Love Is There? It’s a rhetorical question, I know. But if you ask most people to define love, most would struggle. Love encompasses an array of positive and sometimes even emotional states, from pure virtue or vice, the greatest personal spiritual joy, the greatest emotional connection, the greatest sense of well-being, the best gift, or a combination of any of these. Love is a concept that vary between individuals but can essentially be described as a bond of mutual care and respect for another.
We often relate love to physical intimacy, but in truth it encompasses more than this. To experience love means to feel connected to another person in some way. This connection can take many forms, including friendship, companionship, romance, affection, and more. Regardless of our definition of love, it can be an intensely personal and powerful emotion, with the potential to transform a relationship into a more enduring and satisfying one.
There are many different definitions of love. Each one is unique to the individual. Love seems to take on different forms and manifestations in response to different situations. Love seems to be most commonly associated with marriage and parenting, but it can also stem from romantic attachments, common interests, or even from a common interest in a group or organization. The key to remember is that love is most appropriate and fulfilling when it originates within a relationship and is expressed and fed by a deep, personal connection to that relationship.
Some researchers have found that there are areas of the human brain that specialize in relating to human relationships. These brain regions include the right anterior parietal area (right frontal cortex), the left middle temporal region, and the left peripiridian. These three brain regions have different functions, but may react to similar situations in the same way. In response to similar behaviors or emotions, they all send signals to the nervous system, which then causes the body to react in ways that generally allow for love to take place. One major result from this research was that it appeared that some of these brain regions were responsible for establishing a liking for someone before that person became a part of a relationship.
Neuroimaging studies also support the idea that there are parts of the brain responsible for the forming of our real love feelings. It appears that areas in the brainstem called the midbrain make up a major part of what is known as a “love memory” that stores and retrieves memories of loving experiences. When these memories are activated in response to certain triggers, the brain releases chemicals that create a feeling of happiness, affection, and desire for related experiences. This is supported by the fact that patients with Alzheimer’s disease often have a decreased capacity for experiencing real love and can instead form only the basic, instinctual responses to these sensations.
One of the strongest arguments for the ability of the brain to make us feel real emotions comes from the ability of our conscious mind to affect these feelings. In fact, our conscious mind is directly involved in the formation of all of our emotions from the words we speak to the places we visit. Because of this, our conscious mind is the likely culprit for the conflicting emotions we experience in relationships today. As a result, developing a stronger awareness of the emotional side of all situations and recognizing the control our conscious mind wields over these feelings is the first step toward developing an increased ability for love.