The way you love is magic in its purest form.
What is love? How does it happen? Why does it happen? What is the internal mechanism that changes when we love something? Is it purely emotional? Chemical? Neural? What physical proof do we have that love even exists?
Do you want to witness a magic trick? Fall in love with something or someone.
One of your favorite artists releases a new track, and from the moment you hear it, you know you absolutely love it. Why?
Your baby is born, and all through the womb, you are falling in love with it, but something incredibly potent happens as the baby takes its first breath and cries. What exactly has happened in that transformative moment in time?
You are walking through an art gallery, and turn the corner, and suddenly, there it is. The one piece of art that absolutely takes your breath away. One second earlier, you did not know it exists, and in the next second, you know you cannot live without it.
Is that not magic?
We romanticize love taking place in the heart, but in actuality, it is all in the brain…
A few notes from Harvard on the topic of what is love: Love can be distilled into three categories: lust, attraction, and attachment. Though there are overlaps and subtleties to each, each type is characterized by its own set of hormones. Testosterone and estrogen drive lust; dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin create attraction; and oxytocin and vasopressin mediate attachment. Lust is driven by the desire for sexual gratification. The evolutionary basis for this stems from our need to reproduce, a need shared among all living things. Through reproduction, organisms pass on their genes, and thus contribute to the perpetuation of their species. Meanwhile, attraction seems to be a distinct, though closely related, phenomenon. While we can certainly lust for someone we are attracted to, and vice versa, one can happen without the other. Attraction involves the brain pathways that control “reward” behavior, which partly explains why the first few weeks or months of a relationship can be so exhilarating and even all-consuming.
Dopamine, produced by the hypothalamus, is a particularly well-publicized player in the brain’s reward pathway – it’s released when we do things that feel good to us. In this case, these things include spending time with loved ones and having sex. High levels of dopamine and a related hormone, norepinephrine, are released during attraction. These chemicals make us giddy, energetic, and euphoric, even leading to decreased appetite and insomnia – which means you actually can be so “in love” that you can’t eat and can’t sleep.
Last but not least, attachment is the predominant factor in long-term relationships. While lust and attraction are pretty much exclusive to romantic entanglements, attachment mediates friendships, parent-infant bonding, social cordiality, and many other intimacies as well. The two primary hormones here appear to be oxytocin and vasopressin.
Katherine Wu, the student at Harvard whose material I have shared, writes more extensively on the topic. You can read it here. https://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2017/love-actually-science-behind-lust-attraction-companionship/#:~:text=High%20levels%20of%20dopamine%20and,eat%20and%20can’t%20sleep.
Wishing you a loving Saturday!