Monthly Archives: July 2007

Your Brain on Love

by Stacey

As far as your brain is concerned, falling in love is a lot like being addicted to drugs only without the worry of getting arrested or running out of cash. According to this LA Times story, the harder you fall the more likely you are to experience sleeplessness, loss of appetite, a rush of euphoria, and a willingness to do incredibly stupid things to get more action.

So far scientists have discovered that a combination of certain of neural systems, chemical messengers, and life experiences together to set the process in motion from initial attraction to passionate love and finally to longterm companionship.

For starters, initial attraction between two people often occurs in situations in which people are aroused, either by fear, anxiety, or even laughter. “It’s pretty simple,” says relationship researcher Arthur Aron, psychologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. “You’re feeling physiologically aroused, and it’s ambiguous why. Then you see an attractive person, and you think, ‘Oh, that’s why.'”

Mutual attraction itself isn’t so rare. People often glom onto each other for the sketchiest of reasons and later wonder what the hell they were thinking. In order to get to passionate love the brain needs to really kick into gear, and that researchers are finding, requires a part of the brain called the limbic system. According to the article, the limbic system is “nestled deep within the brain between the neocortex (the region responsible for reason and intellect) and the reptilian brain (responsible for primitive instincts).”

Studies of people in passionate love using fMRI, which is brain imaging technology, show “activity in the ventral tegmental area and other regions of the brain’s reward system associated with motivation, elation and focused attention,” says Helen Fisher, evolutionary anthropologist at Rutgers University who studies human attraction.

“It’s the same part of the brain that presumably is active when a smoker reaches for a cigarette or when gamblers think they’re going to win the lottery,” the article says. “No wonder it’s as hard to say no to the feeling of romantic arousal as it would be to say no to a windfall in the millions. The brain has seen what it wants, and it’s going to get it.”

Once this part of the brain gets activated, a flood of feel-good chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin go racing to the nucleus accubens. And that’s when the cravings begin.

Biologically, the cravings and pleasure unleashed are as strong as any drug. Surely such a goal is worth taking risks for, and other alterations in the brain help ensure that the lovelorn will do just that. Certain regions, scientists have found, are being deactivated, such as within the amygdala, associated with fear. “That’s why you can do such insane things when you’re in love,” Fisher says. “You would never otherwise dream of driving across the country in 13 hours, but for love, you would.”

Sooner or later, excited brain messages reach the caudate nucleus, a dopamine-rich area where unconscious habits and skills, such as the ability to ride a bike, are stored. The attraction signal turns the love object into a habit, and then an obsession.

This explains a lot. Remember that time you hid out on the street corner just to see if he really was out with his friends? Or the energy you spent staring at the phone willing yourself not to call again? At the time you wondered what happened to your dignity. Well, now you know. Sing it with me!

You can’t sleep, you can’t eat
There’s no doubt, you’re in deep
Your throat is tight, you can’t breathe
Another kiss is all you need
Whoa, you like to think that you’re immune to the stuff, oh yeah
It’s closer to the truth to say you can’t get enough
You know you’re gonna have to face it, you’re addicted to love

Music fades out. Unlike drugs, recovery from love addiction in the brain is relatively painless. If the relationship lasts, after about two to four years the urgency subsides and the mingling of the mundane takes over. People feel stable and committed and they have their wits about them once again. I guess that’s where I’m at in life. I basically have my wits although sometimes I get a bit wistful remembering the time when my wits were gone and I was willing to drive across the country in half a day to see my beloved.

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Filed under addicted to love, addiction, brain, drugs, falling in love, life, love, love research, marriage, psychology, relationships, Robert Palmer, sex

The Open Post

Whew! We just said goodbye to my parents who were visiting for five days. It was a great visit. Lots of eating. Some shopping. And plenty of playing with the kids. We live so far from our families. It is great to see our kids bonding with their grandparents and really enjoying their company.

But now back to the business of Fussbucket. I hope you all had an excellent weekend. Feel free to write in with any thoughts or questions you’re having on life these days. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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Snap Happy

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by Stacey

A couple of weeks ago Sage found an old plastic Kodac camera we had lying around and asked if he could take some pictures. Sure, I said, thinking we’d probably never get the roll developed. I don’t know where the camera came from or what’s on it. He went around snapping away until the thing ran out of film.

Then he asked for the digital one. I refused. He persisted. I finally gave in with strict instructions not to drop it. It turned out to be an interesting window into his visual world.

Take for example, this photo of the back of our house. I love the angles.

