For Women’s Day, my husband and I attended a special lecture-breakfast with Mark Solms at Solms Delta yesterday. We arrived in a dense fog, left bathed in sunshine. It wasn’t only the weather, but the illumination which came after the lecture entitled “The Brain In Love”.
Most of us know what love is. It’s individual and universal. The sum of all world literature is the grand story of love. Love is also science.
Scientifically speaking, it seems, there are five main observable components of love:
~ Bonding, forming attachments, pair-binding; it starts the moment you are born, first it’s the baby-carer bond which is naturally induced by opioids (love is a true addiction), then it develops into all the other attachments we form during our lifetimes; losing an attachment figure results in panic, ‘air-hunger’, withdrawal, which can shift into despair; then (if you are lucky) you let go and form other attachments.
~ Nurture and care, as opposed to the need of a child to bond; on average females (in all mammals) are more attached and caring than males.
~ Reward mechanism, also called the wanting mechanism, or the seeking system, or the basic appetite system, or optimism system – by whichever name it is dopamine-controlled; this is what makes us go out there into the world and seek fulfilment; it generates desire, doesn’t satisfy it.
~ Play, which is essential for survival; establishing the rules of engagement is crucial, it is all about finding boundaries; the 60-40% rule applies, which simply put means that none of us want to be submissive for more than 40% of the time, on average the 40% will apply to women, the 60% to men; if the 60-40% rule is upset, it usually ends in tears, fear, anger, or in the worst-case scenario in abuse.
~ Sex drive (obviously).
All of us mammals engage in these activities. What makes humans unique is our developed pre-frontal lobe in relation to all emotional mechanisms. It is responsible for inhibition. This is our override mechanism. We can control our emotions. This is why we ‘don’t know our emotions as well as all other animals do…we are opaque to ourselves.’
‘Love comes at you, it’s all about feeling…it’s not a cognitive business.’
‘Love matters to us.’
‘Love and randiness are not the same thing, but it comes into it.’
‘We scientists call it copulation – a simple matter.’
‘You don’t have to give birth to your boyfriend to love him.’
‘Don’t overestimate the frontal lobes.’
On marriage: ‘I promise to be with you together forever even though I have a seeking system.’
On love: ‘It’s a complicated thing.’
(Don’t we know!)