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Intimate Love

Synopsis: This mini-love-lessons first helps you explore your own ideas about intimate love compared to what others think about it. Then it introduces you to the fascinating world of sensorium intimacy; and ends with ideas about how you can study developing greater intimate love; more.

Your First Thoughts

What pops up in your mind when you see the words “intimate love”? Lots of people think of something sexual. Others think of something powerfully and very personally emotional. There are a good many other people who think about both ecstatic sex and various intensely pleasurable, psychological states interwoven together.

The term “intimate love” can mean a surprisingly wide range of different things to different people.
Intimacy in a love relationship can mean knowing another and being known by another in incredible ways. It also can mean a sense of wonderful closeness, fervent shared eroticism combined with a marvelous sense of loving and being loved in very personal ways.

Some people understand intimate love to mean a wondrous sense of spiritual connection and the very best of love’s many fabulous feelings. Then there are those who see intimate love as something delightfully wicked, intriguingly naughty and scrumptiously salacious. So, what are your first thoughts about intimate love? Are they similar to any of the above? And if you currently are in what you think of as an intimate love relationship, do you know what your lover’s understanding of intimate love is? Is theirs a more psychological or a more sexual understanding of what the words “intimate” love refers to? You might want to have an intimate, lover’s conversation with them about this.

Sensorium Intimacy

For many intimate love is best experienced and arrived at visually. Being seen naked and seeing another naked, viewing and allowing one’s every, intimate part to be viewed in the most up close and personal of ways, and doing this with someone you love is what achieves intimate love for the strongly visually oriented. Looking deeply into someone’s eyes while they do the same with you, sometimes called “soul” looking, and/or looking very closely at every nuance of facial expression while being only inches away from one you love are also examples of love intimacy via the visual.

For those more auditorily oriented, intimate love can come by way of soft, warm voice tones, whispers, listening to music together and spoken words expressed in deep, close emotional ways.
For a good many others the primary sensory modality of intimate love is touch. Passionate embrace, gentle stroking, cuddling, being held and hugged, holding hands, myriad kinds of kissing, the many sensations of being touched sexually, all are involved in the tactile sensations that provide a sense of intimate love.

Some people find intimacy through taste, while for others it is achieved in an olfactory way, sometimes with the help of perfumes or essential oils. There also are those that best experience intimate love via kinetics. Being joined in slow dancing, swaying rhythmically, gently rocking back and forth and other forms of moving together greatly assist the sense of feeling intimate love for those who are naturally, strongly, motion oriented.

Of course, there are many who have a combination of two or more of the above as their major sensorium modalities. It is important to know that the major way a person senses or can be assisted in sensing intimate love varies according to which of their major sensing systems has the most impact on their emotions (on their brain’s limbic system). Most people can be reached or affected, at least a little, from each of these ways of sensing but they will have a primary sense, and the other ways of sensing will be secondary or tertiary.

If you are going to help someone you love have an intimate love experience, it can be very helpful to know witch of their major ways of sensing love is primary and which is secondary, etc. Then you can use that knowledge to lovingly assist them in having great sensations of intimate love via their primary sense. While doing that you also can mix-in your own primary sensorium modalities so that you can better simultaneously share a mutual, intimate, love experience.

Communicating For Intimate Love

They both said they wanted intimacy, but one meant sex while the other meant a sharing of deep-felt emotions. Until they learned to ‘spell out’ more exactly what they meant, they miscommunicated and neither one got the love they really were seeking. The word intimacy is one of those words which is commonly misunderstood and, therefore, frequently miscommunicated. In couples love relationships few words are as important to mutually understand as the words ‘intimate’ and ‘intimacy’. Couples’ love often can be injured when one or both of a couple does not understand accurately what is being meant when the words intimate or intimacy are used.

