Legend has it that Valentine, a priest and physician was imprisoned and put to death because he defied the king’s orders not to perform marriage ceremonies for soldiers. The king believed marriage made soldiers into poor fighters. Valentine believed all who loved should have the right to marry. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with the jailer’s blind daughter. After his execution, a love letter was found addressed to her, it read “love from your Valentine”. Two centuries later Pope Gelasius declared February 14th to be Saint Valentine’s day.
In Greek Mythology, passionate love is said to begin when we are wounded by Cupid’s arrow. This suggests that we must first experience love’s pain before we can experience its joy; that we must be open to hurt before we can experience real love. Many examples of this myth reside in our folklore.
Biological scientists have another perspective. They discovered that the three major drives in love, including sex drive, attachment, and partner preference are all controlled by chemicals in the brain. The primary chemicals (neurotransmitters, sex hormones, and neuropeptides) that govern these drives are testosterone, estrogen, dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin. Simply stated, chemical are the basis of love. The chemicals trigger, and are responsible for passionate love and long-term attachment. Individuals who have recently fallen in love show higher levels of the chemicals in the brain. That explains the sweaty palms, the sleepless nights and intense focusing on the lover.
But chemicals fizzle and weaken and we need more than their diluting reaction to keep relationships strong and vibrant. At that point, love is as love does. We need to have learned to be faithful, kind, attentive, cooperative, dedicated, consistent and loyal. With the chemicals acting alone, relationships will be distant, chaotic, painful and perilous, producing what we all call broken hearts. And broken hearts hurt. And, yes, love hurts but it, and life, are not over. We have to grieve and move on.
So, what’s a person to do?
1. Know your heart is not really broken, it just feels that way. And so do many other parts of your body. It’ll heal and if we can believe the experienced,(Those who have loved, lost and thrived) it’ll be stronger in all the broken places.
2. Allow yourself to grieve. When you do, you’ll discover what's truly important to you and you’ll be able to find your true purpose in life.
3. Avoid the bitterness trap. Anger is a very powerful emotion. It can keep you locked up for a very long time. Let it go because it won’t let you go.
4. Find the good in everyday. You’ll improve because of your actions, not just your feelings.
5. Stimulate the release of your endorphins with movement. A gym membership is a nice Valentine’s Day gift to yourself.
6. Vow to love again. If revenge is what you want, the best kind is to live a good life.
© Dr. Rachell N. Anderson, Psy.D. 2/13/2015