Basic Instincts

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

In her Chasing Cars blog yesterday, JMathis described how we as women often spend much of our lives chasing things, approval, and especially love. And sometimes the more it passes us by, the more we seem to yearn it. Why is that?

While men are characteristically the “hunters,” I think women are no less programmed with that predatory, hunting instinct. Don’t believe me? Think about the last time you were at a major Macy’s Shoe Sale…or the last time you were at the mall during holiday season…or the last time you were at a wedding with plenty of other twenty-something women and few available single men. Think about the term “Cougars.”

And why is it Mr. Unavailable is so much more appealing to us than Mr. Nice Guy? Is it because Mr. Unavailable is running away from us and therefore, bringing out our base human instinct to pursue?

Perhaps in the end, as much as we think we women have evolved as a society, we are still no better than the “Me Tarzan, You Jane” biology that men use to excuse their sometimes archaic, caveman behavior.

 Or maybe it’s even more complicated than that.

Do you recall the first time you fell in love? Do you remember how your heart soared, how your feet felt light, how your hands felt clammy, and how your stomach felt like it was about to regurgitate your last meal? Wasn’t it the most amazing feeling?

I remember the first time I fell “in love” like that…I remember the unexpected surge of energy, the heart palpitations, my inability to sleep as my thoughts obsessively centered around that one person…it was like I was on drugs or something…

And while most of us have felt that addictive, euphoric overload at one point in our lives, haven’t we all known people who seem to be in love with being in love?  They can’t help it, they tell us…they just love LOVE! Think of JLo…and Kim Kardashian.

And according to psychiatrist Judith Orloff, who wrote two books on the subject, being “in love” can create the same chemical reactions in our body that drugs can cause: As a psychiatrist, I’ve seen how intense sexual attraction is notorious for obliterating common sense and intuition in the most sensible people. Why? Lust is an altered state of consciousness programmed by the primal urge to procreate. The brain in this phase may be much like a brain on drugs. MRI scans illustrate that the area that “lights up” (becomes active) when an addict gets a fix of cocaine is the same area that “lights up” when a person is experiencing the intense lust of physical attraction.”

Wow…the first time I read that, I felt like I finally got a true glimpse into the appeal of cocaine and other drugs…if I could bottle up the feelings I felt around Mr. Perfect and create a pill to replicate the euphoria, the excitement I felt when I was around him, I could make millions!

While lust can eventually lead to love, there are dangers in allowing our hormones to rule our heads as Dr. Orloff goes on to warn us, “In the early stage of a relationship, when the sex hormones are raging, lust is fueled by idealization and projection — you see what you hope someone will be or need them to be — rather than seeing the real person, flaws and all.”

In the words of Joey from the show, “Blossom”: WHOA!

Finally, for the first time, when I think about the crush I had on Mr. Perfect so many years ago, I began to see why I felt I was so addicted to him…because in a way, I truly was. I was addicted to the feelings he evoked in me. And I realize much of my early feelings were based on not who he truly was, but what I imagined him to be in my own imagination…like the novelist I now aspire to be, I created a fictional character in my head.

So to build on JMathis’s analogy, I wasn’t just chasing a car…I was chasing a fictional car! Ah, even better!

So the next time you think you’re “following your heart” and in hot pursuit of the unattainable, your “I just can’t help it” feelings might truly be valid…you now know that you do have science and biology backing your claims. But just also keep in mind, while you may excuse your decisions and behavior as “you’re just following your heart,” it may not be your heart that is truly guiding you…

 The human heart is the most deceitful of all things. Jeremiah 17:9a

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