All too often one of a couple mistakenly assumes that the other shares the same understanding, and also shares the same ideas of what helps intimacy occur. Actually it is fairly rare for two people in a couples relationship to have the same understanding of this term, at least at the start of their relationship. Therefore, talking about this in some detail can be quite helpful to a couple’s intimate life together. Especially important in couples love development is discovering and talking about the words and actions which may create experiences of intimate love.

Intimate Love Differences

For some, intimacy means revealing one’s most personal secrets. In a similar fashion for others it is mostly about becoming vulnerable and the risk of getting very personally hurt, but in a much wider variety of ways. There are those who achieve intimate love primarily through acts of tenderness and small, gentle behaviors. Others find intimacy is the product of big, brave and bold, uninhibited actions strongly revealing themselves. For the more sexually oriented it may mean lovers letting themselves be erotically wild, acting with unbridled, shameless abandonment, being unrestrained and free to be entirely impulsive while completely accepting each other’s actions.

Acceptance and toleration love, along with being totally unafraid of negative judgment is usually a part of this picture. Awesome sweetness, treating and being treated as precious, cherishing and being cherished, and knowing that what is important and unique about you is especially valued by one who loves you, these can be of incredible importance in intimate love. Experiencing and helping a loved one experience intimate love often takes having and giving unique personal information that would be insignificant to others. What’s your favorite color, food, song, etc. are very simple examples which can be expanded in quality.

It is important for people who want to have strong, intimate, love experiences with each other that they explore and involve themselves in, and with, each other’s differences as well as their similarities. Respecting and honoring diversity and how it might contribute to a couples relationship is often a great help in laying down a groundwork for growing intimate love.

Studying Intimate Love

Discussing what you and a beloved might mean by “intimate love” and what you both might want to do to grow more, bigger and better intimate love usually is a very good thing to do. You can also learn more about intimate love at this very website. Go to the Mini-Love-Lessons listed in the Titles Index called “Intimacy Creation – a Love Skill”, and “Growing Closeness – Love Skill”. Read and discuss them with those you are close to, then of course go experiment and practice the ideas you get from what you have learned.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

 Love Success Question
Can you imagine a scenario of events and actions that you and a loved one carry out, in which you could feel very intimately loving and loved?

Smiling With A Mask On: A New Love Skill

Mini-Love-Lesson  # 274

Synopsis: The importance of smiling your love to others and smiling effectively even though wearing a mask; plus ways to behaviorally accomplish that; along with certain significant communication research findings are the topic of this Mini-Love-Lesson.

A Most Important Love Behavior

Smiles may be our most important expressional (non-verbal) communication behavior.  Smiles certainly rank right up there with touch, tones of voice, eye contact and probably even above gestural messaging.  Now that the pandemic has so many of us wearing masks covering our smiles what can we do to not be robbed of this great tool for conveying human warmth?  Well, here are a few ideas.

When your smiles are hidden behind a mask, be mindful of the fact that you would do well to compensate for having your smiles hidden.  Know that you can make up for this smile denial by using your multitudinous other communicating behaviors like words spoken with extra happy sounds, head nods and bobs, hand and arm gestures, posture changes, voice volume inflection and modulations, speed of speech changes and the host of other expressional behaviors we non-consciously use to get our emotional messages across (see “How to Talk Love Without Words”).

Do Some Consciousness-Raising

Being mindful involves raising into consciousness awareness what communicating behaviors are available to us and deciding to consciously and purposefully use them.  Doing this means you can make up for your smiles being robbed from you by a mask and the pandemic.  By giving this a little thought and working at it, you will make better contact with everyone you encounter while wearing a mask.  That will probably get you better responses coming back your way.  And, in turn, that will help you feel better in this troubled time in which we all live.

