Defined Words: love, comfort
Love is… how many people have tried to finish that sentence? You’ve already been bombarded with so much meaning attached to the word “love” that some of us even have a difficult time saying it out loud. In the Manual, love refers to an adapted attraction to self, or anything we recognize as connected to self. Other descriptions of love aren’t necessarily wrong, but all good theories must define their variables so we’ll stick with this definition.
Despite the potential complications that come with the word “love,” the adaptation is a Basic Function, meaning the neural path was solidified before birth. The individuals who felt an attraction to those who were part of their group were more likely to help keep them alive, therefore helping the entire group. Marines who “leave no man behind” are trained in an environment in which fellow soldiers were thought of as family; soldiers think of other soldiers as belonging to their group.
The individuals with hierarchically important neural paths telling them to protect their children were better able to prosper as a species. They say your life changes when you discover love for your own child, as if that love had been locked away for your entire life. In a way, you are born to love and it is a huge part of how we got to right now. Beyond just people, you have the capacity to love any idea at all, as long as you can synapse it back to yourself.
Like other behaviors, love is encouraged by reinforcement. Pleasure is released when you stimulate that attraction and the desire for pleasure makes us want to love more. Whether you love another person, a food, a place, an experience, or an idea we always want to form more synapses to that attraction. In fact, scientists have found that people’s eyes open wider when looking at something they love.
Love starts to get complicated as it synapses to other neural clusters in different parts of the brain. The love you feel toward friends and family synapses via emotion and it is how we can communicate our attraction. The love you feel with your sexual partner is synapsed to your reproductive drive, and your selfishness and competitive tendencies are the reason we are quick to feel jealous about sexual partners.
Love can also synapse to the desire to eat or be safe; we feel the released pleasure from accomplishing these as comfort. Many people feel as though their significant other “completes” them and it further solidifies their love. There is also empathetic love in which you want another person to receive love however they wish. You show your love for them by abiding by their wishes instead of yours. This further demonstrates the overriding ability of love to put others above self.
Stimulating many different neural regions allows for huge synapses to form and releases a great amount of pleasure. We usually can’t even describe this feeling other than just being “in love.” It’s the natural high. It’s the indescribable feeling that makes you want to shout and dance all the time. Thinking in extremes causes us to do absolutely anything for what or who we love.
The difficult part of love comes from our anticipation and expectations. Many of us choke up on the word because of the other meanings that have been synapsed with the word. Stories with “Happily Ever After” endings and weddings create an expected benchmark to show the seriousness of a relationship; it’s no wonder we have trouble uttering the word. We don’t want to use a term that is too powerful because it might be “too soon” so we give even more power to the word by saying it so rarely.
Love has adapted to aid in your survival but many believe it is the prize of life. Children understand the concept before they can even say the word “love.” It really is a simple concept that only becomes more complex when you add more to it. Unfortunately, our current language only uses one word to describe so many ideas and feelings. It makes us believe that to use the word at all is to imply all its meanings so we avoid the topic altogether.
It will take some time to become comfortable sharing your love, but the release of pleasure makes it well worth it. Combine your love with our tendency to mirror and you will find that the love you put out will always come back to you. In the words of a wise musician, “Put out love and they’ll feel love, it’s a chain reaction.”