Love: Agápe, Eros, Philia, Comunitas

Agápe, Eros, Philia, Comunitas

I thought I would be able to resist doing a post on St Valentine’s Day but a correspondent from Brazil, Clara, thought I ought to know something about the way I feel – sometimes.

Of course, I’ve known something about this since I was eleven or so.  I was kind of intuitive about it but it’s always good to know a little more.  I think love is a little like religion, it doesn’t make any sense but it’s in our DNA since before we were sapiens.  It’s euphoric and feeds back positively.

It’s the highest high, the most constant pleasure, and reassuring comunitas.  It is only legal because it cannot easily be controlled.

As in all things it can also exist in less salutary, perverted forms as Plato describes in “The Republic” as the relationship between aristocracy, timocracy, democracy, and tyranny.

These are all aspects of who we are as social animals expressing our social relationships with one another.  Who we are is complicated, conflicted, convoluted, and consuming.

Testosterone and Oxytocin

The Headwaters of the River of Life


In today’s excerpt – Valentine’s Day tidbits. Where to we find enduring love? Answer: Oxytocin. Infidelity? Testosterone. Heartbreak? Low serotonin and endorphins. In fact, our loved ones are actually present in our brains – neurochemically – and when lost it results in chemical trauma for the brain: 

“An American study of over four thousand men found that husbands with high testosterone levels were 43 percent more likely to get divorced and 38 percent more likely to have extramarital affairs than men with lower levels. They were also 50 percent less likely to get married at all. Men with the least amounts of
testosterone were more likely to get married and to stay married, maybe because low testosterone levels make men calmer, less aggressive, less intense, and more cooperative.

“The desire to commit to someone is strongly linked to … oxytocin. … Oxytocin is released by the pituitary gland and acts on the ovaries and testes to regulate reproduction. Researchers suspect that this hormone is important for forming close social bonds. The levels of this chemical rise when couples watch romantic movies, hug, or hold hands. Prairie voles, when injected with oxytocin, pair much faster than normally. Blocking oxytocin prevents them from bonding in a normal way. This is similar in humans, because couples bond to certain characteristics in each other. This is why you are attracted to the same type of man or woman repeatedly. In general, levels of oxytocin are lower in men, except after an orgasm, where they are raised more than 500 percent. This may explain why men feel very sleepy after an orgasm. This is the same hormone released in babies during breast-feeding, which makes them sleepy as well.

“Oxytocin is also related to the feelings of closeness and being ‘in love’ when you have regular sex for several reasons. First, the skin is sensitized by oxytocin, encouraging affection and touching behavior. Then, oxytocin levels rise during subsequent touching and eventually even with the anticipation of being touched. Oxytocin increases during sexual activity, peaks at orgasm, and stays elevated for a period of time after intercourse. … In addition, there is an amnesic effect created by oxytocin during sex and orgasm that blocks negative memories people have about each other for a period of time. The same amnesic effect occurs from the release of oxytocin during childbirth, while
a mother is nursing to help her forget the labor pain, and during long, stressful nights spent with a newborn so that she can bond to her baby with positive feelings and love.

“Higher oxytocin levels are also associated with an increased feeling of trust. In a landmark study by Michael Kosfeld and colleagues from Switzerland published in the journal Nature, intranasal oxytocin was found to increase trust. Men who inhale a nasal spray spiked with oxytocin give more money to partners in a risky investment game than do men who sniff a spray containing a placebo. This substance fosters the trust needed for friendship, love, families, economic transactions, and political networks. According to the study’s authors, ‘Oxytocin specifically affects an individual’s willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions.’ …

“What happens in the brain when you lose someone you love? Why do we hurt, long, even obsess about the other person? When we love someone, they come to live in the emotional or limbic centers of our brains. He or she actually occupies nerve-cell pathways and physically lives in the neurons and synapses of the brain. When we lose someone, either through death, divorce, moves, or
breakups, our brain starts to get confused and disoriented. Since the person lives in the neuronal connections, we expect to see her, hear her, feel her, and touch her. When we cannot hold her or talk to her as we usually do, the brain centers where she lives becomes inflamed looking for her. Overactivity in the limbic brain has been associated with depression and low serotonin levels, which is why we have trouble sleeping, feel obsessed, lose our appetites, want to isolate ourselves, and lose the joy we have about life. A deficit in endorphins, which modulate pain and pleasure pathways in the brain, also occurs, which may be responsible for the physical pain we feel during a breakup.”

Author: Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
Title: The Brain in Love
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Date: Copyright 2007 by Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
Pages: 64-68




About carlos

I'm a curious person, of reasonable intellect, "on the beach" (retired) and enjoying my interest in anthropology, language, civil rights, and a few other areas. I've been a hippie/student/aerospace tech writer in the '60s, a witness to the Portuguese revolution in the ‘70s, a defense test engineer and witness to the Guatemalan genocide in the '80s, and a network engineer for an ISP in the '90s. Now I’m a student and commentator until my time is up. I've spent time under the spell of the Mesoamerican pyramids and the sweet sound of the Portuguese language. I've lived in Europe, traveled in Brazil, Central America, Iceland, New Zealand, and other places. My preferred mode of travel is with a backpack and I eat (almost) anything local. Somehow, many of the countries I have been to have had civil unrest (for which I was not responsible). I'm open to correspond with anyone who might share my liberal, humanist interests. I live in San Buenaventura, California.
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One Response to Love: Agápe, Eros, Philia, Comunitas

  1. Dear Carlos:

    I feel as a homage having my name linked to a good idea for a post in Valentine’s Day.

    I think you very much.


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