S2E26 Love

Love is a basic emotion, and one that most humans desire. There are many aspects of love and it shows up at different points in our lives. In this last episode before summer break, Dr. Pete and Dr. Rubin share their thoughts on love and the role it plays in human behavior.




Pete: Can you believe this is our mid summer break episode Nikki?

Nikki: I mean, I can't. It's like I can in that, as always, I'm like, “Yeah, I could use a break, that sounds nice”. But I can't believe it's, yeah, I can't believe we're halfway through, more than halfway through the year already.

Pete: Where does the time go?

Nikki: I don't know, when you're living mindfully day to time, time just…

Pete: It just comes and it goes.

Nikki: Comes and it goes, yeah.

Pete: Well, I'm thrilled. And we all need a little bit more love. So today, we're going to talk about love.

Nikki: I love that we're talking about it. I can already see we're going to terribly make that joke about 45 more times,

Pete: Probably more you than me,

Nikki: That is fair and accurate. But let me… so I'm going to make that joke a lot.

Pete: Yeah, you're going to make that joke a lot. And I'm going to define it and love is, as a noun, an intense feeling of deep affection.

Nikki: What is that, Oxford's or Miriam Webster?

Pete: Oh yeah, that's good.

Nikki: I'm super into that definition.

Pete: Well, how we're going to talk about it behaviorally? So let's, why don't you give me a, why don’t you operationalize it?

Nikki: Well, it's not a behavior, obviously, we can act in loving ways. But I think it's both an emotion and a value. I think it can be both. And I think as an emotion, it's like, I think that definition doesn't capture it deeply enough. You know what I mean? I think that love when we feel it, it's a really thorough, nourishing, warm, connected, feeling, like it's got all those aspects to it. Like, we certainly feel affection as well. But I feel, I don't mean it's a judgment, I feel like that definition is like too surface a little bit, it's like a little like too shallow.

Pete: Well, it's probably shallow.

Nikki: You’re like, ‘I think that's right'.

Pete: ‘I think that's right'. Well, because maybe they're not, like with Oxford, they're not thinking about psychological western behavioral science, where we're going to also think about love is like that first connection, was that the sensitive time remember that from like, developmental psychology? The sensitive period?

Nikki: Oh, sure, yes. I’m like, “oh!” The recesses of my mind. I can pull that out a little bit.

Pete: There is somewhere. But for our listeners, it's this idea that like, that's where some of the trauma research or attachment theory comes from, that says, like, those attachment styles from childhood, from birth, and even pre birth, like prenatally, I think it was like to 12 months or 18 months or something like three years.

Nikki: Who knows?

Pete: Either way, there's like this formative time of the critical period, they call it, and love is a big piece of that, and just trying to feel, yeah,

Nikki: What it is, and I think this is where the western science comes in, is that we could talk a little bit about the evolutionary function of it, because as we've always talked about as humans, I hate to say, we do get a little narcissistic as a species. And we think we're the only ones that feel that but anybody with an animal, anybody that's observed animals, animals feel love to. And it's like, ‘Why?’ Well, what Pete's really talking about is the bonding that happens and obviously, when we love, there's a lot of benefits to that. Like, we get to feel like it's a connection, it’s nourishing, it helps us to regulate actually like stress hormones. Like when we feel connected to other beings that can keep us safe, you can work together, there's like a lot of benefits to feeling love.

Pete: Yeah, in fact, a lot of the, some of the neurological research finds that like even thinking about a love moment, can create dopamine, and it will mimic the actual event. And breastfeeding is another opportunity of dopamine, and that love connection.

Nikki: Well, and I think this is important to bring this in, we should probably talk about the love chemical as it's known, which is oxytocin. And so…

Pete: Oh my god, that's what I meant.

Nikki: You didn’t mean dopamine. I was literally like, “Oh, cool, dopamine is released too,”

Pete: No, oxytocin.

Nikki: I always forget my neurotransmitters, but oxytocin is the one I know.

Pete: How dare you producers let me come on air and say that? Yeah, oxytocin. Thank you for that, Dr. Rubin.

Nikki: You're welcome. So oxytocin is known as the love chemical and that chemical is released during breastfeeding during childbirth during sex. And then my favorite, I think we started talking about this in the dogs and well being, I'll say it again, is that when you pet an animal, oxytocin is released in the animal's brain,

Pete: And our,

Nikki: Yes, and what it does is it helps us to bond emotionally. And that's really powerful. That's a really powerful chemical. And also again, like I was saying, evolution doesn't do things for no reason. Like it's selected for this because this helps our well being, that we as human beings, we do need love, we need connection. We're designed that way.

