Last month in the New York Times, there was an article titled, The Brain on Love. Very interesting – I thought I would paraphrase a few of the ideas, theories and data in it for my readers.
As we mature and forge relationships, fall in love, find a soul-mate, our brains remember the oneness we felt with our mothers and longs for the adult equivalent. That first attachment of well-being is imprinted on a baby’s brain.
Studies show that physical well-being, longevity, medical and mental health, happiness, and even wisdom are promoted by being in a supportive loving relationship. Choosing a mate opens up new areas of learning; Glimpses of the world though another’s eyes; forsaking some habits and adopting others (good or bad); tasting new ideas, rituals, foods or landscapes; a slew of added friends and family; a tapestry of physical intimacy and affection; and many other catalysts, including a tornadic blast of attraction and attachment hormones – all of which revamp the brain.
When two people become a couple the brain extends its idea of self to include the other: instead of the slender “I”, a plural self emerges who can borrow some of the other’s assets and strengths. …Through lovemaking or when we pass on the flu or a cold sore, we trade bits of identity with loved ones, and in time we become sort of a chimera. We don’t just get under a mate’s skin, we absorb him or her.
Love is the best school but the tuition is high and the homework is painful. …..studies by the U.C.L.A. neuroscientist Naomi Eisenberger show the same areas of the brain that register physical pain are active when someone feels socially rejected. That’s why being spurned by a lover hurts all over the body, but in no place you can point to. ….
Whether they speak Armenian or Mandarin, people around the world use the same images of physical pain to describe a broken heart, which they perceive as crushing and crippling. It’s not just a metaphor for an emotional punch. Social pain can trigger the same sort of distress as stomachache or a broken bone. But a loving touch is enough to change everything.
To be continued...