Do you know what I hate? Hair salon philosophy. That’s what i call it when you just propagate misconceptions based of an old idea, or a Facebook “life quote”. We’ve all at some points of our lives (if not daily) have heard something, preferable a couple os sentences, that kinda makes sense, but doesn’t seem to contain much information, or a thought pattern to justify it self. So it very much could be plain rubbish, and yet, we seen to continue its propagation without questioning, and that drives me insane. We continue to use it, until it takes the form of a proverb, and we take it as granted without going into the trouble of asking if it even is true or not.
I admit that i can understand that its way easier. We “throw” a sentence with a faux philosophical meaning here and there, and we’re golden, without having to check our facts, because its something that we have end up assimilating in our, I don’t know, subconscious or something. And when someone tries to dismiss these hair salon ideas, is instantly turned into a “pariah” that people cant wait to whail on them, for attempting to turn down their deep-rooted beliefs, even if they are wrong. Try telling to a Greek that the Greek Revolution is not like the story we were taught at schools, see what happens.
“Cool story bro, what does all this have to do with anything though?”, you are probably wonder, well a few weeks ago, a post showed up on my Facebook feed, a picture with some thousand likes and commends, and when i commented, well, lets just say it turned ugly. And that’s the reason, you are reading this article.
II. All is fair in love and war?
This is what stared it all. You understand that introduction now don’t you? How many times have you heard this phrase, and let’s be honest here fellas, how many times you yourself used it to justify an action that was considered socially wrong? Still, is that sentence right? Short answer, no, or better yet, it used to.
Let me take a moment here to remind you that, as i have stated before, im firmly against old ideas, even more to the unquestionable propagation of said ideas. Our beautiful world is constantly evolving. Every day, every hour, we take another step forward, discovering new things, and dismissing old thought patterns along the way. Having said that, I find it absolutely unacceptable to cling to centuries old ideas or beliefs (im looking at you religion).
So in that case, we are propagating a line that made its debut in 1604, in Miguel’s de Cervantes Don Quixote.
“Hold, hold sirs; for there is no reason that you should take revenge for the wrongs that love doth us; and observe that love and war are all one; and, as in war it is lawful to use sleights and stratagems to overcome the enemy, so, in amorous strifes and competencies, impostures and juggling-tricks are held for good, to attain to the wished end, so it be not in prejudiced and dishonour of the thing affected.”
The comparison of love and war appeared in literature numerous times over the next 250 years after Don Quixote became a hit. Not until 1850, thought, did we see the exact phrasing that we know today. Frank Smedley wrote in his novel, Frank Fairlegh: Scenes from the Life of a Private Pupil:
“You opened the letter!” exclaimed I.
“In course I did; how was I to read it if I hadn’t? All fair in love and war you know. . .”
So all is fair in love and war right? Wrong, in 1864 Henry Dunant organised an official moral code of warfare, The Geneva Convention. A set of rules revolving around the proper conduct of war, that have been agreed on and followed by 196 countries, wich state thing that you are or not allowed to do during war. For example, you are not allowed to attack unarmed civilians, a neutral force or hospitals. You are not allowed to use extreme means of force like chemical warfare, or torture your prisoners, and in any case of violation the accused are prosecuted by law, like the Nazi did in the Nuremberg Trials.
So not everything is fair in war, what about love then? Well, there is no Geneva Convention for love, but laws do exist, both state laws, and social unwritten laws. For example, you can’t be prosecuted for breaking up with your girlfriend, but you can be for abandoning your wife. You wont be penalised for having multiple partners at the same time, but it is socially frowned upon. So, both war and love have their set of rules., so not everything are fair, and in both cases it was we who created them, in order to establish a certain set of morals. I hope you see when im getting with this, because we still have more to tackle before we reach a conclusion.
III. The Science of Love
I remember the first day of the junior high school. The chemistry teacher walked in and introduced himself, and the course we were about to take. He said “chemistry is important because everything is chemistry, from the food you eat, to the feelings you feel”. I remember been blown away by these words, because up until that time I didn’t know that love could be explained, but it turns out it can, and its pretty simple.