Actions That Smile

A thumbs-up, a friendly wave, moving just a bit closer, lifting your eyebrows a bit and a host of other micro-moves may do the trick for helping others feel smiled at.  Open arms gestures with the palms showing to whoever you are talking to tends to send some human, emotional warmth toward that person.  With a little work on our expressional communication behaviors, we still can get friendliness and even love across in spite of a mask.  These gestures and movements are called non-verbal communication but we call them expressional because in face-to-face communication they account for as much as two-thirds or more, of what is being communicated.  Communication research seems to show spoken words account for only 7% of what actually is being communicated in verbal, emotive messaging.  The term expressional communication refers to a lot more than what is usually meant by non-verbal, although technically it covers everything else besides words.  Some communication researchers classify as many as 16 other expressional or non-verbal communicators being behaviorally active in face-to-face interactions (see “Emotional Intercourse”).

Can You Make Your Voice Smile?

You can make the tones of your voice nearly have the same effect as smiling.  Whether you know it, or not, you probably already do some voice smiling by altering the lilt variations in your voice.  How you pace and pause, emphasize or de-emphasize and accent your words can also accomplish this.  The next time you talk on the phone pay particular attention to what is going on with voice modulations and you may learn more about this because many people who enjoy phone-talking do this quite well.  Your tones of voice and other voice variables can convey friendliness, empathy, compassion, cheerfulness and a great many other emotions, all conveyed by variations in how you say what you say rather than what you say.  Generally speaking, the more you vary your voice the better you communicate verbally (see “Behaviors That Give Love: The Basic Core Four”).

Words From Behind The Mask

Even though words may be only 7% of the communication which goes on in face-to-face personal communication, they still can have good effects.  Imagine saying to someone while wearing a mask “you can’t see it, but I’m smiling at you right now”.  In the course of talking to someone, you might also say something like “I’m feeling a bit happy dealing with you right now and I thought I’d tell you that since you can’t see my smiling face!”

New situations can cause us to invent new ways of getting things said as well as come up with new ways to get our emotions across to others.  So, start thinking about talking differently.  Do this with words: create differences in vocalization (which accounts for about 35% of the communication value and, maybe, most of the kinetics or movements (which account for about the 55% of our message meaning and impact).  What do we mean by movements?  Well, facial motions are the biggest thing but with a mask on not so much.  So, attend to your gestures, stance and posture shifts, proximity alterations, and the speed of your motions.  All of these factors are constantly getting registered and interpreted in our subconscious minds as we non-consciously perceive them, but not so much in our conscious cognition (thinking) (See “Say It with Love”).

Animate to Communicate

Since the research shows that our kinetics, or in other words, our many movements and especially facial movements account for so much of what we are communicating emotionally, pay attention to how you can get your message across by moving more.  If you are talking on Skype or Zoom, or any of the others, do more hand gesturing, up close to your face where your gestures will be better seen.  Here is a little secret that many sermon givers know.  The more you move, the more you are listened to.  That includes the more you move your voice also: louder, softer, slower, faster, higher pitch, lower pitched and all variations increase attention and help to improve the focus of the listeners.  Leaning forward, leaning back, shifting right or left and especially head movements while being verbally quiet helps convey that you are really interested and care about what someone is saying.  You see, in face-to-face communication you always are talking whether your voice is saying anything or not.  The more you do not alter your kinetics, the more you may be interpreted as uninterested and uncaring.  That is only a maybe, not a certainty.  There are so many more variables to good communications than most people realize.  However, the more you learn and use this information, the better you probably will do.

ONE MORE THING:  you are likely to plant all this in your head a little bit better if you talk it over it with someone else and see what they think about it.  If you do that, please mention where you got this info from and the many, many mini-love-lessons here.  Thanks!

As always – Go and Grow with Love,
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Are you mindful of the nourishing/nurturing value of your love messaging to your loved ones?  (Please, include in your thinking, ideas about your love message frequency and your love message potency, along with possible improvements you might make).

Is Feeling Love, Love Itself?

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson starts with a review of some of the many troubling contradictions and confusions that exist about whether feeling love is a feeling or not; the lesson then posits a clarifying and for some a contentious answer to the beginning question; more.

