This Mothers Day post was motivated by Dachshund's comment to Why People Work Hard (below intro)
It is a brief snippets exploration into the possible neurological (psychological and emotional) foundations of love, from the perspective of individuals whose 'love' thinking and behaviour, occurs at the level of the reptilian brain, limbic brain, or neocortex.
All mammals have reptilian, limbic and neocortex brains; Reptiles only have reptilian brains. In any mammal, any 'fight, flight, love, et al' behaviour may be rooted in any related, or a combination thereof brain. Additionally the practice of certain behaviours, in this case, love, touch and intimacy, from infancy all through life stimulates the growth and activity and intimacy in the limbic brain. The absence of loving touch, and intimacy from childhood, results in stunted limbic brains. A mammal/human with a stunted limbic brain, accordingly responds to 'love' by means of their reptilian brain knowledge thereof.
Reptilian brains experience a reptilian truth: "no intrinsic restraint on harming people exists in the reptilian brain."
please note that while 82% of white American males enjoy fellatio, it has appeal [intended] for just 55% of African Americans.
Now consider how little ... ahem ... appeal it has for blacks in Africa for whom "dry" unprotected vaginal intercourse is traditional.
Thoughts on Love...
-- Socrates in Plato's Symposium.
He who knows nothing, loves nothing. He who can do nothing understands nothing. He who understands nothing is worthless. But he who understands also loves, notices, sees… The more knowledge is inherent in a thing, the greater the love…. Anyone who imagines that all fruits ripen at the same time as the strawberries knows nothing about grapes.
"What is love, and why are some people unable to find it? What is loneliness, and why does it hurt? What are relationships, and how and why do they work the way they do?
'Steeped as they are in limbic physiology, healthy people have trouble forcing their minds into the unfamiliar outline of this reptilian truth: no intrinsic restraint on harming people exists outside the limbic domain."
-- A General Theory of Love
Plato's Theory of Love: Rationality as Passion
Perhaps if we were honest with ourselves, we may confront the reality that much of our life, our actions, our desires, our motivations, are all focused in some conscious or unconscious, direct or indirect way on acquiring some form of love, whether intimate, or in the form of recognition, or attention, or respect or admiration.
Love is so important to us, and yet how often does it, or our concept of what it should be, and how we should feel about it, disappoint us?
We expect a lot from our sexual passions, our partners, and often end up disappointed when romance disappears. Irrespective, we keep getting married, hoping that somehow, the next time will be different.
In the Platonic dialogue, Symposium, Aristophanes explained via a comic and eccentric myth that love is our search for our alter ego, the part of us that we feel we need to make us whole. The ancient gods inflicted a curse on us, and divided us in two as a punishment for our arrogance, and love is our remedy therefore; love is our constant search for completion, for wholeness.
Socrates responds to Aristophanes theory that our desire for love, for the other half of us to make us whole, unless that other half is good. In other words, our motive force in love is our yearning for goodness, not just completion. When we love someone, we desire possessing the goodness which is in them. Accordingly, 'Love is desire for the perpetual possession of the good.'
Plato's diagnosis is that we are ignorant of what we want, and accordingly we err in our searching therefore. Our ignorance and confusion are the sources of our suffering, and can be amended either through recognition of the reality of our ignorance of our desires, and our understanding of the human condition.
In short, Plato tells us, everything begins where we used to think that everything ended.
Back to the Future: What is Love?
Perhaps to understand love, "we must start with feelings"? And to understand feelings, which are a cognitive interpretation of an internal state of being and sensations, we need to study the brain and its neurological and hormonal workings from infancy to adult maturity?
A General Theory of Love, does exactly that.
Its brief conclusions: Although love does not submit to commands, natural love can flourish as long as the conditions for it do not die. It gives us a look at the natural science of our feelings, and why communication, touch, and time spent with another individual plays a far more important role in healthy relationships than do all the drugs, fake friends and Freudian therapy can possibly hope to achieve.
We are provided with a poetic scientific explanation on the development of love upon our limbic brains, and how such limbic love resonance, shapes our personalities.
The studies and conclusions are interesting for anyone who wants to raise a child in love, or wants to understand why many people are capable of limbic resonance loving touch and intimacy; and others limbic brains are stunted, and cannot love; to reptilian behaviour that can kill without remorse, to taking pleasure in torture and murder.
Neurological Theory of Love: Reptilian vs. Limbic Brain Love & Intimacy
Brief excerpts from A General Theory of Love (T. Lewis, MD; F. Amini, MD; R.Lannon, MD):
"The limbic brain has more opiate receptors than any other brain area."
"Everything a person is and everything he knows resides in the tangled thicket of his intertwined neurons. These fateful, tiny bridges number in the quadrillions, but they spring from just two sources: DNA and daily life. The genetic code calls some synapses into being, while experience engenders and modifies others."
"... a child gets his first taste of his feelings secondhand. Only through limbic resonance with another can he begin to apprehend his inner world…. Before any glimmerings of event memory appear, he stores an impression of what love feels like."
Our unconscious recognition of this feeling often determines whom we select later in life for intimate relationships, be they healing or destructive. This is the mechanism for being 'in love,' an important and wonderfully pleasing state; one that is quite different from loving someone. "As such, adult love depends critically on knowing the other. In love demands only the brief acquaintance necessary to establish an emotional genre .... A child's early experience teaches this skill [of reliably understanding another person] in direct proportion to his parents' ability to know him."