You see, beyond the love songs, romantic poems, passionate novels and sappy movies, love is the result of a complex processes in the body. Since there are quite a few more things i would like to cover, I’ll try to keep this brief. So the parts of the brain responsible for affection are the hippocampus, medial insula and anterior cingulate. These parts help regulate the feelings of reward, and they are also responsible for the feeling of love. The hypothalamus produces dopamine, oxytocin and vasopressin, which are necessary in the process of falling in love, and the Pituitary Gland regulates these hormones and releases them into the body, while the amygdala is working to moderate stress. You know that feeling when you see someone attractive in the middle of room full of people, and everyone else just fades out of picture, or when your crush is talking to you and your heart beat races, while your palms sweat, or the feeling of calmness and security while your significant other hugs you? Now you know who’s responsible.
Now lets take a step by step look at what happens when you fall in love. Firstly the hypothalamus releases dopamine into the body, causing feelings of ecstasy and excitement. Basically it tells you “hey look, a good potential mate!”, and as the dopamine levels increase, serotonin levels decrease. Serotonin is a hormone that controls our mood and appetite among other things. Interesting fact, people with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) tend to always have low levels of serotonin, and that’s why we feel infatuation, or obsession while being in love. Yes, we are literally ill while in love.
Along with oxytocin, vasopressin is also secreted into the body, wich is responsible for the feelings of connection and commitment. In times of extreme passion, such as, during orgasm, these hormones enter the bloodstream, and the more these hormones remain in you, the more succesful your relationship will be. Thais why good sex is a key component to good, long-lasting relationship. Also these hormones increase activity in the romantic part of the brain, resulting to the deactivation of the amygdala, making you feeling less stress and fear when close to your partner, creating a deeper bond between the two of you. So basically all this is your brain reward system, making you feel good, so it makes sure you wont abandon your partner, well, till you pass on your genetic material that is.
It is worth mentioning that in order for all these thing to happen, one must firstly meet our preconceived notions of love, or your idea of love. You see, not all cultures share the same views. In the western world romantic love has its own cultural potential in the media. Sappy films about the perfect love end up giving us a mythical perspective of “love” that contradicts it self, making the “happily ever after” burrowing deep in our subconscious. But the truth is that all these emotional, drama filled scenarios are great for starting a relationship, but awful for sustaining it, because love isn’t designed to last.
You see at some point the neural receptor that “feed” your brain with feel-good-hormones, will degrade, and along with your brain’s reward system so will love. That is why divorce rate is getting exponentially high, because at some point, love and affection eventually withers away, especially after the birth of your child, and statistics reveal the ugly truth. Over an overwhelming 75% of marriages are comprised by broken, sad relationships, while 41% will end with a divorce, but the most shocking part is that statistically, there is a plus 40% chance for a divorce to couples with a child from 8-10 years old, which is also the average marriage length.
Does the article make sence now? You see, what happens is tha basically your brain thinks, “okay people we’re done here, let’s go”, since it believes that you have fulfilled your purpose. It guided you to find a good mate, provide her/him with the needed feelings of love, and security in order to create and maintain a bond of trust, and a stable, healthy environment for your children, and after you have taken care of your offspring who has reached a less vulnerable age, like pre-teen years or so, it shuts down your feel-good-hormones, and now turns your attention towards the well-being of your child, rather than your spouse.
So after knowing all this you may ask why fall in love in the first place? Well there is something else, something that drives us, something other than the biological need for procreation, something that push us to find someone to share our time in this world with, uncertainty. Welcome to the Polarity Principle.
In 1955, A. E, Fisher proved the effect uncertainty can have on us, by conducting an experiment with puppies. With three test groups, members of the first group were treated kindly every time they approached a researcher. Members of the second group were punished for approaching the researchers, and puppies in the third group were randomly treated kindly or punished. The third group grew up never knowing what to expect, their world was not a world of kindness or punishment, but rather uncertainty. The study found that this third group of puppies wound up being the most attached to the researchers and were the most depended on them. This became known as the polarity principle.
“Stress, including the mental uncertainty, is an ingredient in attachment or love. Perhaps, even manifestations of hatred, its polar opposite, somehow enhanced love.”
So uncertainty, at leat psychologically, can lead to some of the greatest feeling of attachment and dependence we know. And this makes sense. How many times have heard that “girls like bad boys”, or how many times have we witness our feeling get stronger by rejection? Paradoxically, rejection not only does not make our feelings of attachment go away, but somehow strengthens them.
