In our love-addicted society, too many people have come to believe in the love myth—without love, without a relationship, you are not whole. This is reinforced by the Valentine's Day frenzy, the one day when love should be in the air. But here is an alternative: By developing an attitude of gratitude, we can sprinkle love and positive feelings through the year. And if love does come along, we can be a bit discerning.
While poets and authors have tried to describe love, research published in “Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience” determined that the naturally-occurring hormone oxytocin and love are intimately related. Often called the love drug, oxytocin plays a role in bonding, maternal instinct, enduring friendship, marriage, and orgasms. (Algoe, 2013).
Although oxytocin is stimulated through love-making, herein lies a bit of deception. In earlier interviews, Loretta Graziano Breuning Ph.D., whose newest book is The Science of Positivity, pointed out to me: “The oxytocin released through orgasm creates a lot of trust, but only for a short period of time. In nature most animals are bachelors, so in the act of love-making they generate an opportunity for trust.”
In the world of humans, this is what she says happens with women. After making love a woman might mistake the oxytocin release for feelings that tell her, “This is 'the One', my perfect partner.” As Dr. Breuning notes, “Despite those initial feelings, it does not necessarily mean that the person is trustworthy. The perception you have at the moment is an illusion you create about the person that may or may not fit what happens next.”
How can we be a bit more discerning and keep the oxytocin illusion in check?
Gratitude studies from the lab of psychologist Robert Emmons, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, found that if you practice acts of kindness—expressing gratitude that you do not necessarily feel—eventually you will find yourself becoming a more grateful person. Perhaps by smiling more often at your spouse or partner, even when you are angry, by forgiving even if you feel that you are right, by taking the high road you might begin to develop a loving-kindness that creates life-long love.
Copyright 2017 Rita Watson
Sara B. Algoe, Evidence for a Role of the Oxytocin System, Indexed by Genetic Variation in CD38, in the Social Bonding Effects of Expressed Gratitude. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2013Chopik, W.J., Wardecker, B.M., Edelstein, R.S. (2014)
Wood, A., Rychlowska, M.,Korb, S., Niedenthal, P., (2016) Fashioning the Face: Sensorimotor Simulation Contributes to Facial Expression Recognition, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, On line Feb.11, 2016, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2015.12.010