A human being has dual hearts—the first, a pulsating fist of muscle in the chest; the second, a precious cabal of communicating neurons that create feeling, longing and love. …The meticulously crafted core of a neural network…learns from experience and transforms itself. …Love alters the structure of our brains.
All of us, when we engage in relatedness, fall under the gravitational influence of another's emotional world, at the same time that we are bending his emotional mind with ours.
…Ongoing exposure to one person's limbic (patterns) does not merely activate neural patterns in another—it also strengthens them. Long standing togetherness writes permanent changes into a brain's open book. In a relationship, one mind revises another; one heart changes its partner. This astounding legacy of our combined status as mammals and neural beings is limbic revision: the power to remodel emotional parts of the people we love…Who we are and who we become depends, in part, on whom we love.
A General Theory of Love explores the realms of cognitive science, including implicity and explicit memory, learning, problem solving, etc.. all within the central context of the limbic brain system.
They explain that infants are born with their limbic systems "open" and unregulated, and they need the mothers absolute closeness to slowly, over time, get regulated.
This is a two-way thing.
Mothers also require limbic connections with their babies, in order for themselves to be limbically regulated.
All homo-sapiens require a limbic connection with another to be successfully regulated.
Put differently: from earliest childhood, our brains actually link with those of the people close to us, in a silent rhythm that alters the very structure of our brains, establishes life-long emotional patterns, and makes us, in large part, who we are.
Three Level Brain Triune: Limbic Resonance & The Deprivation of Limbic Connections
The model of a three-level brain is used throughout the book. This triune brain consists of the brainstem, or reptilian brain, which senses and controls internal functions such as heartbeat and avoidance of threat; the mammalian, or limbic, brain that represents the evolutionary advent of emotion in mammals, the ability to sense and respond to external phenomena; and the cortex, or neocortical brain, which consciously responds to that of which we are cognitively aware. We usually ascribe the most important aspects of our being to the neocortical brain.
The authors use descriptions of clinical disorders and evidence from interesting and ingenious experiments to support this triune model of the brain. For example, reptiles are neither emotionally responsive nor playful. By contrast, we mammals can sense the internal state of another mammal and adjust our own physiology to match.
This phenomenon of limbic resonance is illustrated by the calming influence a secure mother has on her baby by gazing into her baby's eyes or by cradling her baby so that it can listen to her heart beating. Although we all have made these observations, their meaning has escaped us, but their subtlety has not.
The lasting importance of the emotional content of our early experiences is clearly illustrated by the devastating results of Harry Harlow's experiments with maternal deprivation of otherwise well-fed and well-cared-for infant monkeys and by Rene Spitz's observations of similar fates for children raised in foundling homes.
Our Cryptic Limbic Brain
The brain's ancient emotional architecture is not a bothersome animal encumbrance. Instead, it is nothing less than the key to our lives. We live immersed in unseen forces and silent messages that shape our destinies. As individuals and as a culture, our chance for happiness depends on our ability to decipher a hidden world that revolves-invisibly, improbably, inexorably-around love.
From birth to death, love is not just the focus of human experience but also the life force of the mind, determining our moods, stabilizing our bodily rhythms, and changing the structure of our brains. The body's physiology ensures that relationships determine and fix our identities. Limbic Love makes us who we are, and who we can become.
"New scanning technologies show that perception activates the same brain areas as imagination. Perhaps for this reason, the brain cannot reliably distinguish between recorded experience and internal fantasy."
"Assuming the world is the way it looks is the neurally prompted so-called naive realism to which most of us unwittingly subscribe. Reality is thus more personal than daily life suggests. Nobody inhabits the same emotional realm."
"Many people live in a world so singular that what they see when they open their eyes in the morning may be unfathomable to the rest of humanity."
'Steeped as they are in limbic physiology, healthy people have trouble forcing their minds into the unfamiliar outline of this reptilian truth: no intrinsic restraint on harming people exists outside the limbic domain
The Social Contract of Reptilian Sex: The Praying Mantis
The Social Contract: A Personal Inquiry into the Evolutionary Sources of Order and Disorder, by Robert Ardrey:
The evolutionary dillema of the preying mantis rests on the eagerness of the female to eat anything, including the male. The female is endowed with poorer eyesight than the male, and she can only see him when he moves. He approaches her compelled, but a turn of her in his direction freezes him. That sex for a male preying mantis is a dangerous game requires no comment.
With a final leap the male may secure himself on her back unnoticed, there to proceed with copulation, a fair chance existing that he will fail. If at the last instance she glimpses his movement, she may seize him with her deceptively named forelegs, and begin to eat him. She begins always by chewing off his head.
Having lost his head, he literally loses all fear of her. Headless, abandoned freely to the sexual compulsion, he wrenches free from her grasp, mounts her back where she cannot see him, and copulates. Then slowly he will weaken, lose his grip, die. When he slides to the ground, she will discover him again and finish eating him.
Limbic Brain Delusions about Reptilian Brain Realities
Those who take limbic love for granted, as a natural emotional, and psychological physiological reality for all two-legged mammals; forget and cannot fathom reptilian brain thinking.
Those with stunted limbic brains; whose 'love' reality is not limbic, but reptilian; experience a reptilian brain truth:
"no intrinsic restraint on harming people exists."
Sources: No Beliefs Review :: The Social Contract :: Practical Philosophy