On Valentine’s Day, in a twist of synchronicity, CNN published an article detailing a study on the neurology of love. According to study results, that new-ness and need for exploration I felt earlier in the week was a hunger for what can likewise be called an addiction. In the study, test volunteers, newly in love, were presented with photographs of their lovers and their brains were monitored. When they saw their lover:
the scientists found that the caudate area of the brain — which is involved in cravings — became very active. Another area that lit up: the ventral tegmental, which produces dopamine, a powerful neurotransmitter that affects pleasure and motivation.
I remember that craving, that high, and I miss it like someone in recovery. The addiction to being around someone is definitely neurological:
Dr. Helen Fisher put it: When you fall in love, “exactly the same system becomes active as when you take cocaine. You can feel intense elation when you’re in love. You can feel intense elation when you’re high on cocaine.”
The article goes on to state that romantic love isn’t really an emotion, but rather it is an innate need that works below reason, emotion, and logic. We need love at the root of it all. We also try to avoid rejection; love it or leave it, rejection brings us actual pain. It’s true. Another study by the same researchers found that when volunteers who had recently been dumped were presented with pictures of their exes:
The insular cortex, the part of the brain that experiences physical pain, became very active. “People came out of the machine crying,” [Dr. Brown] said. “We won’t be doing that experiment again for a long time.”
On the face of it, this research appears to suck some of the romanticism out of romance, but underneath, it actually supports the concept. Everyone has the need for it; everyone has the capability for providing it. The complication is found in all the layers of crap we place on top of it; the Ritual, the Dance, the waiting three days before calling the number handed to you at a party, the preening and posturing to be bigger and more cocksure than the twenty roosters before you and the twenty after. The best tactic is to relax and be your awesome self; be honest, be genuine, listen to your needs. It sounds like good advice. Maybe it is.