Thursday, February 14, 2013

Language Of Love

What is love? This is a question I started asking myself after reading a poem by my friend, Ira, of the same title, on her blog. (What Is Love) And if anybody knows me, then they would know that when I go to asking deep questions, dark forces of the very strange begin lurking about.

Obviously, love is a strong emotion of affection and personal attachment. It is also said that love is a virtue representing all of human kindness and compassion. The unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another. In our modern world of today, love can take the form of many different meanings and pleasures. For example, “I loved that meal.” to the interpersonal attraction of “I love my partner.” From romantic love, to a more intimate sexual love, to love of family, religion, love of an object such as your car, and the simplicity of “The love for life.”

Love is nothing more than a stronger form of “like”, and is commonly contrasted with “hate”. (Or neutral apathy.) Love is also contrasted with “lust” although, in my opinion, lust is a more animalistic, or watered down version. Still, I find it amazing of the many different levels of love. But what is the difference between loving someone as opposed to “being in love” with someone?

When discussed in the abstract, love usually refers to interpersonal love, an experience felt by a person for another person. Love often involves caring for or identifying with a person or thing  including oneself, also referred to as narcissism. (Shut up, Ira) LOL

A person can be said to love an object, principle, or goal if they value it greatly and are deeply committed to it. Similarly, compassionate outreach and volunteer workers' love of their cause may sometimes be born not of interpersonal love, but impersonal love coupled with altruism and strong spiritual or political convictions. People can also love material objects, animals, or activities if they invest themselves in bonding or otherwise identifying with those things. If sexual passion is also involved, this condition is called paraphilia.

Love is sometimes referred to as being the international language, overriding cultural and linguistic divisions.

But is love romance? Is romance love?

We know the realistic difference of love as it pertains to say, “I love my parents” to “I love my dog” to “I love my boyfriend”. Or at least, one would hope there is a difference. However, those who practice incest and bestiality may debate that somewhat. But I digress, for most of us, there is a separation level of love. Then there are those who don’t believe in love. Or is it that they don’t believe in the act of falling in love?

I myself love my mother, but I’m not in love with her. I love my friends, but I am not in love with them. I love girls in general and yet, I do not fall in love with them. I lust for them often, (perhaps) but I always looked at falling in love as - “something or someone you simply can’t do (live) without” - and I suppose by that philosophy, I would be in love with food, water, oxygen and a comfortable temperature in which I could survive.

Biological models of sex tend to view love as a mammalian drive, much like hunger or thirst. But wouldn’t that be more to the form of love that is lust? Couldn’t love and lust become confused? Lust is the feeling of sexual desire. Romantic attraction determines what partners mates find attractive and pursue, conserving time and energy by choosing; and attachment involves sharing a home, parental duties, mutual defense, and in humans involves feelings of safety and security. Is this love?

Three distinct neural circuitries, including neurotransmitters, and also three behavioral patterns, are associated with these three romantic styles. But wait! Is this proof that romance and love are the same? Or does the act of romance lead to the feeling of sexual/partner love?

I understand that sexual desire may only be an animalistic urge to procreate, like any other bodily function, and chemicals released in the brain brought about from orgasm (testosterone and estrogen) can also be equaled to eating large quantities of chocolate. Okay, I get that! What I want to know is, how can one convince themselves that they are “in love” with someone and why?

Is there really such a thing as a “soul mate”? Or is that just something we say to substantiate our decision to be with someone we may find attractive at that point and time of our life? I mean, I often compare relationships of attraction with people to cars. For example: I bought a new car once off the showroom floor. The first six months, I treated that thing like it was a newborn infant. I was careful about people getting too close and scratching it, took it to wash it almost three times a week. I kept that thing clean inside and out, and I mean spotless! Then came the inevitable, I got accustomed to it. It started to grow old. That new car smell soon evaporated. Along with the new car feel. After a few years, I wasn’t taking it to the car wash like I once did. I was anal about people getting too close anymore, or scratches. Before I knew it, I was looking into getting another new car.

