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Friday, December 5, 2008

Love: A Complex Emotion

What is love? Love is a wonderful and complicated emotion. It doesn't simply come from the ghost in the machine or the soul in our bodies. Nor does it come from a spiritual power or energy. It comes from within humans and higher order organisms from our brains.

You might wonder how it is possible to develop such a strong sense such as love from merely a network of cells. But our cellular network is vast and interconnected and the interaction of this internal network with our external environment makes it possible to experience the emotion of love. It is our five senses that stimulate this beautiful emotion. It is also our innate desire to feel love. Emotions of empathy and sympathy help to facilitate this emotion of love as well as our innate sexual desires. These emotions were all necessary for the development of pair bonds, the parent-child bond, and alliances outside of the family not only in the human species but also in other mammalian species like whales and chimpanzees.

Every human experiences this emotion. It is very real. But in our culture today love is difficult to understand. For thousands of years love has been bound to different belief systems that set rules and ideals for how love came about and how it should be utilized. For so long our ancestors have believed that love is everything but an emotion. That it comes about through practice of certain rituals and traditions. That it is not something that naturally happens but that one must behave in a certain way, such as praying to a sacred higher power, in order to be blessed by such a feeling. What this has done throughout human culture around the world is misinterpreted the true nature of love.

Love does not have to be a difficult emotion. A person can feel love for many things but there are different types of love. Our innate desires facilitate our love for our family members because we are related to them by blood and they care for us and interact with us while we grow. We also feel love for our friends who are not related to us because we build trust and loyalty with them. We can feel love for things we are good at doing such as sports, writing, traveling, and designing. But the most difficult love of all is the pair bond because there is much at stake for each person in the bond. Although there are benefits, the costs are heavy when a pair bond breaks because the bond cannot be repaired the same way a friendship or family relation can.

The exclusive pair bond is complex because it is a fairly new development in human history-- it is only 10,000 years old. Forged in the time when people developed permanent settlements. It formed so couples could improve care for their offspring and to ensure that the offspring were genetically theirs. It was a way to protect a family unit in a human tribe or society and to maintain unity. But today humans are protected by their governments and family units have less responsibility to care for their whole family. It is no longer necessary for parents to wholly focus on the unity of their family because they are aware that a system exists to care for them through taxes and social programs.

The pair bond has lost its significance in this civilized society. Although pairs still desire to have children their focus is not on the unity of their family but on the pair relationship. In a time when careers are important to both men and women because of their education and desire to do what they are good at it seems that the end goal has become skewed. The pair bond has been changed to simply two people coming together for sexual desires and companionship. The meaning of the pair bond has changed but the type of love has not.

If this new pair bond relationship is to work, love needs to be rediscovered as an emotion that can protect this bond. The primitive and ancient meaning of love as a blessing through prayer has disappeared and the desire to form a pair bond simply to build a family unit has faded. People who care less about family unity and more about satisfying their desires need to understand love in a new light and both partners need to understand their love for one another. The way to do this is to express through communication what love means to each other continuously. In this new pair bond love is satisfaction of the desires of sexual pleasure, beauty, friendship (trust and loyalty), work and play.

Family unity is no more. Satisfaction is everything and two people must learn to satisfy each other in order for this type of love to last. Love may be a complex emotion but we must learn to understand and convey what it means to each of us without boundaries and limits.

By Rajvee

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