Love, from Triune Brain Perspective

Before I started my writing (and you reading this), please bear in mind that I am trying my best to analyze this with self taught psychology theorems (I read books and journals). So, if anyone feel that this writing is wrong somewhere in the middle, please feel free to correct me.

For years scientists from many branches of science trying to reveal what actually love is. What drives human to choose someone to be loved. Neuroscience, psychology believe that this decision comes from our brain.

There are several words for someone who is loved: mate, lover, companion, significant other. I never ceased to wonder that there might be something behind these terms. As someone who learn about Biology and Education (which is one branch of applied psychology) brain division might able to shed some light to this (aside from semantic, of course).

Scientist divides Human brain into 3 parts: Reptilian Brain, Limbic System, and Neo-cortex. It is believed that each of them responsible for particular activities in human. And by that it might also see love from different point of view according to each brains’ specifications.

Reptilian brain responsible for Human’s vital activities related to survival. It includes regulation of sleeping, eating, marking territories, and of course, mating.

When it comes to mating, reptilian brains has its own specification for the right mate: the possibilities to produce offspring. In animal, such as crocodile, they might choose healthy female crocodile to be the mother of its offspring instead of the defective one. In human, men tend to choose woman who has promising future from her body shape, maybe hip size ratio (that unconsciously become indication for healthy woman who can produce offspring).

But we never saw affection, compassion between mother-snake to her child. Instead, we found it to other group of animals. It is normal to see a cat or goat feed on its child, or a chimp who take care of its child. This act of altruism showed in mammals. Researches suggest that this kind of feeling is controlled by the other parts of the brain that wasn’t found in reptiles (reptiles doesn’t show altruism). It is called the mammal brain or the limbic system.

The last part and the most advanced part of the brain is called the Neo-Cortex. It’s the biggest part of the human brain which controls cognitive ability, such as thinking, speculating and analyzing. This part of the brain is what makes humans and other animals different in many aspect of life. We never saw hamster discussed before they eat thing or bear make a hearing in congress about global warming.

While at some rare occasion human choose their partner by feelings–which I believe under limbic system responsibility– it is more often to see that humans tend to settle with someone based on calculated qualities and circumstances. For example: life prosperity, lineage, religions and other social-economic attributes  (at least in Indonesia). All that born from Neo-cortex activities.

Then in the end, doesn’t it make us wonder, what would make us real human when it comes to choosing mate/ lover/life partner? Which brain that we use when it comes to make this decision? To distinguish between brains and decision, I use these three words: 1) mate: reptile brain; 2) lover: mammal brain; 3) life partner: human brain.

1. Mate (reptile brain) : when the decision to settle based on physical qualities and possibility of healthy offspring. Sometimes it influence human unconsciously. For relationship that started from this condition, mostly people will said things like ‘love at the first sight’ etc.

2. Lover (mammal brain): when the decision to settle based on feelings. Romantically, people cannot explain their reason and simply say it as ‘indescribable’. Neurobiologically, scientist will explain about chemical reaction in nervous system that affects human emotional behavior.

3. Life Partner (human brain): when the decision to settle based on calculative speculation regarding social-economy aspects. Is this person economically prosper (or ‘rich’? :D)? Is this woman pious? She is the one because she’s also from Dayak family. Sometimes, not only one aspect, but many aspects or CRITERIAs. These kind of people sometimes labeled as being too logical, or worse, too opportunistic (because mostly people tend to choose things that best for their own benefit).

Well, which one is considered to be human enough? Which one is what we actually do? All choices has their own positive and negative aspects. After all these explanation, I disagree with people who blame others’ settlement decision backgrounds (example, someone who give advice or comments like ‘It is not to be think of, but to be feel,’ or, ‘you only fall for him because of physical appearance’). But if we look at brain development process, then to be human means to use Neo-cortex on settlement decision, since it is the most advanced brain than others. Not that I’m telling anyone it is the best way (and instrument) to settle down.

But not to ignore the reality, maybe people doesn’t only feel one brain activities. People might also feel process that involve all parts of brain. From many references and people experiences, there is also case like this: Let’s say, a man fall in love at the first sight, and after some times, physical appearance doesn’t matter/isn’t the reason anymore and he feels the ‘indescribable’ feelings (so much for Aladdin song) that makes him stay on the relationship longer. But the spark then dies. Some couple may break up because they couldn’t feel ‘it’ anymore. This due to brain build up resistance to repeated chemical stimuli. But some people finally use their neo-cortex to stay together. To be wise and thoughtful then continue their relationship as long as they could.

I don’t know what true love is, and I didn’t say that the example above is the one. But one thing that we can tell for sure that if someone actually come to this kind of relationship, then they used their brain fully.


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