Out with the old - in with the new.

Are people the same way? Do we get too complacent inside our love after a while that other people start looking good to us? And even if a person cheats on their spouse, does that mean the love is gone or the desire? Or the lust? Maybe we still love that “old” car, but we always have that urge to “drive” another new one.

Okay, I know people aren’t cars, but is the philosophy still the same? On a molecular level, do we just get a little bored with having sex with the same person over and over and all the time? Maybe some do, but I also know for a fact, that some do not. I do know people who have been together ever since they met in high school and they are going on 50, 60, maybe 70 years old. To be together for so long, that has to be love, correct?

Since the lust and attraction stages are both considered temporary, a third stage is needed to account for long-term relationships. Attachment is the bonding that promotes relationships lasting for many years and even decades. Attachment is generally based on commitments such as marriage and children, or on mutual friendship based on things like shared interests. It has been linked to higher levels of the chemicals oxytocin and vasopressin to a greater degree than short-term relationships have. It is reported that the protein molecule known as the “nerve growth factor” (NGF) has high levels when people first fall in love, but these return to previous levels after one year. Kind of like what happened in regards to my feelings towards my new car after the same amount of time had elapsed.

Then I ask yet another unscientific question, could a person actually fall / be in love with someone that they hate?

Psychology depicts love as a cognitive and social phenomenon. Psychologist Robert Sternberg formulated a triangular theory of love and argued that love has three different components: intimacy, commitment, and passion. Intimacy is a form in which two people share confidences and various details of their personal lives, and is usually shown in friendships and romantic love affairs. Commitment, on the other hand, is the expectation that the relationship is permanent. The last and most common form of love is sexual attraction and passion. Passionate love is shown in infatuation as well as romantic love. All forms of love are viewed as varying combinations of these three components. Non-love does not include any of these components. Liking only includes intimacy. Infatuated love only includes passion. Empty love only includes commitment. Romantic love includes both intimacy and passion. Companionate love includes intimacy and commitment. Fatuous love includes passion and commitment. Lastly, consummate love includes all three. American psychologist Zick Rubin sought to define love by psychometrics in the 1970s. His work states that three factors constitute love: attachment, caring, and intimacy.

Psychology sees love as more of a social and cultural phenomenon as opposed to biological. There are probably elements of truth in both views. Certainly love is influenced by hormones (such as oxytocin), neurotrophins (such as NGF), and pheromones, and how people think and behave in love is influenced by their conceptions of love. The conventional view in biology is that there are two major drives in love: sexual attraction and attachment. Attachment between adults is presumed to work on the same principles that lead an infant to become attached to its mother. The traditional psychological view sees love as being a combination of companionate love and passionate love. Passionate love is intense longing, and is often accompanied by physiological arousal (shortness of breath, rapid heart rate); companionate love is affection and a feeling of intimacy not accompanied by physiological arousal.

And here we are, back where we started. Asking ourselves the very same question that the popular musical group of the 80’s and 90’s “Whitesnake” asked in one of their most popular songs, “Is this love that I’m feeling? Is this the love I’ve been searching for?”

In the end, I don’t think love is any one certain thing. I believe it could me a mixture of all of it. Biological, physical, and perhaps even mental, the fear of being alone (lonely) or unwanted that propels us to the land of love. Then again, perhaps it is a spiritual thing. Hey, in today’s world, anything is possible. But then that opens up a whole new can of conversation.

As for love being related to romance, or the other way around, maybe they are not the same, but perhaps one leads into the other. Who knows? Call it the “chicken versus the egg” argument. And that too, is a whole new can of conversation. Better yet, a whole new world of wonder?

Love is: The biggest mystery of them all.

Sources: Wikipedia And the HUMAN HEART.

This work is released under CC 3.0 BY-SA - Creative Commons

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