The Situationist

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Posted by The Situationist Staff on February 10, 2008

Thing Called LoveThis week, to help celebrate Valentines Day, the Situationist staff will be posting on the situation of love. We begin by republishing a slightly edited version of a post first published on May 19, 2007.

* * *

Queen sang it this way:

This (This Thing) called love
(Called Love)
It cries (Like a baby)
In a cradle all night
It swings (Woo Woo)
It jives (Woo Woo)
It shakes all over like a jelly fish,
I kinda like it
Crazy little thing called love

There goes my baby
She knows how to Rock n’ roll
She drives me crazy
She gives me hot and cold fever
Then she leaves me in a cool cool sweat

I gotta be cool relax, get hip
Get on my track’s
Take a back seat, hitch-hike
And take a long ride on my motor bike
Until I’m ready
Crazy little thing called love

Have you ever been obsessed with, wild for, smitten by, hot for, or crazy about someone? What about a crush or an infatuation? Do you recall how you were unable to think of anything but that other person? How ’bout the mood swings from euphoria to despair? Do you recall feeling addicted or the way separation only amplified the longing? Do you recall the depression, frustration, and embarassment associated with an unreciprocated crush? What about the craving for union and the possessiveness?

If so, then you know first-hand something about this crazy little thing called “love.” It is sweet and bitter both – a craving we won’t let go of and that won’t release us even if we want it to. That intense romantic focus provides a sense of complete and permanent devotion (which turns out to be inaccurate in fact) – even as it generates immense pain when it is unrequited or otherwise impossible. What creates this wonderful source of pain, this ache of passion – Cupid’s hurts-so-good arrow piercing the heart?

Earlier this year, the Washington Post’s Neely Tucker attempted to shed some light on those questions in an article titled “An Affair Of the Head: They Say Love Is All About Brain Chemistry.” We have excerpted portions of the article below.

* * *

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. . . .

Dopamine.

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 “The Mating Game: 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 [crazy little] thing called love.

* * *

In her most recent research, Fisher and colleagues gave 32 love-struck subjects an MRI scan while they viewed a picture of their beloved.

Boy, did their brains light up!

There are two shrimp-size things on either side of your brain called the caudate nuclei. This is the gear that operates bodily movements and the body’s reward system: “the mind’s network for general arousal, sensations of pleasure, and the motivation to acquire rewards,” Fisher writes. And when the test subjects looked at their sweeties, these things started singing “Loosen Up My Buttons” with the Pussycat Dolls!

This, then, kicked the party over to the tiny ventral tegmental area, a little peapod-size thingy that sends dopamine bopping around your//www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/Issues/2006/February/CupidChemistry.asp head.

This is what scientists call lots of fun.

A separate study by Italian researchers several years ago showed something else.

Serotonin, another neurotransmitter in the brain associated with obsession, depression and racing thoughts, was greatly affected — right down to the molecular level — by romance and surging dopamine. People newly in love and people with obsessive-compulsive disorder showed the same lowered levels of the “platelet 5-HT transporter.” In other words, dopamine appears to suppress serotonin, which in turn triggers obsessive-compulsive thought patterns.

You can’t stop thinking about Dave. No wonder! Dave’s hiding under a wet flap of cortex!

Your brain is officially in love, and it officially is driving you crazy.

* * *

Cupid can’t last, you know.

Oxytocin and other chemicals kick in, running around your brain to make you bond with your lover, producing a mellower, more sustainable relationship.

* * *

Dopamine leaves the scene of the affair, now running off into the nucleus accumbens, the insular cortex, the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, research by Fisher and others shows. Jilted lovers’ brains now light up in these areas when they look at pictures of their former flames — this brain matter is associated with taking big risks, addiction, physical pain and obsessive-compulsive disorders. This is why, researchers theorize, people become obsessed with lost love, and are driven, in extreme cases, to stalking, suicide, homicide, rubber tubing.

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 . . . . 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.

* * *

Understanding something about what leads to our romantic love, unfortunately, does little to protect us from Cupid’s overwhelming power. Good luck lovers. Remember, you “gotta be cool . . . relax.”

For the complete article, click here. To watch a lengthy but fascinating lecture by Professor Fisher on the “Drive to Love,” click here. A shorter talk by Professor Fisher, providing an overview of her research on romantic love can be viewed in the video below:

P.S. For a valuable critique of an earlier version of this post, click here.

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53 Responses to “Crazy Little Thing Called Love”

  1. [...] Crazy Little Thing Called Love [...]

  2. Marco Polo said

    “Yep, love is just a few chemicals in the brain, folks. Nothing to see here. Move right along.” Doesn’t that make you feel better? And with cute animal videos, too. Irressistible! So it must be true.

  3. [...] Crazy Little Thing Called Love [...]

  4. [...] Situationist blog a lot, but how can the clip of a “Pepe Le Pew” cartoon at the end of this post represent anything except extremely coercive, unwanted sexual contact?  Pepe Le Pew cartoons [...]

