Love is a Science, But Not An Absence of Faith
March 29, 2012 § 9 Comments
Did you ever have your heart broken?
Did you ever sit alone after you knew it was over and pray that you could stop obsessing over every little thing that reminded you of your ex? The shows that you watched together, his or her favorite food, the good morning text message. The reminders aren’t just painful, they’re annoying. They make you feel like you’ll have to wipe the slate of your life clean and start from scratch because now all of a sudden, everything is a reminder.
I sat in this position a couple of years ago. I’m not ashamed to admit it, because most of us have. If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you’ve probably been through something similar if you are a person. A human being. If you are a chair, you might not have ever felt this, but you’re also a chair that can read so I won’t make any assumptions about reading chairs.
But as people, this is what we experience. It’s what I was experiencing and I grew sick of it quickly. I didn’t want to feel like that anymore so I turned to the one place for support that I always know will be there for me; the internet.
Scouring message boards, articles, and studies, I came across other people whose hearts had been torn apart like a Choo Choo Choose Me Valentine’s card. The stories of pain, disenchantment of love, and the underlying feelings of regret from losing their partner spread across the world wide web like pictures of Pamela Anderson and LOLCATZ. I read through them for hours and came across a singular conclusion: My feelings weren’t only painful, but they were tirelessly unoriginal.
On a certain level I felt validated for feeling what I felt. I wasn’t alone. It was like these other people were inside my head, saying the things that I had not yet said. It’s always nice to know that even if you’re crazy, you’re normal. Yet on another level I felt stupid. I felt stupid for thinking that my situation was different than anyone else’s or that I had let my emotions get the better of me. That’s when I started to think of heartbreak not as a Katherine Heigl rom-com that existed in a world of “true love” and “destiny” but as a science problem. Heart ache was closer to Bill Nye than it was to Say Anything.
That’s not to diminish the feelings you feel when your partner in crime becomes your ex-P.I.C., but all I cared about was getting over it and if I could think of it as a math or science problem, then I could get over it quicker. It’s like finding out the stages of grief and then finding out how to skip past them, or moving through your 12 step program at a steady but furious pace.
The Stages of Heartbreak would go something like: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance, Moving On. It’s just like the seven stages of grief, except I just named six.
How to move through them quicker:
- Denial. Well, this one is easy. It IS over. Come to that realization quickly and move on to step two. Being in denial is dumb and the word alone should tell you so because when you hear the word “denial” your first inclination is “You’re wrong to think this isn’t happening because it clearly is.” Don’t discount the fact that you’re feeling it, but know that it’s incorrect and the quicker you realize it’s real, the better.
- Anger. We want to punch something in the face and call the ex a “good for nothing so-and-so” but probably in nicer words than that and I’m sorry for my foul language! So what do you do? Get all your anger out immediately. Punch pillows. Hell, punch a wall because the pain from that will last longer than the anger you’re feeling and you’ll realize how stupid it was that you actually broke your hand over this. Get the anger out though. Go running, go watch Chipwrecked, get mad so that you can get happy and go onto step three.
- Bargaining has never worked before and it will never work in the future. “I’ll change” and “I won’t make you watch 162 baseball games next year, only 149” isn’t the problem. The problems are probably much deeper than that. Bargain with a gypsy, not with yourself.
- Depression. Well, this is sort of a tough one because depression is potentially the deepest emotion that we feel and it leaves us numb. I could try to give ways to be not depressed, but short of drugs there really isn’t much we can do BECAUSE we are depressed. ”Do this” or “do that” won’t matter because your brain is telling you that life sucks. Depression is sort of like burning your hand on the stove; we can find ways to numb the pain but we can’t change the fact that we just burn our hand really bad. It happened and the only cure is time. Just time. However, if we can move past Denial, Anger, and Bargaining quicker, then we’ve time-travelled right into depression. WOOHOO!
- Acceptance. Okay, so you’ve done it. You woke up this morning and you felt good. It’s 1:30 PM and you’ve just realized for the first time today that you DIDN’T ONCE think about that person. Until now… and now you feel kinda crappy, but it’s okay because you feel less crappy today than you did yesterday. And then one day you’ll realize that it’s been three days since you felt crappy and now you’ve hit the home stretch. Good job!
- Moving on. Awesome, this is basically not even a step because you’ve accepted that the relationship is over and that’s honestly the hardest part. Nobody said that getting back on the horse is easy, but I think you’ll find that it can be quite fun. “Playing the field” and whatnot. (Everything is a sports metaphor.) You’re ready to move on. You can actually watch Survivor and not get sappy because that’s what you and so-and-so used to always DVR together. You can drink your favorite wine again. All of your favorites are your favorites again because you don’t miss that person anymore. This feeling is the bomb, yo.
I have gone through these feelings multiple times in my life, but the time that I decided that love and heartbreak was as much science as it was metaphysical was the time that I got over it the quickest. My point isn’t to discount your feelings but to give validation to the fact that we are human and because we are human that means that chemicals and biology are as much a part of life as feelings and emotions. They are intertwined. That’s the beauty and the curse of being human.
In the same way that we can end love on a scientific note, we can begin it. According to Helen Fisher of Rutgers University, there are Three Stages of Falling in Love: Lust, Attraction, and Attachment.
- Lust: It takes between 90 second and 4 minutes to decide if you are into somebody upon first meeting. This is driven by the hormones that give you boners and make women feel tingly: testosterone and oestrogen.
- Attraction: This is when you can’t stop thinking about the person. You want ‘em bad. Monoamines are neuro-transmitters that hit your brain and mess you up: Dopamine, Adrenalin, and Serotonin. These will make you hyper, get your heart racing, keep you alert, and make you a little crazy. When you fall head over heels, it’s because serotonin is encapsulating your senses and, well… fucking with you.
- Attachment: You want to do more than rub your membranes together, now you want to have kids, get a dog, and buy color-coded toothbrushes. Oxytocin is now pulsating through your brain and that’s basically the bonding drug. It’s the same one that hits you when your mom first pops you out and holds you and feeds you from her bosom. It also gives women emotion-boners when you have sex. Oxytocin and Vasopressin are big components to why you’ll never forget your first love or the first person that you entered/entered you. It’s crazy, huh?
Every one of your emotions is more than just a recess of your mind. It’s not just things you think because you have a soul, but things you think because chemicals are always moving around your brain and body and making you do things and think things whether you like it or not. That’s love, that’s hate, that’s anger, that’s depression, that’s life… it’s chemicals, science, biology, and hormones.
As humans we can only control so much. Sometimes our body is going to do what our body wants to do and the idea of things like “Love at first sight” or “Gut-wrenching heartbreak” are inevitable chemical reactions that we can’t necessarily resist. But we can reason with it. We can use our power of knowledge to combat the power of hormones, of chemistry, of science.
I used knowledge that I gained through other people’s experiences to help overcome a time in my life when I was very low. By reasoning with myself and with my emotions and knowing that even if I was only at the beginning of a tunnel, there was still an end to it (there is ALWAYS an end to the tunnel) and I’d do my best to run through it because while a soul might be unexplainable, math and science are basically the opposite because they do give meaning and reason to everything.
But is it always that simple?
This is part one: Love is a Science. Part two will be next week: But Not an Absence of Faith.
Follow on Twitter