Contradictions And Confusions

“I’m totally baffled!  I don’t know what to believe. Most of my friends seem to think that love is an emotion but some strongly disagree. A teacher I respect says that true love is only the feeling of joyful compassion that leads to lifelong commitment and connection. One book I read said love is a wonderful emotion but like all emotions it is temporary and fading and, therefore, untrustworthy and relatively unimportant. Others say love is a mysterious, emotional power that makes the world go-round, and others suggest that feeling love is just part of the mating drive, while still to others love is just an insignificant but strong feeling you get when you play the ‘game of romance’.

I hear supposed experts saying things like love feelings lead to a parasitic, addictive dependency, best avoided or escaped. I also read love is a powerful, vital, natural, long-lasting and, once started, love is an ongoing psychoneurological process which mostly happens in the unconscious limbic system of the brain. That thought takes some contemplation. I understand that some historians suggest romantic love feelings were, in a sense, artificially invented and continued by Western world culture, starting with the French royals in the 12th century. But I also understand that animals probably feel love because their neurochemical, neurophysiological and neuro-electrical responses have been found to be the same as humans when they are behaving in ways thought to represent love occurring.

To make matters even more complicated my religion teaches me things like “God is love”, “love is everlasting”, “all true love (including couple’s love) comes from and is a manifestation of the Deity’s love”and consequently to think that love is merely an emotion, especially a temporary emotion, can be seen as sinful and heretical.” All those statements originated from a foreign graduate student, working hard to develop a cross-cultural, core understanding of this thing we call love.

So what do you think? Have you been taught, or led to believe, that feeling love is love itself? Is love an emotion? If love is an emotion is it impermanent, temporary, unstable and undependable or even fleeting and fickle? Is love only an emotion and, therefore, is not of much lasting importance?

The Perception of Love

One of the more common, perceptual mistakes people make is to confuse the perception of something internal with the thing itself. If I feel rumblings in my stomach I may be sensing  my digestive system functioning. But the sensing of it is not to be confused with digestion itself. In fact, my digestion mostly goes on without me being consciously aware of it – the natural process of love may work that way too. So, feeling love may be seen as occasionally accessing, or becoming aware of, an inner, ongoing, natural process which may always be there inside us once we truly love.

This understanding goes well with people who say things like “I know that I always love my child (children, spouse, family member or whoever they love)” but I don’t always feel that love”. It also is in accord with people who automatically and powerfully act to protect those they love in the split second of sensing that a loved one is in danger. Actions to save acquaintances and strangers tend to be much slower and less likely.  Does not the quick action to save a loved one tell us that the love is already there inside us and is ready to automatically motivate us to be protective. Also the tendency to risk one’s own life to rescue loved ones is not only far quicker but is far stronger than the tendency risk one’s own life rescuing others we do not love.

Another ‘evidence’ of love having an inner, ongoing and consistent component instead of being a fleeting and/or fading feeling can be seen in this example. John got up from a brief nap grumbling and griping about how hard it was to go to his second job. Later at that job a fellow worker asked him why he took and continued to hold this second job because it was so obvious that it was hard on John. John answered, “I do it to help pay my daughter’s college costs, and I do that simply because I dearly love her.”

Now, examine John’s statement. John is experiencing other emotions than the nice, warm, happy feelings often associated with feeling love. In fact, with his griping and grumbling he might be seen as feeling anti-love feelings. However, John’s negative feelings can be seen as somewhat shallow. Underlying them is a far deeper, pervasive, consistent and powerful process of love which keeps motivating John to do his love-motivated actions year after year.

Accessing Love

It seems that once love is solidly established, the people who truly love always can be aware of that love; they can access it, be motivated by it and bring forth actions that demonstrate it. Sometimes this is associated with having the feelings, or emotions, that go with the word love, and sometimes not as is evidenced in John’s example above. Whether it is felt or not, it is there. There are countless millions of other examples, especially among people  who have had long-term love relationships in which hardship or strong challenge has been faced because of their ongoing love. In sickness and in health, in adversity and stress, in deprivation and defeat, love prevails as nothing else can. If love were but a temporary emotion it would not be consistently accessible and available for motivating the great and heroic acts it does, indeed, motivate. 

