All the chronic in the world couldn't even mess with you
You are the ultimate high ...
... Take my money,
My house and my cars
For one hit of you
You can have it all, baby
Cause makin' love
Every time we do
Girl, it's worse than drugs
Cause I'm an addict over you
- Jodeci, "Feenin"
The 1990's R&B group may have been stumbling across scientific grounds defining the feelings of love when they released their hit "Feenin" in 1993. AM New York reprinted an article from The Washington Post in today's paper that was some interesting food for thought in the post-Valentine's Day hangover.
"Feelings of new love are only temporary" from
An Affair of the Head
They Say Love Is All About Brain Chemistry. Will You Be Dopamine?
By Neely Tucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
It's all about dopamine, baby, this One Great True Love, this passionate thing we'd burn down the house and blow up the car and drive from Houston to Orlando just to taste on the tip of the tongue.
You crave it because your brain tells you to. Because if a wet kiss on the suprasternal notch -- while, say, your lover has you pinned against a wall in the corner of a dance club -- doesn't fire up the ventral tegmentum in the Motel 6 of your mind, well, he's not going to send you roses tomorrow.
God's little neurotransmitter. Better known by its street name, romantic love.
Also, norepinephrine. Street name, infatuation.
These chemicals are natural stimulants. You fall in love, a growing amount of research shows, and these chemicals and their cousins start pole-dancing around the neurons of your brain, hopping around the limbic system, setting off craving, obsessive thoughts, focused attention, the desire to commit possibly immoral acts with your beloved while at a stoplight in the 2100 block of K Street during lunch hour, and so on.
"Love is a drug," says Helen Fisher, an anthropologist at Rutgers University and author of "Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love." "The ventral tegmental area is a clump of cells that make dopamine, a natural stimulant, and sends it out to many brain regions" when one is in love. "It's the same region affected when you feel the rush of cocaine."
Passion! Sex! Narcotics!
Why do we suspect this isn't going to end well?
Because these things are hard-wired not to last, all of them. Short shelf lives. The passion you fulfill is the passion you kill. The most wonderful, soaring feeling known to all mankind . . . amounts to no more than a narcotic high, a temporal state of mania.
"Being in love, having a crush on someone is wonderful . . . but our bodies can't be in that state all the time," says Pamela C. Regan, a professor of psychology at California State University, Los Angeles, and author of "Mind Games: A Primer on Love, Sex and Marriage." "Your body would fizzle out. As a species, we'd die."
Some of these love chemicals in the brain, scientists measure by the picogram, which is a trillionth of a gram.
How fragile, this thing called love.
Just about all writing about love stinks, maybe because so much of it begins with something like "O!" or maybe because people are (a) in love when they write it, which makes for a lot of senseless mooning the rest of us couldn't care less about; or (b) they have just been Kicked to the Curb of Romance, in which case they would rather be pinned to an insect board and labeled than live another minute on this godawful Planet of Hate.
Stendhal was onto something in the 19th century when he observed that "The pleasures of love are always in proportion to our fears," because passionate love is also partly about terror. Bill Shakespeare had it down cold, when he had Friar Laurence warn young Romeo of the perils of passion: "These violent delights have violent ends."
And did Romeo listen?
Shucks, no! Wise counsel, patience, foresight, prune juice -- who wants that? Is there one among us who, at least once in this life, does not want to throw everything out the door and sprint to the Disco Ball of the Brain, where there are big white piles of dopamine, where a hot and sweaty Barry White is always on stage, thumping out "You're My First! My Last! My Everything!" And there's that new girl in class! Scantily clad! She's on the floor, beckoning you! Yes, Bubba, you! Out you go, and she's saying your name and her hand slips to the small of your back, and this is going to last FOREVER AND EVER!
Regan, the California researcher, notes that such cases are rare, and may have more to do with existing mental issues than simple unrequited love. Still, she says, passion is destined to end, whether mellowing into long-term love or blowing up on the freeway at 4 a.m. Given this, she wonders if "we do our self a disservice by glorifying passionate love so much."
"The search for eternal passion is very misguided," she says. "It's the search for the perfect high that keeps people discarding relationships right and left . You don't feel the same way you did; people want to break up, instead of seeing it as normal."
And so, alas. Even neurologists, to go with Shakespeare's priest, now tell us passion is true love's fool's gold, a flamboyant dead end on the evolutionary chain of primate happiness.
The only problem with this insight is that no one pays it any mind. Doomed passion may not make us right, and it may not even make us very happy.
It only makes us human. It only makes us who we are.
THE WASHINGTON POST, FEBRUARY 13, 2007
Final thoughts from Katie: In summation, love really is dope.