For anyone who is in love, has ever been in love, or wants to love, Helen Fisher’s Why We Love is a fascinating and eye-opening examination of the forces behind passion, attraction, lust and romance. From the chemical reactions of love at first sight to the adrenaline rush of forbidden lust to the warm and comfy-cozy feelings of finding The One, this book presents the reader with a comprehensive and thoughtful glimpse into the neurophysiological aspects of what happens to the brain, and the body, when we are in the throes of a love affair.
Using original research, world literature, global cultural behavior studies, psychological data and personal stories from men and women in the various stages of love, Why We Love takes the reader on a tour of the science and art of love from its powerful effects on the brain and the chemicals and hormones in our bodies, to its predictable patterns of behavior as it advances through the stages of first love, courtship, sexual passion, real love and enduring love.
We learn why we fall in love in the first place, why we choose who we choose to fall in love with, why men and women differ in their choices and how the brain has more to do with those differences than cultural patterns, why jealousy and rage often follow blinding passion, why romantic passion is “hardwired” into parts of our brains, why all animals display the ability to fall in love, and lots of other “whys” including why some forms of love last and others do not.
Fisher, author of other love-related books as The First Sex and The Anatomy of Love offers much of her own research with people on the verge of major love affairs, and even includes in the appendix her own “Being In Love” questionnaire for the reader to take. She writes with humor, warmth and openness about a subject that nobody can resist, and her ability to present her information in terms the reader can not only understand, but be fascinated by, makes this book a pleasure to read.
The most intriguing stuff, of course, is the chapter on the chemistry of love, and how the various stages of love are echoed in the various brain chemicals that take their turns assaulting the body and creating such feelings of euphoria, need, lust, warmth, comfort, security and even rage and jealousy. Surprise, surprise – all of this is directly related to our ability to procreate and survive as a species, meaning that love is not as mysterious as we think it is, once we begin to understand its physical origins and manifestations. Funny how we’ve always associated the heart with the originator of love, but this book makes it clear that our brains are the culprits with their secretions of dopamine, norepinephrine, testosterone, et al, all of which serve to make us swoon.
I also enjoyed the excerpts from ancient and modern literature that the author uses as examples of the various forms of love she is writing about. Seems we’ve been suffering from love and for love from the beginning of time! In fact, as Fisher points out over and over again, we are biologically programmed to love, and to love hard. Also amazing is the chapter on animal love and the many examples from nature that show that we humans do not have a lock on romance. In fact, many animal species display the same types of courtship and romantic behaviors, including flirting, jealousy, monogamy, adultery, and lust as humans do.
After reading this truly informative and highly entertaining book, you will see love in a new light and understand why you act the way you do when you spot that person that makes your heart go flippity-flop. Not that it will make much difference, though, because for anyone who has ever been immersed in a passionate love affair, understanding, reason and common sense go right out the window.
Even that, the author tells us, is part of the program.