Love Labeling

If someone strongly and sincerely says they love you, it would seem that perhaps they have gotten in touch with a strong, natural, inner process which may continue throughout life and actually may produce a great many other emotions along with many thoughts and life-changing actions. It is reasonable to think that it takes a lot more than a mere, temporary emotion to achieve all that.

It is true that a person saying they love you may have what can be called varying and various love feelings for you, along with that love, but there is far more to love than just those feelings. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say “I am feeling loving toward you, or for you”. Perhaps it also would be accurate for someone to say “I’m feeling loved” rather than the perfunctory “I love you too” response. After a time, two people in a love relationship may have the emotion of feeling lovable. Feeling lovable, loving and loved are all probably reasonable labels for emotions that flow out of love itself. Those feelings may come and go but the love that underlies them is probably most accurately understood as stable, dependable and consistently present, not temporary.

Evidence That Love Is More Than Emotion

Another source of evidence pointing to love being something other than just emotion comes from the research into love’s physically healing effects. Along with that is the research that shows the lack of love, or the absence of behaviors that convey love, can result in failure to thrive illnesses, psychosocial dwarfism, heightened susceptibility to disease and other physiological maladies. Serious depression and anxiety conditions also are associated with people who insufficiently receive the behaviors that convey love. Then there are the amazing incidents of the presence of a loved one having healthful effects on people in deep, comatose states. There also is accumulating evidence in the brain sciences pointing to love being a deep, usually unconscious, vital, powerful, natural process.

Research in systemic and interactional variables having to do with how two or more people, or animals, interrelate and what that interrelating does to their biological functioning, also shows interesting results concerning love. Some researchers think they have evidence which suggests that two people, or two animals, who are in what can be called ‘a love bonded relationships’ sometimes exhibit very harmonious neuro-electrical and neurochemical synchronicity which apparently does not occur in non-love bonded pairs. Lovers, parents and children, brothers and sisters, twins and others are thought to also sometimes exhibit this phenomenon. Is that evidence of love at the neurophysiological level? Some people think it is. Much more research on this has yet to be done.

Research in comparative animal psychology, social psychology, anthropology, pediatric psychiatry, and even behavioral economics tends to correlate with what the brain sciences have been finding concerning love.  Behaviors that bring about ongoing, close, caring connection, nurturing, protectiveness and healthfulness are all associated with the neurochemistry that seems to be a part of love responses, and love relationships in humans and higher order primates, as well as other members of the animal kingdom.

The Answer

The answer to the question “Is feeling love, love itself?” is no! The preponderance of available evidence from many sources points to love being far more than just a feeling.  It also suggests that when we feel love for someone, an animal or anything else, we actually are just becoming aware of an inner process which is natural, powerful and vital to full, healthful functioning. That process, the evidence also suggests, is something ongoing within us whether we consciously are aware of it, or not.

Therefore, it is sensible to conclude: Love is so much more than a feeling or an emotion.Feeling love is just a sensing of a much greater thing.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

 Love Success Question
Who do you know you love, whether you feel that or not at this moment?

Listening With Love - Are You Good At It?

Synopsis: This is both a mini-love-lesson and a Rating Test which aims to get you to attend to 12 important points concerning becoming a really good at listening with love; and you can use it to rate yourself, as to your love listening skills.

Rate Yourself

Listening well to those you love is one of the best ways to demonstrate that you love, care and value them.  Sometimes one of the most important ways to feel that you are loved is to experience someone who loves you doing a really good job of listening to you.  But what really constitutes good, love-filled listening?  To find out take this 12 item test, rating yourself as you go.  Each item will help you know a major way you can nourish and help improve any and all love relationships through being good at listening with loving.