Thing about it, how many times we raised Hell as kids to draw our parent’s attention? And as adults, how many times we tend to cling on a dying relationship, or pushed even harder, doing stupid things in the face or rejection? You see, the good and the bad in our lives often seems random and out of control, so it’s no surprise that we often react with blind love and acceptance in the face an unfair existence, because what else are we supposed to do? “It all happens for a reason”, “go with the flow” etc, are ways to accept the great unknown. The truth is that we all are that third group of puppies.
However, evolution has favoured activities that turn chaos, or uncertainty into knowledge. One could say that we have been programmed to be curious, as the strongest feelings of attachment come from that uncertainty, giving us the strength to endure. We plunge in to study, relationships, work, travel, all with no guarantees, because ultimately chaos and turmoil excites us.
Sigmund Freud seems to agree with this. Drawing from neurotic men in psychoanalysis, though he observes the same behavior in ordinary, healthy people, or even people with exceptional qualities, he theorizes that there are four essential conditions that must be met for love.
- The need for an “injured third-party”
“One never chooses as an object for love a woman who is unattached, that is, a girl or an independent woman, but only one whom another man has some right of “possession”, whether husband, betrothed, or near friend. In some cases […] a given woman can be ignored or even treated with contempt so long as she belongs to no other man, but instantly becomes the object od feelings of love as soon as she comes into a relationship of the kind described with another man.”
- Loose morals
“A virtuous and reputable woman is never charming enough to be the object of love. Her fidelity and loyalty must be doubted.”
Freud called this roughly the ‘love of a harlot’
“This is a compulsion that they are the only ones it is possible to love. Passionate attachments of this type of relationship occur repeatedly with one woman replaced by another. The man is consumed by the woman, and she will absorb the whole of their mental energies, to the exclusion of all the other interests.”
- Rescuing the beloved
“The man is convicted that the loved woman has need of him, that without him she would lose all hold in respectability and rapidly sink to a deplorable level. Her fate is in his hands, and he saves or rescues her by not letting her go, Men of this type know how to win the ladies by subtlety of his methods of seduction, and his skill in argument. They spend endless pains during the course of each of these love relationships in composing tract to include the loved one to keep in the path of love. If the man was able to actually rescue the woman, he would lose all interest.”
And lets not forget how the popular media tent enforce these theories, yet they seem to apply to most of us, and don’t pretend otherwise please, this is a safe space.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject allow me to debunk real quick the whole ‘friend zone’ thing. You see, it’s not that “nice guys finish last”, its more along the lines of “non competitive males can’t attract a female” thing. Mammalian males do not have a limit on the number of offsprings they can have,but females do. So a female is hardwired to pick, what would seem to be. the best male specimen, one that shows a dominance of sorts (even if he is a huge douche). So next time you don’t appear to be getting the girl, why not try to revert to some of your more primal instincts, we are part animals after all, and girls, next time you ask your friends, ‘why am I attracted to assholes?”, remember it’s because you are programmed to.
Science sure is fun I’d say.
If you read the first part of this article, you will probably remember how I was talking about the english language not having more variety, in order to better describe the different kinds of love. Well, in 1973, John Lee wrote a book called the “The Colours of Love“, where he compared styles of love to the colour wheel. Just as there are three primary colours, which can combine to create more, the same thing happens with the types of love. Borrowing from the Greek vocabulary, he established what is now known as “Modi Operandi of Love”.
- Eros [έρως(air’-ohs)] Primary Style Based on Romance.
Akin to limerence, eros is literally the love of beauty. It is highly sensual, intense, passionate style of love. Erotic lovers choose their partners by intuition or ‘chemistry”, and they are the most likely to say that they fell in love at first sight.
- Ludos [Latin lûdus(loo-dos)] Primary Style Based on Conquest.
Ludic lovers are players on a game, and although they enjoy the fun of it, they play to “win” as many partners as possible. They rarely become overly involved, and tent to have more than one partner at a time. Highly social people, they are able to attract potential partners with ease, due to their relaxed, playful nature and charm, and they quickly recover from brake ups. However, there is a high likelihood for infidelity, and ludic love may lead to sexual addiction.