  5. Ann Bartow said

    Wow. Thanks. Usually I get venom spewed on me for pointing out stuff like that. You made my day.

  6. [...] Crazy Little Thing Called Love [...]

  7. [...] Crazy Little Thing Called Love [...]

  8. [...] who is suing a casino, click here. To read some related Situationist posts, check out “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” and “The Science of Addiction, The Myth of [...]

  9. lalejin said

    i funk USA& israel
    alireza

  10. belyo said

    love,it is crazy-it is not fully understood what it is! but yeah-a good n bad feeling at the same time!

  11. [...] source [...]

  12. ramatab said

    iwant to khow more about love ihave a niebour she, is a girl ilove her but i fear to tell her advise me

  13. juliet said

    i love love :))))))))

  14. SWEET GIRL said

    l love love love : ))))))))))))))

  15. love is a big ocean
    if someone fall in.
    so he will never comback
    best wishes,

  16. saweeza said

    i like all pics of love

  17. balaji said

    love is beautifull

  18. NICHOLAS said

    love is sweater than sweet@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@

  19. raj said

    http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/2008/02/10/crazy-little-thing-called-love-2/

  20. Alysa said

    Am givn it up 4 love…

  21. Yusuf said

    I dont think love do exist for now because there is no true feelings any more rather permit me to say it’s lust that is EXISTING.

  22. haidz said

    !im her in philphines………….
    puerto princesa city,palawan………….

  23. you cannot describe it but you can feel it in to your heart…./////((((((>>>>>

  24. beautie said

    love is not an ocean as you have put it indeed you can get out of it any time you wish to.thanks

  25. مشاور said

    زيبايي عشق مثل بهار است

  26. lilian said

    care is the ingredient that keeps true love alive. despite time,distance and sepration.

  27. mahe said

    love is life

  28. abraham said

    ok gud but if ur patner s n danger can u give ur life n save? don”t be n dreams think practically. “give ur sacrifice”that s real LOVE

  29. sanjana said

    you can’t say how love starts,
    you can’t feel love/;
    but,when you see a boy/girl
    you start commenting.
    after a few days,
    you sometimes think good things,sometimes bad.
    the next few days,
    you start liking him/her;
    then you start loving him/her;
    and this is how,
    you fall in love.

  30. thegodride said

    Love is a great meal!
    Personal Chef C.C.

  31. thegodride said

    Oh it most be made with Love also!
    Personal Chef C.C.
    Private Chef

  32. rethabile said

    hew!um speechless……

  33. Emon said

    Love is one of the basic urges we hold. Along with the development of human civilisation, the concept has been furnished and decorated ; thereby it has been an abstraction. Actually, the pragmatic side of love,particularly sex, is unique and omnipresent than the civilized meaning.

  34. Sadiq said

    Is love true

  35. i have this crush on a 8th grader named brandon cowgel we dated but som1 was beening noicie and told him i was cheeting on him so he dumped me im still heart broken i wish he knew how much i miss and love him

  36. KISHORE said

    LOVE IS LIFE WHITH OUT LOVE NO LIFE

  37. Kahina Jhutroy said

    someone who live without loving is someone who is not living.

  38. Kahina Jhutroy said

    Love is like a tree, it grows bigger and feeds you always.

  39. rishikumar said

    love is not a life is a part of our life

  40. latadeshmukh said

    happy velentide my friends

  41. sophiya said

    i like that

  42. mithlesh said

    i am sanjana

  43. Jeet said

    love is the reason to live for many
    but reason to die for most
    so dnt fear just go ahead and speak to her
    it may be so that she is waiting for you to approach bro.

  44. Dansan said

    …let LOVE not control us but we shoud control have the ability to control it..

  45. anoop yadav said

    I love her. but she leave me and married with some one and one day she call me and said she stiil love me and she do this only for her parent. I try to foreget her but I can not .Everytime she in my mind. Everytime i think that someone come and toll me that wake up and said it was dream and she is always with me. I dreamed my dream with her and she is every thing for me. I want to make my all dream real with her but she never come. What i do.

    everyone said what is lost is not important, what is left is important,
    Can any one tell me if everything is lost, what is left.
    she is everything for me.

  46. suryani said

    LOVE IS LIKE A TRAIN WHICH COMES OLNY ONCE AND THEN LEAVES…SO NEVER MISS A CHANCE TO LOVE AND BE LOVED..ENJOY IT!FEEL IT!

  47. ribs said

    love is lifffe////……

  48. ntulo said

    love do exist

  49. plz any body love me

  50. i love u

  51. Love is an emotion of strong affection and personal attachment. love is a virtue representing all of human kindness, compassion, and affection.

  52. diamond said

    yes love is true,because even GOD, greatest commandment is love

  53. diamond beah said

    life is left,u have life and with life all things are possible.

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