26 Oct Be Aware of Love
Being in love is such an abstract notion, yet so meaningful. Its spectrum covers from hope to despair and its magnitude is as enormous as life or death. It can make one impatient and crazy, or it can generate motivation and resilience. It can bring contentment and joy, or devastation and destruction. In love, we become a different person. Once in love, the chemical changes in the neurotransmitters, along with the memories of earlier attachment issues flood the brain and induce mental volatility. Impulsivity and reactivity are often accompanying love and create certain interactions that require awareness. But how can we ask a person who is “madly” in love to be aware and make responsible choices? Isn’t love enough of a reason to be eccentric?
Persian poet, Nezami Ganjavi, in his well-known adaptation of Laily and Majnun talks about the insanity of his hero as Laily’s love drives him crazy and makes him wonder in the desert. In both Farsi and Arabic languages Majnun means“possessed with madness” and Nezami’s lover is synonymized with insanity. Another famous Persian poet, Hafiz, envisions“love as so divine that the lover and the beloved are one.” In such a vision, a lover has no individuality and his or her happiness is tied in with the beloved. In the lover’s eyes there are no judgments, as Majnun states: “Love is everything I have, everything I am, and everything I ever want to be.” To him the reality of love is: “if you scratch a Lover, you find his Beloved inside.” Then, what happens to the sense of SELF in a lover? How can a beloved maintain individuality? With Majnun’s “madly love” or Hafiz’s “unity in love”, SELF cannot exist. When the lover and the beloved are both intertwined and united in essence, psychological understanding of SELF in LOVE becomes convoluted and needs clarity.
In the divinely mystical sense of love, selflessness is seen as a virtue. For a whimsical lover, giving everything up, even one’s sanity, has been the meaning of a true love. However, that kind of love cannot be considered as the attributes of a psychologically healthy person. To be “madly” in love is a real madness and being “lovesick” is physiologically an accurate state of being sick. The romantic, mystical, and philosophical descriptions of love may be outdated by the scientific research that suggests: “love and obsessive-compulsive disorder could have a similar chemical profile.” A brain in love is connected to reward and pleasure centers that release chemicals like dopamine. Those neurobiological releases produce intense energy, focused attention, reckless behavior, and exhilarating sensations. The novelty of love continues to release more dopamine in the brain and stimulates attraction that leads to the pursuit of a relationship. However, studies show that passion usually ends and romantic love fades away as the brain adapts to the excessive amounts of dopamine and needs other newer and novel stimulants. Then, what happens to our loving relationships? How can we maintain a love that is neither crazy nor purely chemical based?
Merging into oneness by lovers has always been an idealistically beautiful concept, but practically it always contributes to losing one’s identity. Self-worth and self-efficacy are individualistic concerns that require maintenance.When two people propose to become one, the independent self will be sacrificed unless appropriate boundaries are set. A true love is a reciprocal relationship that celebrates and encourages each person’s unique sense of self. Loss of self in a relationship can be even worse than losing a loved one. Loss of love can be realized when one can go through a grieving process. That person eventually comes out of the mourning process with some resolve, but a person who has lost his or her sense of self has a much harder time to regain self-esteem. Anxiety, depression, resentment, anger, tension, helplessness, and hopelessness are just a few symptoms of being “Majnun” in love.
Loving relationships are different than any spiritual or divine love that expands to the point of madness. This lover does not focus on mystical or ethereal aspects of love. Although every love starts in such poetic texture, the realities of life and the limitations of an earthly being can affect, redirect, and redefine love. Besides the chemical changes in the brain, every human being has certain needs, aspirations, and desires for being noticed, acknowledged, and fulfilled. A loving relationship is allowing an individual to feel free and choose with whom or how his or her needs, aspirations, and desires can come to fulfillment. This love is choosing to become one with a person, an idea, or a group of other individuals to feel fulfilled, yet having the ability to stay independent. In this format love satisfies the needs for excitement, attention, respect, protection, care, learning, and growth without losing self.
An individuated and responsible person, who has worked on his or her psychological or developmental issues of the past, celebrates love by forming a structure of awareness, understanding, mutual respect, and values. This lover enjoys transformation, learning, and growth by making appropriate choices that can keep love alive. In a loving relationship, both the lover and the beloved know where one ends and the other begins. Although each partner may want to share everything, do everything together, and form common bonds they each realize that they cannot be lost at each other.
As we are celebrating Valentine’s Day and focusing on love, let’s remember that without a healthy self, who functions with a balanced chemistry of neurotransmitters, love can become a big challenge. Let’s remember that being in love is supposed to bring us joy and motivation, not anguish and disappointment. Be in love, but be aware that making responsible choices is what can keep your relationships secured and valuable. Stay in love, but be aware of losing yourself in it. Be aware of love; it can take you high like a kite and if you do not handle it effectively, it can cut loose and disappear.