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By Sam Zanahar (1999)
It is my firm opinion that all the current and previous books on love will have to be rewritten. Or rather, they will all be disposed of via the trashcan for intellectual junk.
The essence of knowledge is engineering. If we can make it, we know it.
Love, being in love (which is not the same), longing, jealousy, desire, bliss, satisfaction and all the other emotions associated with love are really just expressions of specific neurochemical processes or neuromolecular constellations.
Obviously, materialistic philosophers have preached this for hundreds of years. But whether one would subscribe to their explanations was largely a matter of believe-it-or-not.
It used to be like listening to a physicist's explanation of why the transmission of sound through cable should theoretically be possible. How much more convincing is it to pick up the telephone and do a long-distance call.
Once it will be possible to engineer emotions with precision, esoteric explanations about them will be regarded as poetry or as nonsense, but definitely no longer as science or philosophy.
Wait a moment. We are already there. Though the techniques still lack calibration, we already can reliably engineer specific emotions. Fear, for example, with anxiogenic drugs. Or relaxation and calmness with sedatives. We can, with the application of specific pharmaceuticals, gain a person's trust far easier than with sweet promises and good deeds. It can be achieved with many a barbiturate, though the effect may not last.
Actually, whether through the application of specific barbiturates or through the combination of sweet promises and good deeds... if we want to gain the trust of a particular person, we will have to provoke specific neurochemical processes in that person's brain. Yes, even a simple sentence such as "I love you" has to be encoded in a specific neurochemical process to exert its effect on the person who gets to hear it.
Much of the control mechanism for our emotions rests with neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that act at the points where nerve cells connect with each other. The prevalence, or the presence or absence of specific amounts of neurotransmitters, as well as the density of receptor sites for specific neurotransmitters at nerve endings, will control to a wide extend the emotions to which we are subject.
Of special importance are the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, a pair of neuroactive agents that somehow keep each other in check (just like testosterone and estrogen of the hormonal system, or the sympathetic and parasympathetic autonomous nervous systems).
Roughly, dopamine is associated with agitation, and serotonin with relaxation. (This is a very rough characterization indeed; but the aim of this essay is not so much to educate the reader in the field of neurochemistry but rather to generate some awareness for the rather prosaic basis of esoteric sentiments.)
The level at which we feel emotionally united with the rest of mankind depends on the dopamine / serotonin balance of our brains much more than it does on philosophical insight. People with a sufficiently high level of serotonin usually tend to emphasize common ground and altruistic motives, while characters primarily driven by dopamine tend to be more egoistic in nature (they probably are also more sexualized). Thomas Hobbes and philosophers such as the German Max Stirner who established selfishness as the philosophy of egoism in principle analyzed their own low serotonin levels rather than the essence of mankind.
Future generations will have a free choice among philosophies and value systems, not so much based on intellectual considerations but by mixing their own cocktails of serotonin and dopamine enhancers.
Actually, raising levels of serotonin can treat many states of psychological complications, not just depression. Schizophrenia as well as obsessive-compulsive disorders respond favorably to raising serotonin levels, primarily through SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors).
On the other hand, the strength at which we feel our desires depends to a good extent on sufficiently high levels of dopamine.
I admit that I have much more experience with dopaminergic agents than I do with serotonin agonists. The reason is the specific reward system that I have installed in my life. As I have previously outlined, I am very much centered on experiencing ever better sex. It's really the only thing that counts for me, and my interest in love primarily results from my experience that sex in a love relationship is so much more gratifying than casual sex, provided the love relationship doesn't drag along for too long a time.
While I have devoted a lot of time studying purely psychological techniques of engineering love, I am a firm believer in the pharmacological route. I apply psychological methods primarily because pharmacological methods on hand today are still so crude (apart from possibly being illegal).
Using dopaminergic agents on myself, I basically heighten desire, because satisfaction is all the deeper the higher desire has first been.
