The Meaning of Love

A feeling so powerful that it can move mountains and inspire poets and philosophers, love has been a part of human life for millennia. It is an emotion that makes our hearts pound, brains race, and palms sweat. But what is it exactly that provokes these feelings? The answer varies by individual. It can be the love for a spouse or child, the love for a pet, the love for a city like Paris, or any of the other many kinds of deep affection.

For some, the meaning of love has religious or spiritual connotations. In this sense, it is a concern for the spiritual growth of another person that can transcend the normal human needs of food, shelter, and companionship. This view has a strong foundation in philosophy, theology and psychology.

More recently, love has been seen as a biological process that occurs in three stages. Research by Helen Fisher and others has mapped the hormone processes that lead to these stages. Lust is ruled by the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone, attraction is fueled by the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine, and attachment is facilitated by the hormonal activity of oxytocin and vasopressin.

In addition to these physiologic changes, other aspects of love can include psychological features like trust and respect. These characteristics can lead to happiness or unhappiness, and are affected by a person’s culture and upbringing. For example, happiness for Americans is often associated with elation and excitement, while Hong Kong Chinese people are more likely to associate it with calm and relaxation.

When in love, the brain experiences an influx of chemicals, including dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and noradrenaline, which cause the heart to beat faster and the blood to pump more vigorously. These effects can even be seen on brain scans of a person in love, as the reward centers in the brain light up more than they do for other people.

Biologically, a relationship can also stimulate positive socialization and an increase in the production of these neurotransmitters. This leads to a decrease in stress and an improvement in the immune system. These changes can be seen in the physical health of a person in love, as evidenced by lower blood pressure and better sleep.

In this case, love is a combination of altruism and narcissism, or self-interest and a desire to be liked. It is this combination of emotions that enables us to be willing to work hard, make sacrifices, and endure difficulties for those we love. It is the kind of love that would enable a parent to remain committed to a child with chronically destructive behavior, for example, in order to help him change his patterns and improve his chances of success in life. It is the love that allows a husband to forgive his wife after she cheats on him. This is what it means to truly love someone, and that is why it can be so rewarding.

By adminkeren
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