On February of this year, Andrea Zegarra* and I created and delivered an online workshop called “How do I love?”,
This workshop let to extremely interesting conversations, so I wanted to shared some details about my experience and conclusions (may be conclusions is too much of a word)
In this workshop, we wanted to review some of the myths and realities surrounding love. By giving simple exercises and few facts concerning love, we wanted to provide ideas so the participants could consider when talking about love.
We also wanted to know what were the beliefs, desires and expectations the participants had about love. So that was exercise 1 … what is love for you?
All of the participants were surprised by the question and also had a hard time to get a coherent answer around the subject, however commitment, freedom, loyalty, choices, support, sharing, options and collaborations were among the most common concepts.
We all concurred that talking about love is not an easy thing; furthermore, we talk about falling in love or being in love as a sensation that lives in our body or something more intellectual, and we do not consider that we all have different ideas about love.
This is because love is a reaction of the body to a chemical explosion that happens in our brain.
According to Scott Edwards a science writer for The Harvard Mohany Neuroscience Institute letter: love may well be one of the most studied, but least understood behaviors.
Love is a universal concept that differs in shape and form depending on our culture, and general practices, however when we are in love we have similar reaction in our bodies.
More than 20 years ago, the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher studied 166 societies and found evidence of romantic love—the kind that leaves one breathless and euphoric—in 147 of them.
Love acts in our brain elevating the levels of Dopamine and norepinephrine from the ventral tegmental (limbic system – where the hippocampus and the amygdala are located)
In this region, a series of functions are controlled including our emotions, behaviors, attention, states of mind, memories, pleasures, and addictions … yeap … that too!!! But, we are still not sure where love is exactly located in the brain. There are many studies that link it to the insula or the striated nucleus, however this information can’t be confirmed yet.
As a result, the brain makes us feel excited and our heart beats really fast, we get sweaty hands, we feel uncomfortable and many times we feel exposed. On the other hand, we also feel highly motivated and with the huge desire to be with the other person.
Romantic love is a simple emotion, like an engine of our mind that brings tons of energy, it allows focusing our attention and we just feel happy. The pleasure centers of our brains are extremely stimulated.
On the other hand, our brain reacts reinforcing connection and attachment.
People who are in love show low levels of serotonin similar to those who show obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This is probably the reason of our fascination and blindness when it comes to romantic love.
These areas associated to intense romance could be active for many years, and even though there are psychological and physiological components in the mix, science still know very little about how love really works; however, we all know when we are in love.
On the other hand, couples relationships were initially based on practical matters such us survival and reproduction; later was collaboration, finances and power. However in history, love had little to do with romantic relationships; only in recent years we have become to look for many of the qualities I have named above and adding pleasure to the mix.
But going back to the workshop, as exercise 2 we asked our participants to write down the following phrases:
I admire you because …
You make me feel …
I have learned from you …
Then, we asked them to think of a person they were currently in love with, or someone they were in love with but they were not longer in their life. Considering their feelings for this person, we asked them to fill in the blanks of the above phrases. Exercise 3, we asked them to call this person explaining the exercise and reading the sentences to them.
They all muted their microphones and proceed to make the call. They got surprising results!
They all reported to be extremely nervous while in the called; their voices were shaky and the person on the other side of the line was surprised. They could feel the adrenaline having an effect in the body and the sense of contentment and accomplishment was common to all of them.
Some of the participants got reactions right away and others took a few hours, but nobody was indifferent to the call.
We all agreed that talking about love is not easy, that we all get extremely nervous and it is hard to find the words to say what we are going through. We also agreed that our bodies react completely on its own when it comes to love, our minds try to make sense of our expectations, and our emotions let us melt to the point of blindness and obsession.
Finally, the call helped us to realize that it is better to talk about love than not to do it, that it is also a process in which we can learn to let go of our expectations and face our realities, and the emotions take us to visit places in our bodies in a unique and sometimes rewarding ways.
Be brave, fall in love and talk about love!
* For more information on Andrea's work go to andreazegarracoach.com