Pete: I also think, evolutionarily, it leads to procreation which allows for the species to carry on, which is important.

Nikki: Yes, which is important. And we talked about this in our sex and connection episode, of course, like you can feel love and not have sex, you can have sex and not feel love. And there's all different kinds of love. There's romantic love, there's, I think they have the word is companionate love, I think is what they call it, like friendship, love. Either love that we've, love between parent and child or between siblings.

Pete: Yeah, well, there's enduring love, familiar love, playful love, obsessive love, affectionate love, selfless love. So there's all different types.

Nikki: Love towards oneself, maybe we should throw in there.

Pete: Self compassion, self love.

Nikki: Yeah, self love. So I mean, it's funny, as we're talking, I'm like, I feel the warm and fuzziest actually, because,

Pete: Because I love you.

Nikki: Yes. I love you, too. And I think that, Pete and I mean that, by the way,

Pete: We do mean it.

Nikki: We're very close. And I think that maybe speaks to the part about it's not just an emotion, but it's a value. And of course, values are tied to feelings, too. But like, I don't know, Pete, would you say about love as a value potential. I mean, again, not everybody has to pass to value it, but it certainly can be one.

Pete: And what I'm feeling, like we're focusing on is like, relationship. And so that's why like, you brought in self love, it could be love for a stranger, it could be love for someone I've never even met. And those are, I think that really would contribute to well being. And that's why the mindfulness and what I'll bring in some Buddhism stuff in a moment. But that's why I think that that, I think that's why those individuals live, like healthier, happier lives, because they're truly practicing that.

Nikki: Well, and you're, as per usual, reading my mind when you're saying about to bring in the eastern stuff. Because in my learning of Eastern practices, including definitely, in my mindfulness practice and yoga practice, one thread that I've always really connected with is like, everything is love. And I want to say that it's not meant in a cheesy way, it's like not meant… I feel like there's a very common, I don't know if in other Western countries, they say this, but in the United States, at least, it's like love conquers all, is like kind of a phrase. And I would say like, “That's not true. Love does not conquer all”,

Pete: No,

Nikki: Love does not conquer all, you can love somebody or something, and someone can hurt you…

Pete: Absolutely,

Nikki: Or they do things that don't work, or whatever. And I think that the spiritual concept of everything is love is different. And I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about sort of that?

Pete: Well, in Buddhism, so it's interesting, because again, in that example, we're thinking about romance a bit, too. And so Buddhism doesn't really, there's no, like it's not a sacrament of marriage. Like, there's no place for marriage necessarily. I mean, two people could choose to marry, because that's their value, which you were bringing, that's like the western behavioral science. But in general, Buddhism is just looking at if two people are like, connecting, letting go of their ego, just being in the moment, like, that's really the goal. And the philosophy really is about just creating joy in the union.

Nikki: Yes. Well, and then can I… I think that's maybe where like, maybe this concept of like, ‘everything is love', it's like wouldn't it also be about like connection to things, like joy, I feel like is another aspect of it, but like connection?

Pete: See, that's where I struggle. And I've actually talked to my teacher a lot about this, because Nikki, and I don't talk a ton about ourselves on here. I am in a long term marriage. And I don't get it in the context of Buddhism because there's not attachment. So when you're saying that in the…so the context piece here is ‘love is for this moment, and joy can be created together, or separate'. So love is really… so there wouldn't be anything that you would want to attach to. And that's where I struggle, because then I'm sure there's got to be a listener with me out there. Because how do you actually then enter marriage without being attached to that person or to this feeling or to love?

Nikki: It's so funny. It's like, I don't know. I mean, I struggle... Let me clarify, because I struggle with plenty of things, and I've struggled with plenty of things in terms of…

Pete: We sure have,

Nikki: Attach to things. For some reason, this has always made just so much sense to me. And I think it's because it's this idea of like, the radical acceptance that we never know, it's like we can never attach to what will be. So it's like, even like with commitment, it's like we…but what I, like I don't know, like intuitively connect with, I guess is always best way to say is that, but we can commit to what's happening in this moment…

Pete: That's right.

Nikki: And what we do and that opens up this freedom to experience what's happening in this moment. And love is available, in all these different ways and love is available, again, like if we expand to the sort of like love is, you can feel love, like looking at the ocean, as I often do. You can feel love, reflecting on your childhood self and feeling compassion for the person,

Pete: I love that, and I'm reminded, I think I got this from you, that I think I've heard you say there's infinite amounts of love.

Nikki: I do say that.

Pete: You do,

Nikki: I do say that, yeah.

Pete: Which I really, I remember that, so maybe say something about that.