One dopaminergic agent I have applied a number of times is bromocriptine (marketed by Sandoz as Parlodel). I have had truly memorable orgasms on bromocriptine. I have, on bromocriptine, experienced pre-orgasmic states of desire that were high enough for climaxes to happen almost by themselves (though in the arms of a young beautiful woman). Unfortunately, that extraordinarily positive effect of bromocriptine has been wearing off the more often I used it, so after some 30 applications, I decided to interrupt bromocriptine usage.
For the longest, I have used yohimbe and yohimbine (yohimbine being the active ingredient in yohimbe). Though an old medications, used for centuries, yohimbe is not fully researched. The medical literature emphasizes that yohimbine blocks presynaptic alpha-2-adrenergic receptors which results in increased blood flow to the sex organs, and reduced outflow.
But only now, journal articles are appearing, which attribute specific dopaminergic effects to yohimbine. Based on animal model experiments, it has been concluded that yohimbine application not only effects erections but also the duration of satiation periods between events of copulation. The reoccurring of sexual desire of course is largely effected by dopamine activity in the brain.
While research into the dopaminergic aspects of yohimbine is still sketchy, it has long been known that yohimbine is an anxiogenic agent, meaning to say that it can be pharmacologically used to induce fear. Whether this works on the dopamine / serotonin axis or through other pathways that currently haven't been sufficiently researched, it seems obvious that yohimbine is somehow a serotonin antagonist. I know of cases in which users of yohimbine had to be treated with SSRIs for anxiety symptoms.
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is yet another psychologically problematic state of mind that is related to insufficient serotonin activity.
And now a somehow surprising loop: from the psychiatrist's perspective, excessive jealousy is but an obsessive-compulsive disorder, a pathological condition (or in common speak, a disease). Excessive jealousy shares many of the manifestations of, for example, an obsession to wash one's hand, and wash them again, and wash them again.
Of course, in psychiatry and psychology, a person's characterics, including one's disposition for jealousy, become a pathological condition only if they are beyond what is considered reasonable. But at the end of the day, it's all just a matter of degrees. If a clear insufficiency in serotonin levels is associated with excessive jealousy, then slight jealousy should be regarded as a state of mildly, or temporarily, insufficient serotonin levels.
In a wider context, excessive jealousy is not only associated with a deficiency in serotonin levels but also with excessive sexual desire. Everyone who has ever been really jealous knows that jealousy has a profound effect on sexual desire and potency. You'll go for ten rounds a day if you are jealous enough... provided you can be with the person for whom you feel jealousy.
Jealousy makes for a unique kind of love. You can be in a happy relationship for years, and you may even find it refreshing to secretly have, every now and then, sex not just with your spouse. But when you find out that your wife or husband had a lover, and you turn jealous, you suddenly desire just your spouse, and nobody else.
Which love is more real? The sedate one you felt for years, or the painful one you feel when you are jealous? Some people say that true love is when you do not desire anybody else but only the loved person. But I'm not so sure about this. One thing I am sure about, though, is the correlation of jealousy and monodirected desire. A really jealous person will have a hard time (and no hard-on) to go for substitutes. But is the degree of jealousy a measure for love, or just for a specific kind of serotonin deficiency, brought about by the neurochemical encoding of feeling the danger to lose a person one has learned to depend on?
The disposition for jealousy to a considerable extent depends on a specific person's genetic settings for his or her neurochemical mix. An event one person cares little about may throw another one into rages of jealousy. People used to classify lovers as 'a jealous kind of person' or one who isn't. People's genes already determine set points for jealousy.
However, several factors outside of a person's genetic character settings will also play a role. The cultural background, for example (which nevertheless will have to be encoded on a neurochemical level in order to be of relevance). Is the behavior that makes a spouse jealous strongly considered taboo, or is it socially permitted?