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Or this one we like to call, Bucket in Front of Shade Tent.

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He also took some action shots of the family. I’ll spare you the ones of me and my husband. I had no idea we were so unattractive. But this one of Sasha bonking himself in the face with a little ball had to be shared.

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This reminded me of a hilarious site a friend sent to me recently. The pictures are taken by a camera attached to the collar of a cat called Mr. Lee. It’s worth checking out.

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Julia Roberts Isn’t Perfect

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[photo: Babyrazzi]

Note: I found this post on Babble.com’s Famecrawler. It was written by “sweatpantsmom.” I couldn’t have done better.

Hear that? It’s the sound of Julia Roberts’ new baby, Henry yelling, “Hey! Lemme outta here!” Henry was born a few weeks ago, but all we’ve seen of him is his little hand waving from behind Roberts’ massive sling. I think he might have been trying to flag down a passing cop to set him free.

It’s been in the 90’s here in L.A., so I know poor Henry’s got to be roasting in there. Even Julia’s daughter, Hazel looks a little concerned. Not sure who the other woman is, but she’s obviously not helping. She’s probably late for her ‘Grease’ audition.

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Expecting the Unexpected

by Stacey

Two recent research reviews found that women who have a doula, midwife, or supportive family member with them during labor are more likely to have a shorter labor, less likely to use pain medication, and feel more satisfaction with their birth experience than women who receive regular hospital care. In addition, women who practice “kangaroo care,” that is skin-to-skin snuggling with their newborns, directly after birth are more successful early on at breastfeeding, compared to births where the newborns are taken away to be swaddled or washed.

The reviews are published in The Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that reviews medical research. Cochrane reviews are highly respected in the medical community.

Before I had kids I would have been very pleased to hear such results. I would have stashed away the knowledge for a future pregnancy during which I would have let my doctor/midwife/doula/husband know that medical science has determined that this is the best way to give birth and so this is the way it must be.

But now that I have two labors under my belt I know that childbirth doesn’t quite work that way. In my own experience I ended up having two unplanned C-sections because for some mysterious reason I grow ginormous babies that would never fit through my pelvis. Believe me, I tried. Both times. Na-uh. Baby not coming out.

With both kids that meant no kangaroo care for me either. Both have breastfed just fine. As for my satisfaction: Yes, I would rather not have had surgery twice, in the same spot. But what can you do? At least I’m alive and my babies made it out all right. It was essential that my husband was there with me. I can’t imagine how it would have felt to go through that without him.

Given the experiences I had, I’m wondering what would it have meant to me if I had read about these reviews before I had kids? That is, what if I held the idea that unless my newborn was placed immediately on my chest, the chances were good we would not be successful at breastfeeding? Would this information have been useful to me or created more anxiety? I think you know where this is headed.

My point is, the information itself isn’t bad. It’s good to know what the best case scenario might be. Plenty of women have uncomplicated labors and are able to have their baby placed on their chest before it is cleaned and measured and tested for its Apgar bragging rights. It sounds lovely, well messy actually, but the emotions of the moment would trump that I’m sure. It would have been really cool to experience that.

I guess my wish would be for information like this to be presented to women as a preference, not a necessity. Before we had our second son, my husband and I went to a birthing class for couples who had a C-section the first time around. At the start of the class, the teacher had us go around the room and tell our birth stories. Many of the couples – there were about seven – were really sad about the way their first labor had gone. There were a lot of tears and anger. What I saw were people who had a specific idea about how labor was supposed to go and when it didn’t go that way, they were really upset about it. Seems like a shame. Maybe we’d serve ourselves better if we prepared for the unexpected, hoped for the best, and waited to see what Mother Nature and medical science had in store.

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Filed under baby, birth, birthing classes, birthing plan, breastfeeding, childbirth, family life, labor, life, love, marriage, mothers, parenting, pregnancy

Telling It Like It Is

by Stacey

My Couch, Seattle — On this eve of another Democratic presidential debate I am thinking about how difficult it is to know what candidates really think. It all seems like so much spin. Not only are words parsed and packaged, even clothes are strategically selected. Frankly, it’s boring to listen to them.

Maybe that’s why I’m suddenly so charmed by Elizabeth Edwards. In recent weeks she’s come out in favor of gay marriage and gone head to head with Ann Coulter. Last week, she had words to say about the Democratic frontrunner and fellow female power lawyer, Hillary Clinton. All this, without a hoot of concern about what the polls would say or how it will play in Peoria. How refreshing.

