Each and every one of us needs to love and be loved. We do not question our need for air to breathe, and so most of us never question why we need love to feel alive.
But what exactly is love? And where does the need for it originate? Personally I believe the desire for love is rooted in science. Of course “hopeless romantics” will disagree.
Specifically love originates in the brain’s reptilian core, says Dr. Helen Fisher, anthropologist and highly respected authority on the physical effects of love on the human brain. Fisher spoke of the brain in love during a recent Ted Talk, The Brain in Love.
“The same brain region that becomes active in love also become active when we feel the rush of cocaine,” said Fisher.
She says these active brain areas are the exact regions responsible for intense focus, desire for reward, need for less sleep and a willingness to risk everything all to love and be loved by another human being.
And all of a sudden the physical need for love is clear. This is all intriguing, even fascinating because we now know there is indeed a driving physical force behind the primal need for love and attachment.
For those diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, I pose another question to you. Do the effects and resulting actions of love remind you of anything else?
There’s no denying mania and love may be intertwined much like the twisted double helix of our DNA. Both states of being cause less need for sleep, a lessened desire for food, a willingness to take more risks for the chance to reap more reward. We appear flawless to ourselves and so do the objects of our desire. Simply stated both states of being make us willing to blindly risk it all for the high of love or mania.
I’ve mentioned previously that it is my belief my first two marriages were the direct result of my own quest for that high. I was blinded by mania, – or love – risked it all and lost when the high disappeared.
I had been blind to their faults and the fact that it wasn’t them I was so obsessed with. I was obsessed with love in the grasp of mania. Inside my brain, the perfect storm raged. My conscious mind didn’t stand a chance. Tunnel vision developed in my quest for the very real high that storm produces.
Like a drug addict, I risked everything for the chance to get high.
Perhaps it isn’t love we long for at all. I believe it’s rather a quest for intense release. I can’t speak for anyone else but I know there are times when Bipolar Disorder renders me numb. There have been many points in my life I would have given almost anything just to feel again. I know those times will come again and again.
Just as a drug addict’s head and body is racked with pain when they are denied their drug of choice, I believe those of us with Bipolar Disorder suffer more when deprived of the reward system fed by love and mania. Perhaps this is at the root of why we will almost never seek help during manic stages. We don’t want help any more than an addict seeks relief from getting high.
It’s only after the high is gone that we realize what we risked and what we’ve lost. I could write with no end on the philosophical conversations this topic gives birth to in my own mind.
I wonder if it is the loss of this high that then feeds the monster that is depression and the ensuing feelings of despair. Is it this lack of feeling and the numbness that follows the birth of the dark abyss in us all?
Does true and pure love only exist when the feeling moves out of our reptilian brains and into our consciousness? Is survival of love from one area of the brain to the other love’s ultimate test?
Personally, I adore the feelings that primal love produces but I am the type of person who enjoys maintaining control over my own life. It gives me no comfort to let someone else take the wheel. Given the choice, I prefer to exercise my free will and make a conscience decision to love.
I do not wish to be blinded by love. Today it is my choice to love my spouse. I don’t love him because I’m forced by some basic instinct. I love him because it is my choice to do so.