Attempting To Un­derstand Love and the Mechanisms Leading To Happiness

Attempting To Un­derstand Love and the Mechanisms Leading To Happiness

We all have hopes, dreams, and desires that inspire our lives. Ultimately, we have to find purpose in our existence as well as comfort with who we are and where we are going. We all strive to attain happiness in life.

If we agree on this common goal, we may ask our­selves how we can reliably achieve it. We recognize that love is a key factor in realizing happiness, yet we are drawn toward all kinds of endeavors in life except a sys­tematic exploration of the nature of love. Some regard love as inherently elusive.

From a pragmatic point of view, attempting to un­derstand love and the mechanisms leading to happiness is likely to increase our chance of success. Any attempt to understand a phenomenon must start with defining or at least describing it.

In the English language, the word love has different meanings depending on the context, adding to the confusion in our ideas of love. In the context of relationships, a unifying concept of love emerges once we identify and distinguish other emotions that we associate with love.

Central to this concept is the distinction between love and relationships. The common denominator of roman­tic and non-romantic love is the urge and continuous effort for the happiness and well-being of somebody. In contrast to non-romantic relationships, we may experience passion and sexual attraction with romantic bonds, but the force we identify as love is the same in both types of relation­ship. Not only does neuroscience support this concept, but it also helps us understand the dynamics of romantic and non-romantic relationships, including the confusion about love’s selfless character. Love itself — as the phe­nomenon — is always selfless, while relationships com­monly require reciprocity.

Love and the Perception of Happiness

To understand how love is implicated in the percep­tion of happiness, we need to appreciate our physiology and the context in which love develops. Love is one of many drives that motivate our actions and thoughts. Be­cause of its significance for ourselves and our species, focusing on love brings lasting neurochemical and emo­tional rewards, whereas other drives are linked only to short-term satisfaction, often followed by remorse. Yet many of these other drives are powerful, and we perpetu­ally seek their gratification.

Unlike animals, human beings are able to consciously choose among the drives we want to follow. Thus, we are in control of our love and happiness: they are indeed choices. Unfortunately, to attain such control is difficult because most of us are unaware of our drives and their influence on our mind.

Furthermore, because we typi­cally assert little control of our impulses while growing up, it can be difficult to learn how to do it later in life. Ide­ally, we should help our children develop awareness and control over their drives — that is, teach them the art of love — at a young age.

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Religion's Preoccupation with Love

Disentangling love from religion is a challenging task. Is religion preoccupied with love because love is divine or because it values love as an essential force of human existence (but does not recognize its biological nature)? Both views can be supported, and, of course, bi­ology itself can also be viewed as divine or God-given.

Theists and atheists alike may benefit from focusing on the practice of love rather than arguing for the correct­ness of their hypotheses. While love cannot explain the purpose of all life, it can provide guidance for purpose­ful living. With or without the structure of religion, love provides answers for a happy, fulfilled life.

The Consequences of a Lack of Love

Lack of love damages not only personal relation­ships but all human interactions, particularly at the level of societal and world affairs. Almost everyone wants to live happily and peacefully. Those who are antagonistic toward others — reflecting their ignorance of our bio­logical imperatives — harm not only those around them but also themselves. It is our confusion over the many impulses we experience that prevents us from enjoying greater unity.

We all face choices among the many drives acting upon us every minute of our lives — most of which we are unaware of. In our quest for happiness in life, we steer our ship through all weather, alongside sirens and sea monsters.

The journey is not a sheer pleasure cruise for any of us. Sometimes the sea is calm, and we can enjoy a beautiful ride. Other times we have to find our way through darkness and storms. Many great thinkers and spiritual leaders have built lighthouses along our way, and their beams illuminate the course: be wary of temp­tations to serve ourselves, and follow the light of love.

©2017 by Armin A. Zadeh. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
New World Library.

Article Source

The Forgotten Art of Love: What Love Means and Why It Matters
by Armin A. Zadeh MD PhD

The Forgotten Art of Love: What Love Means and Why It Matters by Armin A. Zadeh MD PhDThis unique and wide-ranging book looks at love’s crucial role in every aspect of human existence, exploring what love has to do with sex, spirituality, society, and the meaning of life; different kinds of love (for our children, for our neighbors); and whether love is a matter of luck or an art that can be mastered. Dr. Zadeh provides a fascinating, empowering guide to enhancing relationships and happiness — concluding with a provocative vision for firmly anchoring love in our society.

Click here for more info and/or to order this book:

About the Author

Armin A. Zadeh, MD, PhD, MPHArmin A. Zadeh, MD, PhD, MPH, is a cardiologist and professor at Johns Hopkins University. He has authored more than one hundred scientific articles and is an editor of scholarly books in medicine. The art of medicine requires insights from various disciplines, including biology, psychology, physics, chemistry, and also philosophy. Drawing from his background and experience, Dr. Zadeh has used his skills in the analysis and synthesis of complex data to formulate new concepts and hypotheses on love and to develop a framework to understand — and master — love. Learn more at

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