Recently she’s spoken out in favor of gay marriage, a position I wholeheartedly agree with. In a recent Q&A with Salon.com, Mrs. Edwards had this to say:

I remember hearing [former GOP Sen. Rick] Santorum ranting about how homosexual marriage threatens heterosexual marriage. I could be wrong, but I think heterosexual marriage is threatened more by heterosexuals. I don’t know why gay marriage challenges my marriage in any way.

Right. Too bad she isn’t running for president. Her handsome husband prefers civil unions which she attributes to his Southern Baptist upbringing. This doesn’t fly with me. He was raised a bigot so we should understand that he can’t quite get over it? I don’t think so. But otherwise on this issue, she’s dead on.

I was raised a Methodist in military churches. Poverty was talked about; I don’t remember homosexuality ever being mentioned. And I don’t think that Christians who aren’t engaged in a political campaign ever talk about it. They talk about poverty and other issues talked about in the Bible. But in churches, in political season, there’s plenty of ginning up this issue.

Onto awful Ann Coulter, a person truly not worth mentioning because the more she gets mentioned the more money she makes which is clearly all she wants so we should all just turn our backs and pretend she isn’t there. But she is and boy is she nasty. About John Edwards alone she has publicly called him a “faggot” and has accused him of using his teenage son’s death to political advantage.

In this video, Mrs. Edwards confronts Coulter on Chris Matthews’ show “Hardball.”

Here’s Mrs. Edwards’ best moment. Thanks to Thinkprogress.org for the transcript.
E: You had a column several years ago which made fun of the moment of Charlie Dean’s death and suggested that my husband had a bumper sticker on the back of his car saying, “Ask me about my dead son.” This is not legitimate political dialogue.

C: This is now three years ago.

E: It debases political dialogue. It drives people away from the process. We can’t have a debate about the issues.

C: Yeah, why isn’t John Edwards making this call?

M: Well, do you want to respond? We’ll end the conversation.

E: I haven’t talked to John about this call. I’m making the call as a mother. I’m the mother of that boy who died. My children participate — these young people behind you are the age of my children. You’re asking them to participate in a dialogue that is based on hatefulness and ugliness instead of on the issues, and I don’t think that’s serving them or this country very well.

[Applause]

Afterwards, Mrs. Edwards had this to say about the confrontation:

Later on, I talked to somebody, not an advisor — I really don’t have anybody advising me — and not someone in the campaign. She’d been in a previous campaign, and she said, “Oh, I wouldn’t have done that. I think that you put yourself at risk, subject to criticism unnecessarily.” I understand the advice — if you were advising somebody you might say that — but that exact attitude is what protects somebody like Ann Coulter. Nobody wants to jump in the mud puddle with her.

And you know, in some ways I’d like to continue what I started, just hammer home the unacceptability of Ann Coulter and what she’s doing to the dialogue. I’d like to follow her around and harass her. Maybe Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh too. But then I become what I’m trying to fight — I think it’s counterproductive.

This is good stuff. I like this lady.

Finally, on the topic of Hillary, Mrs. Edwards told Salon she thought Clinton wasn’t enough of an advocate for women.

Look, I’m sympathetic, because when I worked as a lawyer, I was the only woman in these rooms, too, and you want to reassure them you’re as good as a man. And sometimes you feel you have to behave as a man and not talk about women’s issues. I’m sympathetic — she wants to be commander in chief. But she’s just not as vocal a women’s advocate as I want to see.

She thinks Clinton is not firm enough on healthcare or abortion rights, although on the latter I find it hard to worry that Hillary won’t protect a woman’s right to choose.

Earlier this year, Mrs. Edwards learned that the cancer she had been treated for in 2004 has returned and spread. Her prognosis is uncertain. In addition, she has lost a child. Maybe with all of that comes the will to be brutally honest. Why not? The woman has been through the worst. She can weather the rest.

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Filed under Ann Coulter, celebrity, Elizabeth Edwards, Hardball, media, mothers, politics, television, work

The Open Post

I hope you all enjoyed the weekend. We had rain, rain, and more rain here in Seattle. This came as a surprise to me. I thought it rained all winter and then in the summer it was blue skies, hot days, and cools nights. Basically perfect. That was the deal. Bad winters, good summers. This rain in the summertime is good for the our poor dried out grass, but it’s a bummer for us still soggy people. I hope the sun comes back this week.

My parents are coming to town in a few days. Fun to have the grandparents visiting. And then we will travel later in the summer to visit my husband’s family. It’s great getting the kids together with their extended family. How about you all? Any fun trips coming up? What else is new?

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