Furthermore, can you reasonably feel right to be jealous? If you have proof that your partner has slept with somebody else, your jealousy may take another form, compared to one just based on suspicion, or the kind of jealousy you feel because your partner doesn't pay enough attention to you. If indeed, your partner has slept with somebody else, you may faster add some elements of hate, and you may be closer to terminate the relationship for realistic reasons (you may realistically not want to trust, or depend on, a person who has already cheated on you). You may find a faster way out of a specific relationship if you have realistic reasons to terminate it, and your suffering, though intense, may come to an end a bit faster.
(The reminder of this essay is still in "beta". I include it nevertheless.)
Jealousy can be extremely hurting. It's one of the strongest emotional pains you can experience. And it can take weeks and months of psychotherapeutic consultation to treat the wounds of jealousy. You can also get out of jealousy pain much quicker by swallowing some SSRIs.
Managing psychological pain is a bit like managing headaches. You can meditate and direct yourself into "forgetting" your headache by engaging in a favorite pastime. You can also take an aspirin.
Though psychological pain such as jealousy has been immune to pharmaceutical treatment until a few years ago, it can now be managed quite well.
I have mentioned on many occasions that I have continuously preferred to mess with my neurotransmitter homeostasis in favor of elevated dopamine levels. And I want to share with my readers what I believe is an interesting observation.
Some months back, I have suddenly been hit by an episode of extreme jealousy. Amazingly enough, the object of this jealousy has been a person with whom I have had a non-exclusive sexual relationship for some two years. During these two years, I have never assumed that this exceptionally beautiful young woman would have had a sexual relationship exclusively with me. I also really didn't care about it.
My jealousy started out on some shared sexual fantasies. Now, I'm no stranger to shared sexual fantasies, and I discuss them with a partner precisely for the purpose of turning on not only me but my partner as well. That my partner joins in enjoying the sexual fantasies I present usually does not make me jealous.
But it rather suddenly happened with the person in question. And it let me into a vicious circle. Once jealous, I became investigative. And to no surprise, I found proof of sexual relationships apart from the one with me. That, of course, made me all the more jealous.
I responded with the typical set of reactions, feeling heartsick and extremely sexualized at the same time. I suffered from it and enjoyed it at the same time for several weeks, and then I turned it off with an SSRI.
I have often wondered what actually has happened. I am scientifically minded. I don't believe I have been bewitched. At the same time, what has happened was rather strange. I really wasn't in love with this person for some two years prior to the sudden emergence of jealousy. I knew that I wasn't the only one.
Having thought it over, I now credit my rather continuos use of yohimbine. Yohimbine really isn't just a presynaptic alpha-2-adrenergic receptor blocker. It's a psychopharmacologic drug, though a rather subtle one. I do believe that it effects the balance of dopamine and serotonin, but not in a wholesale manner. It may be receptor-specific or otherwise act very pointedly.
And it also makes for some strange choices. At the early stages of my yohimbine usage, I have once had a young woman visiting me, and to enhance my experience, I ingested a rather generous helping of yohimbe. I sure had a world-class erection... but absolutely no interest in the person I was with. Rather, my imagination was absolutely fixed on a particular other woman I had casually met the day before but at that time didn't consider a worthwhile prey. I sure had a great climax, but the young woman who was sleeping by my side (indeed sleeping, just sleeping) had no role whatsoever in it, not physically, not psychologically.
It has long been known that yohimbine can be used to induce anxiety. Based on my own experience, I now suggest as hypothesis that yohimbine as psychopharmacologic agent also has the potential to induce obsessive compulsive disorders related to sexual behavior, or, a level below that, that obsessive compulsive disorders related to sexual behavior are a potential side effect of continuous yohimbine usage.
Apart from that, I wonder what role yohimbine could play as a tool in the engineering of love. I actually do like the women with whom I have sexual relationships to feel a certain degree of jealousy for me. For the sake of pleasure, there should be some elements of Romeo and Juliet. Can it be engineered by first feeding some yohimbine, and then, by the time her jealousy becomes a disturbance, can it be turned off by supplementing some Prozac? (lo*r)
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Copyright Sam Zanahar