Friday, September 5, 2014

Nothing makes the room emptier than wanting someone in it

So to continue yesterday's theme, 
I got thinking - 
what is the feeling of missing somebody 
and what really makes us miss a person? 
While kissing is a an observable act, missing somebody is more closely connected to the feeling of love, thus being much more dificult to observe through a scientific perspective.
There are many stages of love, all of which are linked to varying neurobiological reactions. 
During the infatuation period of a relationship, the brain releases numerous chemicals, mostly designed to increase one's sex drive (testosterone, estrogen etc). 
Dopamine regulates cognition and establishes reward/pleasure systems that shape long-term planning and problem solving. Dopamine acts like cocaine to get you "addicted" to someone. 
Serotonin is connected to happiness and cognitive functions of memory and learning - thus being partly  responsible for keeping the image of your loved one popping into your thoughts. 
 Dopamine and serotinin together make our evolutionary clocks tick and look for a permanent mate.
Adrenaline (makes your heart go bom bom bad-i-ba) and endorphin (happiness) are also common ingredients in that biological soup.
 Our brains don't really care if we are around the "perfect" mate, our "one and only", or just a potential one. This makes love irrational, in a way - you can "fall" for anybody. Our brains just check for physical compatibility, not for a mental or a "realistic" one. Thus, missing someone is not "rational" - it is just a function of the brain.
 It is likely the norepinephrine (synthesized from dopamine) can target infatuation and lust towards a specific person, or at the very least to the things that specific person does to, for or with you. People often mix the feelings of missing somebody for the love they have for them, with missing somebody for the activities they did together and how it made them feel.
After the infatuation phase, your brain will produce proteins affecting your nerve growth factor; or higher neurotrophin (NT-3, NT-4, NGF, and BDNF) levels. At this point you start to become addicted to a specific person, as opposed to simply being addicted to the activities you preformed with said person. 
In short, depending on the length of your relationship, you either miss the things you did with your partner because of testosterone/estrogen, serotonin, and dopamine or your addiction has evolved beyond the activities and also includes targeted feelings for that specific individual (and possibly feelings related to share responsibilities) in which case you have nerve growth factor, and possibly norepinephrine and oxytocin to blame. 
Oxytocin is sometimes also called the "love/bonding hormone". It plays an important role in the neuroanatomy of intimacy and is at least partly responsible for romantic attraction and subsequent monogamous pair bonding. If a couple is separated for a long period of time, anxiety can increase due to the lack of physical affection and decreased stimulation of brain releasing chemicals the body has gotten used to.
In a way, "love" really is a drug which your body, and therefore your mind, gets addicted to.

By dictionary definiton to miss is to "feel sad that person or thing is not present".
But the countless masterminds of poetry, literature and philosophy have come up with much better sounding definitons to catch the bitter-sweet ache of that hole in your soul when the one you love is not by your side.
[Missing someone means..]
 Longing so bad 
that it begins to hurt
 to care so much.
Jamie Ford
All lovers live by longing, and endure; 
summon a vision and call it pure.
Theodore Roethke
“I thought of you and how you love this beauty,
And walking up the long beach all alone
I heard the waves breaking in measured thunder
As you and I once heard their monotone.

Around me were the echoing dunes, beyond me
The cold and sparkling silver of the sea -
We two will pass through death and ages lengthen
Before you hear that sound again with me.” 
Sara Teasdale
But being a romantic myself, I'd much rather
 like to substitute the theory of a chemical soup in that lump of a brain of ours
 with a thing called love
 for a soul that you notice and recognise on some deeper level 
that goes beyond the reach of modern day science.
Love conquers all. 
Missing someone just lets us know
 to whom our hearts really reach out to.
Missing hurts but it 
is what makes us humans.

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