Community Blog: Your Brain In Love

Community Blog: Your Brain In Love

You can't stop thinking about her. Every love song reminds you of her. Every thought drifts to her. You feel exhilarated just thinking of her. You feel as though you are floating on a cloud. Nothing else matters. Only her.

Well, my friend, it appears you are under the influence of PEA—the Love Drug! Your brain is producing a natural amphetamine called Phenylethylamine (PEA). The reason you feel drugged is that you are. When you first fall in love, PEA is being released. Your heart palpitates, your hands sweat and you breathe heavier. This natural high is given to us by nature. The Chemistry of Love

Think of all the things that happen to you during this stage of romantic love. Your friends notice that you are in a different world, somewhere between manic and obsessed. You are calling your love or texting her around the clock. Your heart beats faster when you hear your phone ring. Colors appear more vibrant. Food tastes better. Every love song seems to have been written for you. Your mind has one track—and that is your love, 24/7.

Neuroscientists have become very interested in all this brain activity during this phase of romantic love. According to the Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers attest that romantic love is more of a biological urge. Neurally, it is similar to drives and urges like hunger, thirst or drug cravings. Just as our brain craves water and food, it also appears to crave romantic love.

Helen Fisher, author of Why We Love, was able to show how the caudate nucleus (the reward center of the brain) becomes very active when subjects are shown photos of their lovers. Fisher took brain scans (MRIs) of 18 college students in love while they gazed at pictures of their lovers. She also took brain scans (MRIs) while they looked at pictures of close friends. Her findings showed that when the subjects looked at their romantic partners, the areas of the brain with large amounts of dopamine receptors were very activated. Whereas when they looked at pictures of their friends, no activity was noted in this region of the brain. According to Fisher, couples often display signs of surging dopamine by displaying increased energy, less need for sleep or food, and increased sexual arousal. One might surmise from these findings that we appear to be biologically wired for love. Helen Fisher Talks To YourTango: Discover Your "Type" (It Really Exists)

This area of the brain where the caudate nucleus is located is also considered the old brain, the most primitive part of the brain that stores emotion and memory. It is mostly concerned with always asking the question, “Is it safe or is it dangerous?” All of our automatic responses stem from here. It is in the old brain that we store our childhood memories and all the traits of our primary caretakers.

According to the founder of Imago therapy, Harville Hendrix, when we enter this stage of romantic love, it appears we are able to attach to our partner without seeing any of the negative characteristics until later, when PEA starts to fade. PEA is not meant to last; it only lasts long enough to help us attach. When we fall in love, we are unable to see the unconscious factors that drew us to our partners. It appears nature helps us to sufficiently bond before we begin to see the negative traits of our partners. Hendrix believes that we draw to us an Imago match who has the positive and negative traits of our primary caretakers. This person has the ability to help us heal the unresolved pain from our childhood that inevitably resurfaces in our marriages and relationships. How To Fall Back In Lust

Do you ever wonder why your new partner has a lot of the same characteristics as the last partner you had? Does it feel like you have experienced that frustration before? It appears that all chronic repetitive frustration is rooted in unfinished business from our childhood and the defenses that we constructed back then. We are drawing to us exactly what we need to heal. And it appears that all of this is taking place unconsciously and nuerally in our brains. It seems our brain is attempting to recreate the conditions of our childhood in order to heal them. It also appears your partner is the most suited to help you heal because they are similar to your early caretakers in emotionally significant ways. It also makes sense that if we are wounded in a relationship, we must heal in a relationship. So whether you are in a committed relationship or just bitten by the love bug, know that it appears you are right where nature intended you to be… and this is what's really going on in love.

Cynthia Thrasher is a licensed psychotherapist and a Certified Imago Couples Therapist in private practice in Bradenton, Fla. She specializes in individual and couples therapy. Cynthia can be reached at 941-756-3385.

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