As we learn more about the brain and its plasticity, it becomes clear that love cannot solely be a means to an evolutionary end. It changes us too much to be a one lane highway to a single destination. A healthy relationship can promote longevity, overall physical and mental health, and faster recovery from injury and illness. But experiences of heartbreak and rejection can trigger actual physical pain responses in the body, as well. Non-human animals identify mates and, according to the latest research, experience love and its associated emotions (empathy, possessiveness, grief of loss, etc). So as an evolutionary development, love is inefficient and even dangerous. Why would something so critical to our survival make us vulnerable to such crippling pain?
Anthropologist Helen Fisher says love is an addiction. We crave love; we go through withdrawal from love; we relapse into love; we pursue love at all costs. We may be predisposed to develop this addiction, like our pleasure hormones so readily available at the slightest touch and our ability to smell subtle pheromones. But as Deepak and Rudy point out, the brain doesn’t fall in love; we do. Something in us decides to make that first contact, to open our hearts to vulnerability and see our beloved as more than an object of evolutionary necessity. We commit the same follies time and again, but also learn and adjust constantly as we go. No two loves are alike. You might feel as though love just happens to you, mysteriously. But you are the conscious agent that activates what would otherwise only be a seed of possibility. And we choose love, despite its risks, because…well, consider the alternative.
So, those earlier queries aside, it seems the real question is: What will you do with your incredible and innate capacity to love? It’s nothing short of heroic to allow yourself to love. But then again, no one said this life would be easy.
Watch the episode here and let us know your thoughts on love in the comments section below!
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