Issue - January 2008



January 2008
Editorial

In this issue, Ross Eventon gives a different perspective about love in Addicted to love and other Chemicals, Walter Sanchez brings to us Yanaqawa: the Sacred Mountain, and finally Mel Stern explores families in Projects Abroad Bolivia and their relation with volunteers abroad.

read more...

January 2008

Addicted to Love and Other Chemicals

Let’s say, for example, you meet someone in a night-club, you like each-other and decide to go out . . . .

Ross Eventon
Cardiff - United Kingdom

This person is beautiful, intelligent, funny etc. Everything you have ever wanted in a partner. Being with them makes you feel good, firstly because someone has finally realised just how excellent you are, but also because they make you feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, of relief at Addicted to Love and Other Chemicals finding someone, validating what you thought about yourself all along. You become more confident when you are with them, you find that you are a happier person in general and have a better outlook on your future. Then, one fateful night, you come home to find them with the local

gym instructor who they had sworn were “just friends.” You are crushed. The feelings of desolation, loneliness and depression are unlike anything you have experienced before. You become angry and bitter, you stop going out as much and prefer to spend time inside, meditating on where it all went wrong and plotting to murder the gym instructor while he’s using the bench press. According to one school of thought, you may not be suffering because you miss this person, but because you miss the way they make you feel. And in this case, according to recent studies the “way they make you feel” translates as “the chemicals your brain releases when you are together.” So the news is not all bad, youhe he may not be missing them as much as you thought.... you are, however, a drug addict. Those chemicals, that had made your heart jump when you first saw him/her, and caused your pulse to race and hands to sweat in his/ her presence, are no longer being pumped around your head, and you miss them a lot. That feeling of rejection is not because of the other person, but is due to an internal conflict, a yearning, not for their company, but for one more hit of the chemicals they caused to release. This is the same way addiction to recreational drugs occurs, the body becomes accustomed and starts to crave them when they are no longer available.

Study has shown that the chemical Oxytocin is released when we are “In Love” with someone. The hormone that facilitates the release of Oxytocin is Dopamine. Being with that person causes the release of Dopamine into the brain, as does thinking about them. This would explain why people enjoy being with and remembering experiences about their significant other, and also why we torture ourselves with memories after a break up. Another important character in this tragedy is the chemical Phenylethylamine, the chemical associated with the feeling of bliss experienced when you are with your partner. This is suspected as being the main culprit in the craving we feel to be with that person again. The point being that we want more Phenylethylamine, and the fastest way to get it is to be back together with that special someone. The study went on to examine people with less Oxytocin receptors or a reduced ability to produce Dopamine. These people were found to have much more difficulty retaining long term relations; it just didn’t feel the same to them.

But it may not be all grim news, the idea that emotions are entirely chemical has far reaching implications, especially for the level of control we can exert over them. We know that the brain is a muscle, so just as going to the gym will exercise your arms, causing them to grow over time and making lifting weights easier, so exercising your brain in a certain way will improve its capacity and ability in that area. But the school of thought here takes that theory past cognitive skills such as memory recall and mathematics to incorporate actual emotions. The idea is that if the brain does something often, the muscle becomes more proficient at this task, so that it is easier to do in the future. Similarly, areas of the brain not exercised often will become a bit rusty and, when needed, will not be so easy to activate. This is pretty intuitive stuff. Exercising your memory will make you better at recalling things; never using your brain to solve mathematical equations will ultimately cause you to be less proficient at maths, even if you swear “I was good at this in high school!” But this could also carry across to emotions, like love, happiness or even depression. Being depressed will exercise the relevant neurotransmitters in your brain that stimulate the creation of the chemicals that cause this feeling, and the more often it happens, the better you will become at being depressed. Similarly, not being happy for long spells will make it more difficult to be happy in the future. More worrying is the implication that people can become addicted to the chemicals released when they are depressed, and the whole thing becomes a self deprecating circle of nights in and reruns of “Friends.” This does seem to hold true in real life, my optimistic friends do seem to be annoyingly happy all the time, where as the more negative among them seem to be happiest at 3am after 11 beers.

The suggestion is ultimately that the brain is just another muscle you can train to use in a more positive way. Just as you can study maths or science and become better at them, you can also become better at having certain emotions. So the solution is easy, practice being happy and, before you know it, being happy will be a breeze, occurring with less and less effort every-time. Soon that gym-instructor-loving-two-timer will be a distant memory, and you’ll find another who pushes all the right buttons...or neurotransmitters. Think positive thoughts and try to dismiss negative ones because, in the words of writer Milan Kundera, “Optimism is the opium of the people.”

YANAQAWA:
THE SACRED MOUNTAIN

It is a huge mountain with a plateau on top of approximately 5 hectares (approx. 12 acres), at 3,300 m.s.n.m.. Here, the Campesinos grow potato, wheat and barley. From this mountain, you can view a sea of endless mountains that extend

read more ...

Archive Issues

2007 | 2008 | 2009