Test Instructions

Carefully read each of the following tests questions.  Each question mentions one of the factors associated with quality listening with love.  As you read try seriously to think about how well you do what the test statement refers to when you are talking face-to-face with someone you love.  Then with each question look at answers A through F, and pick the one that comes closest to what you think accurately rates you on how well you listen.  Record each of your answers so you can come back later and tally your score.  Instructions for tallying your score will be given at the end of the test, along with interpretations.

Listening With Love – A Test

1. When talking with a loved one, you say fewer words than they do.
(A) Almost always (B) Frequently ( C ) Half the time (D) Seldom (E) Almost never (F) Don’t know

2. When listening to a loved one, you silence your own mind and what it is telling you to say next, so that you can attend to what they are saying more fully.
(A) Almost always  (B) Frequently  ( C ) Half the time  (D) Seldom (E) Almost never (F) Don’t know

3. You can repeat back to a loved one what they have just said, close to verbatim.
(A) Almost always  (B) Frequently  ( C ) Half the time  (D) Seldom  (E) Almost never  (F) Don’t know

4. When a loved one is talking, you repeatedly identify in your mind what the emotions your loved one is experiencing as they talk.
(A) Almost always  (B) Frequently  ( C ) Half the time  (D) Seldom  (E) Almost never  (F) Don’t know

5. When talking with a loved one you ask what they are feeling, so as to be sure you are in tune with their emotions, and to check out your own perceptions of their emotions.
(A) Almost always  (B) Frequently  ( C ) Half the time  (D) Seldom  (E) Almost never  (F) Don’t know

6. When talking with the loved one you have and convey empathetic, corresponding emotions i.e. you hurt when they hurt, you’re happy when they’re happy, etc.
(A) Almost always  (B) Frequently  ( C ) Half the time  (D) Seldom  (E) Almost never  (F) Don’t know

7. You listen attentively for a loved one to fully vent, express themselves, discover and think-out their own issues, solutions, concepts and feelings before offering your own thoughts, advice, possible solutions, etc.
(A) Almost always  (B) Frequently  ( C ) Half the time  (D) Seldom  (E) Almost never  (F) Don’t know

8. Your facial expressions, head movements, voice tones, gestures and posture changes consistently and repeatedly show interest, attentiveness, care and other appropriate corresponding feelings to your loved ones when they are talking.
(A) Almost always  (B) Frequently  ( C ) Half the time  (D) Seldom  (E) Almost never  (F) Don’t know

9. When talking with a loved one you physically touch them appropriately showing care, support, celebration, affection, etc.
(A) Almost always  (B) Frequently  ( C ) Half the time  (D) Seldom  (E) Almost never  (F) Don’t know

10. When listening to a loved one you avoid listening primarily for their pauses so you can start saying what you want to say next, and while they’re talking you avoid rehearsing in your mind what you’re going to say next, plus you do not let yourself be otherwise easily distracted from giving them your full and close attention.
(A) Almost always  (B) Frequently  ( C ) Half the time  (D) Seldom  (E) Almost never  (F) Don’t know

11. When talking with someone you love do you do a good job of listening with your eyes, i.e. closely watching your loved one’s face and movements in order to see your loved one’s indicators of emotion, so you can be emotionally in tune with them and respond accordingly?
(A) Almost always  (B) Frequently  ( C ) Half the time  (D) Seldom  (E) Almost never  (F) Don’t know

12. When talking with a loved one do you stay aware that listening well can help your loved one feel affirmed, valued and cared about, and not listening well can result in your loved one feeling devalued and less than well loved?
(A) Almost always  (B) Frequently  ( C ) Half the time  (D) Seldom  (E) Almost never  (F) Don’t know


Score 5 points for each (A), 4 points for each (B), 3 points for each ( C ), 2 points for each (D), 1 point for each (E) and zero points for each (F) – Don’t know response.


Scores  49 – 60  suggests someone who is a great loving listener, or someone who is overrating.

