Love and flow in our peak state, or how i learn to skip through life (part 2)

in STEMGeeks3 months ago


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This time i will start with some studies done by Helen Fisher, regarding the three stages of attraction.

1. First stage is Lust, or sex drive, generated by estrogen and testosterone. This it is not a precursor to romantic love, there are distinct systems in the body that are activated through various stages of attraction. It is defined by the desire to have any available partner.

2. Romantic attraction is the second stage, related to finding the right partner. Fisher defines this stage as “elation, heightened energy, obsessive thinking, focused attention and yearning”. Romantic attraction is characterized by high levels of adrenaline, norepinephrine and dopamine (all three are stimulants of some kind) and lower levels of serotonin.

3 And then we have the third stage. We are talking here about the emotional attachment, a calm relationship with one long term partner. After the initial stage we can observe the apparition of pro-social bonding chemicals as endorphin, vasopressin and oxytocin. Endorphin will show up once be become tolerant to the increase of dopamine and norepinephrine that come with the falling in love process, about 18 months into a relationship. They calm everything down, changing the mad experience of being in love into the security and stability of a mature relation. Vasopressin was linked to monogamy (Brendan P. Zietsch from University of Queensland did an experiment showing that mutations to vasopressin receptor gene are linked with extra pair bonding, this is only a scientific term for sexual infidelity. Warning: correlation is not the same as causation, are many unmeasured factors that contribute to infidelity, do not use that as an excuse). Oxytocin is promoting feelings of trust and security, it was named “cuddle chemical” or "moral molecule" for the obvious reason. Serena Rodrigues did a research which was showing that oxytocin increase monogamous tendencies in mamalian species. Also have an important role in childbirth, mother-child bonding, promoting connections, instrumental in father forming bonds with newborns, stress relieving effects, increased care not only towards your own offspring, but others offspring too, even other species. Oxytocin is a neurochemical enabler of trust, devotion and kindness (as it was shown in Kosfield experiment).

To summarize this, love is a motivational state associated with a desire to enter or maintain a close relationship with a preferred individual. Love plays a role in mediating reward and goal-directed motivation. It can change you way of thinking and behave, due to intensely focused attention on the specific other person. On MRI studies, love is increasing significantly the activity in ventral tegmental area (VTA), medial insula, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), hippocampus, nucleus accumbens (NAC), caudate nucleus and hypothalamus. At the same time, the activation of amygdala, prefrontal cortex (PFC), temporal lobes and temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) will decrease. The brain region involved in the love process can be divided into subcortical and cortical brain networks where first mediates reward, motivation and emotion regulation, and second supports social cognition, attention, memory, mental associations and self-representation. We can assume that falling and being in love may affect the underlying functional architecture structure of the involved brain regions. Love may change the function of the reward, motivation and emotion regulation brain network. A person in love will try frequently to monitor their own emotional state, as well as their lovers’ emotional state, monitoring conflicts while adjusting cognitive strategies in order to resolve conflicts so as to maintain their romantic relationship. We can observe two patterns in this case, in the brain activity. First, at sub-cortical level, we cave a hyper-activation in the neuronal systems that regulate pleasure, emotional processing and sensory integration (notice more, feel more), Second, we have a widespread deactivation in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain involved in higher cognitive processes like rational decision-making and long term planning (love is a mild form of temporary madness). The effect diminishes over time, but not completely.

Now we go with the flow. First stage is similar, with a testosterone increase as in the lust phase. Second and last stage we got the initial increase of dopamine and norepinephrine (coming with the heightening of the focus), endorphin increase in the middle part of last stage (bringing calm and peacefulness) and oxytocin increase at the end (the flow's afterglow phenomenon). But we have few notable differences here. First is related to time, the entire process of falling and being in love will develop over a 3-4 years period, while you can experiment all this being in flow in one afternoon only. The biggest surprise was when we measured the serotonin levels. When we start to be in love, serotonin decrease dramatically. Our focus and ability to make decisions are also affected. But when you are in flow, the serotonin levels increase. Flow follow focus, so when you are falling in love, because of your lack of focus, is much more difficult to get in flow. But if you are in flow, it is easier to fall in love? Let's see. Dopamine is the one neurochemical involved in this situation. It is also the one behind shopping addiction, but this is a story for another time. Dopamine makes everything look good. Remember that time when you went to an exotic place in holiday, and risk and novelty got you in peak state. Then you have seen a person and fall in love. Everything was perfect. Then holiday is finished, you come back, and return to your normal state, out of flow. Things start to not look well . Many relationships of this kind will not survive after coming back.

So, being in love make it almost impossible to get in flow, being if flow can help you to fall in love, but it is not the genuine feeling. What we can do? It is any solution to have what is the best of both?

Yes. It is possible, but involve some work. A lot of work. You need to become an evolved being. Imagine that, until know, you were only that tiny caterpillar. In order to do this, you need to become a butterfly.

Some people talk about the third super feeling, defined by ancient Greeks as Agape, the selfless love. the love of the spirit, not the one of the limited Ego. Yale university had done a research involving people practicing loving kindness (people that are known to us as Buddhist monks). The reward process parts of the brain, very active while being in love (or addicted to cocaine), are deactivated at people practicing selfless love (the more experienced you are, the more deactivated the brain reward mechanism it is). While the romantic love feels like flow, the selfless love is like flow. When attention is not self centered, but oriented towards the entire humanity, that moment, the selfless love will mimic flow perfectly. And you start to feel whole again. It is almost a religious experience, it is more than that even.

In conclusion, it is possible to be both in flow and in love, but not in the way you were thinking. It is the subtle focus from "I am" to "You are".

P.S. The link for the part one of this article is here: Part 1

Yours truly,

George

P.S. If you are Romanian, you can also publish your post link in the Publish0x Romanian Community Facebook group for others to read it.

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