excess passion can be too much to bear. It could be exhausting. It is better to experience the relative quiet of an oxytocin-induced attachment. Oxytocin is a hormone in our bodies that promotes a feeling of connection such as bonding with another person. It is released when we hug our long-term spouses, or our children. It is released when a mother nurses her infant. Some animals have it because with high levels of oxytocin, they mate for life. When scientists blocked oxytocin receptors in various rodents, the animals didn't form monogamous bonds and tended to roam looking for other mates.

There are a number of forms of love aside from loving one’s mate. There is the love of our children, our parents and grandparents, our other relatives, siblings and our friends. There is even the love of our pets. Each form of love is different from the other but with those feelings of love; there is also passion which increases the intensity of those kinds of love.

Love is a force of nature.  However much as we may want to, we cannot successfully command, demand, or make love to become nonexistent, any more than we can command the moon, the stars along with the wind, rain and the tide to come and go according to our whims. We have to seek it and then acquire it from someone else but only with his or her blessing.

Love is nature’s gift to us all for although it may be enough to keep the embers of companionship alive to perpetuate our species to the end of time, it also adds excitement to our thoughts.   









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