Nikki: Yeah, I always think about that there's an infinite amount of love in the world. And this is true of any value, so obviously, this brings back in why I think love is also a value, not just an emotion, that there's no point in time where we're like, ‘I felt enough love', like, ‘I've achieved love', or ‘I've loved my partner enough', or ‘I've loved my best friend enough', or [inaudible 11:13]. It's just like, it's a bottomless well. And I think what I'm always like, I mean it sounds cheesy, but like personally moved by is that when… there are certain times where I think like, I can't love somebody more, and then I love them more. I mean, sort of maybe like a silly, it's not a silly example, but an example maybe I think about a lot are like my best friends from college.

Pete: Absolutely.

Nikki: Yeah, so we're very close. And I've known these people now for about 20 years, a little over 20 years. And I just think like, I have just loved these people like since I met them. I mean, it's one of things we always joke like, we just like all fell in love. And there’s never, I just every year, I love them more deeply. It doesn't go the other way.

Pete: That beautiful.  

Nikki: Yeah

Pete: Yeah. And I think that's well, so I'll read a quote. Because I think it's also important from a behavioral, I want to link this stuff.

Nikki: Yeah, sure, please.

Pete: Because I imagine people… love is not always easy. And that's important for everyone to know.

Nikki: That's right.

Pete: Because even parents, like sometimes, like I was talking to my mom. And I was just like, “Oh, she's done yet?” Like, I just like finding,

Nikki: Well, because love doesn't conquer all, that I always say, like love is always available. But it's not like paper covers rock, it doesn't…

Pete: Rock, paper, scissors, shoot.

Nikki: Yeah it's like, you also might be like really angry at the same time. Like that's,

Pete: You have to throw in your dialectic, it wouldn't be an episode if we didn’t.

Nikki: Of course, yeah.

Pete: So ‘when you like a flower, you just pluck it. But when you love a flower, you water it daily'.

Nikki: Love that

Pete: I want us to think about that from that perspective, because that's really how you create joy, because that's what I'll say to, I find I've said this to clients where it's like, “hey, it's a lot easier to stay stagnant and unhappy. It's a lot more work to create joy and peace.”

Nikki: And love,

Pete: And love.

Nikki: Which they go together and connect well.

Pete: Hence the title.

Nikki: Hence the title. Yeah, well, but it's also, they're all interrelated, like emotions and experiences. It's like to me, and I've said this many times in this podcast that, it's like this, quote, unquote, “secret of the universe”, but it's not because the eastern traditions have talked about this for 1000s of years, it's like, there's infinite amounts of that available to us, we can only access it if we are first willing to radically accept an experience what we don't want.

Pete: That right.

Nikki: So the more you're saying, ‘I just want to feel love, I just want to feel joy, I just want to feel connection’, it's like it's out of reach, like you can't get it because life is filled with pain and struggle at the same time.

Pete: And you have to feel that pain and struggle in order to actually create joy.

Nikki: Yes, and connect with love and to feel peace and grounded. And so that's where it's like it's always there. It's like,

Pete: An infinite amount.

Nikki: Yeah, there's an infinite amount. It just takes effort and work to access it and cultivate it.

Pete: Which is why we always praise and preach self care. And that could maybe bring us as we're coming to the end, is about this mid summer break, because that's really our commitment to love.

Nikki: That is our commitment to love and love for ourselves and it's been important to say to that that is maybe one of the hardest practices for people, is that there are lots of people I'm sure you hear this clinically all the time where they say like, “I can love other people or animals, but I can't love myself”, and I think that is just such a hard practice. But we are deserving and in need of the same, like behavior and emotional connection to ourselves as we provide to other people, it's probably worth mentioning like there's loving kindness meditation, is known as ‘meta' in Buddhist practice that help cultivate self compassion, compassionate love for oneself and others, and I love meditations.

Pete: There it is, I knew it was coming for you.

Nikki: I knew it was going to come again. But I encourage listeners to check some of those out if they're struggling with that personally.

Pete: Yeah and so this is also our own midsummer break, also loved one another. Because as co hosts we just need to be ensure that we're both healthy, take a little time so that we can recharge our batteries and we are going to miss everybody but we are thrilled to come back for part two season two. So stay tuned and tune in. And I'll leave you with this, ‘true love is born from understanding’.

Pete: This has been When East Meets West. I'm Dr. Pete Economou.

Nikki: And I'm Dr. Nikki Rubin. Be present. Be brave.

Pete: This has been When East Meets West, all material is based on opinion and educational training of doctors Pete Economou, and Nikki Rubin.

Nikki: Content is for informational and educational purposes only.