39 – 48  suggests someone who is a good loving listener who can still improve.

25 – 36  suggests someone who is a fair loving listener who can do quite a bit better with learning and practicing.

13 – 24  suggests someone who is rather poor at loving listening and probably is in need of a fair amount of improvement.

0 – 12  suggests that a very poor loving listening performance is frequently occurring and considerable work at improvement is recommended.

4, or more, zero (Don’t know) responses suggests considerable study of loving listening skills is probably highly desirable.

If you wish to rate another person on their loving listening skills you will need to alter the questions a little so they read in a way that indicates a loved one listening to you.  Then record the responses (A – F) that best indicates how you think they behave on each item.  Then tally the scores as before.
To learn more about this important skill go to the mini-love-lesson at this site titled “Listening with Love”.  You might use that entry to talk about listening skills with a loved one.

As always – Go and Grow with Love.

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Who listens to you with love the best, and have you sufficiently thanked them for that?

Brains and Love Behavior: Oxytocin and Other Healthful Neurochemistry

Synopsis: This mini love lesson starts with a discussion of how we get better brains from love; then goes on to how love influences our brains which in turn influences our general health; how a lack of love may lead to death via your brain’s reactions; what fake love does; results from love labs; and ends with an important “take away”.

Better Brains

Love, the healthy real kind, makes your brain change.  Not only that, it apparently can make your brain change for the better in quite a few ways.  More exactly, when you receive the behaviors that tend to convey real love your brain responds by making different and more healthful neurochemistry.  That neurochemistry then makes your body respond in more healthful ways.  That in turn makes for better brain, body and often relationship functioning.

Here’s an example:  Person A, Ann, wants a hug from person B, Bob.  Ann says to Bob, “Can I have a hug?”.  Bob on hearing this request feels a bit elated and thinks, “How nice, she wants my hug”.  That little touch of elation means Bob’s brain, especially its limbic system, has responded by making certain endorphins which are flowing into Bob’s bloodstream and causing him to feel good.  That occurrence is stimulating and improving his immune mechanisms which will defend him against infection just a bit better.  Bob then hugs Ann.  As they hug she and he both enjoy what they feel which in their words means they feel a little bit more emotionally close, mutually supported and more relationally connected.  Those feelings mean that their brain’s limbic systems are processing the hug and creating a brain chemical compound called oxytocin.

Oxytocin is very important in helping people feel bonded to one another and oxytocin also helps in some other biological functioning.  Thus, the simple act of asking for and getting a hug has caused both Ann and Bob’s brains to positively process love conveying behaviors, make doses of health assisting neurochemical compounds which then flow through their blood streams assisting their biological functioning and at the same time strengthening their relationship with one another. If Ann and Bob do that sort of thing with each another, along with other love conveying actions, on an everyday basis they likely will have better functioning brains, healthier bodies and a strengthened relationship.

If they seldom do those types of love conveying behaviors their brains, their bodies and the relationship will miss out on those biologically and psychologically positive influences.  They then will be less than they could have been.  If their love conveying interactions are too sparse they may come to suffer from psycho-neurophysiological love malnutrition which could destroy the relationship.  These dynamics are what a large and growing body of  brain and behavioral research is pointing to and is helping us to better understand the phenomenon of love.

Brains and Love Making Health

In social psychology certain major groups of behaviors have been discovered which tend to convey love and, therefore, trigger the brain into making its limbic system love responses.  Each of these groups of behavior is thought to be linked to different biological, health improving benefits.  What is thought to happen is that the brain influenced by receiving love conveying behaviors makes a variety of healthful, neurochemical compounds which flow into the brain’s bloodstream and then into the biological body, causing all sorts of things like lowered bad cholesterol, improved blood pressure, increased cancer fighting T cells and a host of other healthful reactions.