- Storge [στοργή(stor-gê] Primary Style Based on Philia (Friendship)
Storge is familiar love, the love between siblings, cousins, spouses, parents and children, or natural empathy. It necessitates certain familiar loyalties, responsibilities, duties and entitlements. A sanctuary for its members, that helps the pull through together in difficult times. It grows slowly out of friendship, and its based in similar interests and commitment, rather than passion.
- Pragma [πράγμα(pra-gma] Ludos + Storge Based on Practicality
Pragmatic lovers have a notion of being of service which they perceive to be rational and realistic. While they may be sincere about being useful themselves, it also translates to also having expectations in a partner and of the relationship. They tend to select or reject partners accordingly based on what they perceive desirable and mostly compatible traits. These are mostly long-lasting relationships as pragmatic lovers tent to work with their partners towards a common goal.
- Mania [μανία(man-ee-ah)] Eros + Ludos Based on Obsession
Manic lovers often hold their partners in very high esteem relative to themselves and place much importance on their relationship. Mani lovers speak of the partners in possessives and superlatives, and feel they “need” them constantly. They value finding a partner though chance without caring for their financial, educational, or personality dispositions. They tend to become obsessive, jealous and highly possessive. Usually they suffer from low self-esteem and depression.
- Agape [αγάπη(agá-pê)] Eros + Storge Based on Selfishness
Agapic love is self-sacrificing, magnanimous, and altruistic love. Agapic lovers view their partners as blessing and wish to take care of the. This kind of lover gets more pleasure from giving in a relationship than from receiving. They will remain faithful to their partners, to avoid causing them pain, and often wait patiently for their partners to change their mind, after a break up. Agape requires one to be forgiving, patient, understanding, loyal and wiling to make sacrifices for his/her partner. Agapic love believes itself to be unconditional, though lovers taking an agapic stance to relationships risk suffering from inattention to their own needs. The advantage of agapic love is its generosity, the disadvantage is that it cam include feelings of guilt or incompetence in a parnter. There is the potential to be taken advantage of. In its deviants form, agape can become martyrdom. Martyrdom for principle may be acceptable; martyrdom to maintain a relationship is considered psychologically unhealthy.
So there you have it, I told you we were gonna find out what love is, and we did. In a 3000+ word post, that could very well be a book or something, I tried to show you all these things, out of wich love is comprised, just enough so you could understand how complicated it is. If you still don’t get it, allow me explain.
Love is the epitome of complexity, full of biological, social and psychological factors. It is a human condition, that is inevitable like death or inertia. The only thing we can do is create a set of moral laws or rules, but love, much like everything in this universe, isn’t meant to last. Just like all living organisms pass on, continents shift, stars explode and galaxies fade away, our brains eventually stop being in love. But love can change us, love can drive us, and show us the world through another perspective. So go out there and kiss-test potential mates, fall in love and allow your body to be filled with feel-good-hormones, create complex bonds of trust and caring, and find a partner to share your hopes, dreams or fears. Explore this world by your own experiences, and please don’t base your life on some stupid Facebook quotes, or preconceived notions of past centuries. Love is not a Hollywood movie, or a book, or a Shakespearean play. It’s not a stupid red heart symbol, nor sappy pictures of couples. And remember not to base everything in your life around love. Remember not to invest EVERYTHING you have in a relationship with someone, because human emotions-much like humans-are not perfect. Love is important, yes, but yourself is too, so seek out your own evolution, and mark your own path. And if you are afraid to love, then learn some more about it, because we only fear what we can’t explain, and nowadays, love is not a mystery of divine origin, rather than the absolute, most human feeling out there, with entire scientific fields dedicated to it. So go on and find out what love feels like, and as always, thank you for reading.
A very special thanks to Michael Stevens and Vsauce, who inspired this 5000+ words article. Please make sure to check out his videos at https://www.youtube.com/user/Vsauce?&ab_channel=Vsauce or follow his amazing work on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/VsauceGaming and Twitter https://twitter.com/tweetsauce.
If you liked this post please click that like button, and share it, so other people could know, or leave a comment in the box below. You can also click on the follow button to make sure you know when a new post is up via email, or contact me on a social network. I look forward to hearing from you.