December 27, 2013
Head? Heart? Hormones? Which leads the way in your relationship-seeking and why they must work together to find love.
I hope everyone has experienced the heart in love. Love from the heart is the wild, exciting state of being thrilled at the prospect of a match between you and another person – together, seeing nothing but the beautiful and exceptional in each other.
The heart leading the way will lead you to reach ecstatic heights. The heart in love will claim that real love must give all and everything, no matter what the price, no matter what the end, no matter what the consequence.
We say ‘love is blind’ and it often causes us to ignore self-destructive warning signals, because of the emotion and passion that feeds our ego – that someone can know us and still love us. We all long and hope that the beauty we see in another person can become part of us, and that joining together with that person would be lasting, even eternal.
Love, when controlled by the heart, means looking fixedly at each other. In a newly started relationship, the infatuation is hard to control. But over time, maybe months, possibly even years, staring at each other can become stifling and uninteresting, and it leaves no room for others or for the richness of the world to become part of the relationship. It is only when looking outward together, and taking the journey together as an adventure, an exciting journey in which the whole world is available, that love is demonstrated.
Hormones are messengers that cause your body, your organs to respond. The adrenaline of hunting, and the capture – the sexual climax – it is exhilarating, powerful and addictive. Hormones message and sometimes condition the other two, heart and head to misinterpret reality. If the heart races, or knees go weak, we have knots in our stomach, or if we are light-headed, we can believe it is love. In sex, and in orgasm, the complicated dance of hormones flood our physiological system touching our brain and heart declaring it is love. Touch, body contact, the orgasm can be mistaken for love.
Once the encounter is over, the drive for another hit, another fix on the road to addiction often begins. When hormones lead the way it leads to the emptiness where there is no depth of heart or love. Some are doomed to this addiction and never commit in love, or tragically, believe that this is love. Some maintain the form of a love relationship, in marriage or commitment, but compulsively seek to satisfy this addiction.
The head is rational, it is the logical list-maker that checks off pros and cons, that tries to anticipate warnings and problems because it constantly references its library of experiences. It recalls the past with scrutiny to judge whether the budding relationship is safe, determining its level of risk – on target in process, or in need of more information.
The head can be so rational and so busy calculating, thinking, reacting, then overthinking and overreacting, and planning for every contingency, that the heart is paralyzed, guarded, tenuous, and joyless. The head creates a ponderous map of every step that leaves no room for joy, serendipity or adventure, and no room for mountaintops where you see and feel that all the world is yours and for your new love.
The head alone leading the way will keep you from pain, but it will also keep you from joy. Always divining, always adjusting, always discerning and trying to control the heart and the hormones from behavior that it has learned leads to pain, emotional suffering and isolation. The pain leads the head to say no to any more attempts for self-protection and preservation. In this instance, when the head takes over, it leads and works to exclude all possibility of adversity, concluding that no risk, and no pain is best, that each attempt only brings greater and deeper pain. But sadly, while there is no pain, there is also no chance for the ecstasy of love.
Not a Balancing Act
We might be tempted to think these are equals to be delicately balanced in the middle so that no one takes precedence, but it is much more complicated. Each aspect of head, heart and hormones leads and/or follows – they intricately interact uniquely for each individual as result of experiences, past learning, current situations, and hopes for the future. This unique and dynamic mix of head, heart and hormones fluctuates multi-dimensionally, and is heavily influenced by examples of love as we have experienced (or importantly, as we have failed to experience) it in our lives. Our best or worst examples are those who raised us, often parents, older siblings or caregivers. As a result we skew to one over the other and we must, through experience, develop our own unique mix of interaction between the head, heart and hormones.
My good friend, a “heart” man, always gave. He gave in ways that many of us, his friends (in our heads) knew was extreme, and ultimately destructive. The giving led to an unhealthy and repeated dynamic with each new potential partner. The generous unquestioned giving led the other person to always expect, and then always take, which in turn caused loss of respect for my friend. It made it easy to take advantage of my friend, and eventually reject him. Unfortunately, he never learned, and was caught each time in the same tragic cycle. In each subsequent attempt at love, the hope and exhilaration was greater, but the pain at rejection was also greater, deeper, darker. At one point the pain was so great, the head said no more, no more attempts, the pain is too much, and he declared that love is not possible. Sadly, the goodness and love this man might have shared with another was lost forever.
In love and relationship, seek someone who is an equal, or at least a peer, who gives, who takes, who knows who you are and despite your failings and your idiosyncracies choses to be with you. A partner in love must also be and do the same.
Head, heart and hormones, these three are not equals, nor mutually exclusive. Awareness of this complex interaction can lead to the heights of happiness. But when one leads and goes beyond without modulation from the other two, sad things happen – life and its full emotional potential is stifled, unhealthy or even lost forever.