Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love Stinks

Today is Valentine's day.

Happy VD-ay!

This post is about love.

It is the third in what I hope will be an ongoing series of posts devoted to Love.
The first post was “Love Poetry
The Second post was “Loving Atheists

This post is about a traumatic and stinky love topic. This post is about VDay.

Yesterday I went into a Bath Shoppe with my daughters. The place smelled like an organic chemistry lab on a good day. There was an incredible amount of pink in the shoppe. Signs declared that this potion was “sexy”, this other one was “romantic”. A pyramid of romantically scented hand sanitizers caught my eye.

An attractive young saleswoman offered me a valentine. I opened it only to find a coupon for some percent off of a purchase and the (in big curly script) deceleration that I had just gotten “lucky”. I found it odd being informed that I had just “gotten lucky” by an attractive young woman since I felt so exceedingly unstimulated. Perhaps I am just getting old.

Valentine's day ignites an explosion of pink with red undertones. There are associated scents and tastes. There is also a profusion of fluffy and soft things. It is as if there is a subset of the spectrum of perception that must be assaulted to best target at a particular response. That response has something to do with love.

I have repeatedly identified learning processes which require practice and repetition.  Valentine's day type love is often described in acute catastrophic terms rather than chronic.  One is supposed to be able to "fall" in love.  Valentines day would be different if love were described as a creeping affliction.

It would be strange to see a valentine that said something like: "I'm about 20% in love with you right now.  It is particularly apparent between my toes, and it is almost 100% in my left ear.".

If the valentine's day love were a chronic and progressive condition we might expect the decorations to tend to the higher frequency portion of the visible spectrum.  Instead of infra-red decorating there would be more yellows and greens.  Instead of so much fluffy there would be more warm and squishy.  Perhaps wet and sticky also...

Love ingrains sensory stimuli into the long-term memory.  One significant reason why scents are so big on VDay is that olfactory stimuli are processed in the limbic system of the brain.  Thus the processing of these stimuli is performed in the neural neighborhood where emotions and long-term memory are processed.  Scent stimuli responses are already in the right place for incorporation into the long term memory.  Since emotions are processed in the limbic system the long term memories are just as emotional as they are smelly. 

The limbic system is also called the paleomammalian brain.  This is an old (evolutionarily speaking) portion of the brain that interacts less efficiently (though much better than the reptilian cerebellum) with the reasoning lobes that make up so much of the brain's mass.  Direct responses by this portion of the brain are more reactionary than measured.  For this reason love can sometimes feel traumatic.

In fact the limbic system also regulates response to more classically defined traumatic stimuli.  In PTSD (it is mostly theorized) the limbic system's response to trauma is a release of hormones that causes widespread permanent "wiring" changes in the brain.  The universally anecdotal evidence is that love can also trigger the same traumatic stimulus response hormones and cause permanent "wiring" changes in the brain.  Some of these changes are the development of long-term memories.  Others will modulate behavior, perception, and even future limbic-mediated traumatic stimulus responses. 

There is, with VDay type love, a potential way to quickly and permanently affect the brain.  Being able to apply this tool might be exciting and very worthwhile.

So at least VDay-type love can be described as traumatic and smelly (in a good way).

No comments: