Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Generous Chemicals

Sharon Wildwind

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the phenomena where a vaguely familiar word suddenly surfaces and won’t go away. My current everywhere-word is amygdala. Amygdalae are two almond-shaped structures buried deep in our brain.

What led me to amygdala were several fascinating articles on the chemistry of love versus the chemistry of like.

Being good little mammals, our brains are chemically-wired to find a mate, conceive offspring, raise them, and then find another mate. It’s better for the survival of a species to have different genetic mix for each litter.

The problem are
A) raising human offspring takes decades
B) society has built a lot of legal, religious, financial, and emotional barriers around taking a new mate every few months
C) you just might like the guy/gal you’re with and thrill in the thought of a long-term relationship.

Coming together simultaneously produces two different sets of brain chemicals. One says “Wow!” One says, “Go away; leave me alone; I’m furious at you; and I never want to see you again.” Unfortunately, the "wow" chemicals last under an hour and the “go away, etc.” chemicals last for about two weeks, particularly in women. A surprising number of people report feelings of intense anger, even rage, after an intimate experience.

Fortunately those glorious little amygdalae are wired to produce a third set of chemicals in response to what are called generous behaviors. Nuturing creates comfort and safety, and the bonding chemicals can help sustain a relationship indefinitely, but you have to do the behaviors that produce them frequently. Every day is best, even if it is only for a single minute. The more generous behaviors you do, the more sensitive your brain becomes to their positive effects.

This is a family blog, so I’m not going to get into a complete list of the behaviors that produce bonding chemicals, but if you’re interested, check out this article. Scroll down a little ways from the top of the article to find the list.

Here are some suitable-for-general-viewing items on that list:
• Smile while making eye contact
• Provide a treat without being asked
• Give unsolicited approval, via smiles or compliments
• Gaze into each other's eyes
• Listen intently, and restate what you hear
• Forgive or overlook an error or thoughtless remark, past or present
• Synchronize breathing
• Hug with intent to comfort
• Quietly share the same space

Mmm, I wonder if these same techniques would work with agents and editors? It’s worth thinking about.

Quote for the week:
There's no tab. And there's no price for what we give each other. Not ever. ~Ricardo Carlos Manoso (AKA: Ranger)


David Cranmer said...

Now I'm betting I will see Amygdalae everywhere. But now I'll know what it means. Thanks. Great post.

Sheila Connolly said...

Hmm--hug an agent?

And that synchronized breathing thing could be a problem. My husband breathes twice as fast as I do, literally. I've counted. This does not bode well for a long-term relationship (uh, thirty-four years this week).

"Obfuscate" was my everywhere word. I once used it in a draft of a book, and some beta readers complained. Of course, after that it was all over the place.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Sheila, with the right agent it could work.

Maybe you and your husband have a natural 2:1 ratio.

Hi, David. If you're seeing amygdalae everywhere, the only way to get rid of it is to find another word to pop up anywhere.