Many of these brain and body reactions to love behaviors have do with lowered anxiety, decreased depression, along with increased mental functioning and greater happiness.  So, if someone is actively and behaviorally sending you healthy, real love and you are good at receiving that love, the love is likely to be making you both physically and psychologically healthier.  That is what recent brain and behavioral research is pointing to.

No Love, No Life?

Do you know how in the early 1900’s the “germ theory” and the need for tough soldiers helped kill 98% of infants left in orphanages?  Can you guess?  Well it worked like this.  It was thought the germ theory dictated that the less infants were touched and directly dealt with, the more they would not catch various diseases going around.  The social theory of the time held that loving on babies would make them spoiled and grow up weak and, therefore, they would not be fit to become good, brave, strong soldiers who might be needed to defend the country.

Consequently newborn infants in orphanages received quick, efficient care and were left alone a lot.  They mysteriously died by the thousands all over the Western world before they reached the age of two.  They died of marasmus and failure to thrive illness.  Those that did manage to stay alive tended to be damaged and dysfunctional.  It was not until pediatric psychiatrists discovered behaviorally loving on babies got them to stay alive.  They then started a campaign to rescind the ‘no love’ childcare policies of the time which, sad to say, still linger in some parts of the world.

Adults also die without love, but this is usually by becoming more disease susceptible, maybe more accident prone, more addictions prone and more suicidal, or so it seems the evidence indicates.

Fake Love Doesn’t Help

The various forms of false love don’t seem to do much good either.  Unfortunately, there is very little research on this sort of thing, but some clinical evidence and thinking suggests that false love will either do no good or actually will do harm to the health and well-being of people.  It is argued that false love may not effect brains in the same way as real love.  This makes logical sense.  When love actions are fake, false or insufficient a fair percentage of people seem to sense this and react with apprehension, defensiveness or withdrawal.  Some may just figure it out and retreat from fake-filled relationships.  It is to be expected that various forms of false love would lead to weak, sparse and inconsistent demonstrations of love.  From that can come more relationship dissonance, increased stress, psychological pain and dissatisfaction resulting in hurtful and harmful breakups.

Some have hypothesized that false love could be neuro-electrically sensed differently in the brain than real love might be.  That then could lead to unhealthy brain chemicals being produced and circulated causing anti-health, biological occurrences.  Some research supports the idea that this is the way it could work but, by no means, is this conclusive.  (To learn more about false loves consult this website’s False Love and Myths series).

Love in the Lab

Comparative animal psychologists discovered the same thing that the early pediatric psychiatrists discovered.  Infant monkeys, and later other higher order mammals, who did not experience the behaviors that convey love tended to die in infancy even though they were well taken care of otherwise, just like the human babies died.  Animal brain autopsies showed a lack of full brain development, poor inter-cell connections and other brain deformities.   Those animals that did stay alive were significantly dysfunctional in their ability to relate to others of their own kind and their brain functioning was markedly impaired.

Our brains seem to benefit directly and significantly from love.  Both lab animal and human brain research on those who receive loving touch, looks, sounds, etc. have better developed and better functioning brains, more broad branched brain cell networks, better brain responsiveness and better general cognitive functioning.  If you want to know more about these things you might want to consult these books: The Brain in Love, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life both by Dr. Daniel Amen; The Compassionate Brain by Gerald Hüther; The Neuroscience of Human Relationships by Louis Cozolino; and The Emotional Brain by Joseph Ledoux.

The Take Away

The suggested ‘take away’ from this mini love lesson is as follows.  If you want those you love to be psychologically and physically healthy and if you want your love relationship with those you love to be strong and lasting, learn and consistently practice the behaviors that convey healthy, real love.  To help you do that, study the mini-love-lessons listed under “Behaviors” in the subject index at this website, read Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages, read my book Recovering Love, and if you run into love relationship problems try to find a loving and love-knowledgeable counselor, or therapist or personal coach.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
When someone shows you an action that may convey their love for you, how good are you at receiving it, absorbing it and fully feeling that demonstration of love?