Writing Prompt – October 13 2010
Three kinds of love; attachment love, caregiver’s love, and sex:
“In the terrain of the human heart, scientists tell us, at least three independent but interrelated brain systems are at play, all moving us in their own way. To untangle love’s mysteries, neuroscience distinguishes between neural networks for attachment, for caregiving, and for sex. Each is fueled by a differing set of brain chemicals and hormones, and each runs through a disparate neuronal circuit. Each adds its own chemical spice to the many varieties of love.
“Attachment determines who we turn to for succor; these are the people we miss the most when they are absent. Caregiving gives us the urge to nurture the people for whom we feel most concern. When we are attached, we cling; when we are caregiving we provide. And sex is, well, sex. …
“The forces of affection that bind us to each other preceded the rise of the rational brain. Love’s reasons have always been subcortical, though love’s execution may require careful plotting. … The three major systems for loving – attachment, caregiving, and sexuality – all follow their own complex rules. At a given moment any one of these three can be ascendant – say, as a couple feels a warm togetherness, or when they cuddle their own baby, or while they make love. When all three of these love systems are operating, they feed romance at its richest: a relaxed, affectionate, and sensual connection where rapport blossoms. …
“Neuroscientist Jaak Pansepp … finds a neural corollary between the dynamics of opiate addiction and the dependence on the people for whom we feel our strongest attachments. All positive interactions with people, he proposes, owe [at least] part of their pleasure to the opioid system, the very circuitry that links with heroin and other addictive substances. … Even animals, he finds, prefer to spend time with those in whose presence they have secreted oxytocin and natural opioids, which induce a relaxed serenity – suggesting that these brain chemicals cement our family ties and friendships as well as our love relationships.”
Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence, Bantam,
Copyright 2006 by Daniel Goleman, pp. 189-193.