Love and Fear

12 Apr

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.  Especially after H. reminded me that in many Eastern philosophies these are the ‘basic’ emotional-action drivers.




If you are not acting out of one, chances are you are flirting with the other.

But John Lennon says:  “Love is ALL you need.”

I asked a 12-year-old which she lived her life by and her answer was so simple:  “It’s easy to get me to do the things I love.  That’s why I don’t do my math homework.”

I do not think she really got my question.  Or, maybe I don’t.

Maybe it IS that simple.

Digging a bit though, (humor me- I can’t resist!):  Do we live our lives because we are loving what we are doing and offering?  Or, are we living merely because we afraid of something worse?

Taking chances.  Making changes.  On us.

Beyond rambling, I have science too!  We have two hormones specifically associated with love and fear:  Oxytocin and Cortisol.  Below is a list of what physiological responses these hormones correlate to in the body.  *Important to note, while I’d love to be all John Lennon about life (and hope to be 🙂 ), this list is remarkably one-sided.  Cortisol must exist for a purpose right?!  Look at the list below and then we’ll discuss… (Source)

Fear – Cortisol Love – Oxytocin
Aggression Anti-stress hormone
Arousal, Anxiety, Feeling stressed-out Feeling calm and connected, Increased curiosity
Activates addictions Lessens cravings & addictions
Suppresses libido Increases sexual receptivity
Associated with depression Positive feelings
Can be toxic to brain cells Facilitates learning
Breaks down muscles, bones and joints Repairs, heals and restores
Depresses immune system Faster wound healing
Increases pain Diminishes sense of pain
Clogs arteries, Promotes heart disease and high blood pressure Lowers blood pressure, Protects against heart disease
Obesity, Diabetes, Osteoporosis

To boil it down (more objectively), these two hormones have different evolutionary functions. Cortisol increases our blood sugar (through gluconeogenesis) as it breaks things down.  Including us.  This can be great if we need a quick burst of energy or if we are in real danger.  But, cortisol is NOT meant to linger or to be continually released.  That’s chronically stressful on our body, since cortisol functions by shutting down regulatory body systems and breaking macro nutrients apart to promote survival and quick action.  Remember ‘Fight or Flight’– cortisol makes us more sensitive to this reaction.  That’s probably why it is nicknamed the ‘Stress Hormone.‘  Yikes.  (Now you can see where the liberties have been taken in the list above.  And, here is a more fair take on cortisol..) 

Oxytocin, on the other hand, is linked with human-bonding.  It is one of the hormones found in breast-milk and it is also associated with sex.  Boom chicky ;).  This O is aptly nicknamed the ‘Love Hormone.’  So, how do I get ME some?  Well, you could:  go into labor, stimulate your (female) nipples, become sexually aroused / have an orgasm, or trust someoneHuman bonding.

Are we back to fear?

Here’s a compelling case for love (hormones):  “Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security around the mate.  Many studies have already shown a correlation of oxytocin with human bonding, increases in trust, and decreases in fear.”  (Source)

Clearly, we are capable of experiencing both love and fear.  We can reflect on them philosophically.  We can pause and notice how these emotional impulses may compel us into (in)action.  We can also note the bio-chemical correlations they have on the body.  And, then there’s my crux– it seems we take ‘worse’ (necessary?) actions out of fear than we do in love. We run.  We fight.


I wonder then:  Can we evolve to a place where ‘love is all you need?’

Or, math homework… 😉

3 Responses to “Love and Fear”

  1. Jerry Keusch April 12, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    “Do we live our lives because we are loving what we are doing and offering? Or, are we living merely because we afraid of something worse?” A really challenging thought, not sure if I really like my answer 😦

    • Jamie April 12, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

      I hear you. The questions often come easier than the answers… But we do our best!

  2. AL May 10, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    >>The questions often come easier than the answers… But we do our best!<<

    Only if you chose to do your best…do it repeatedly and allow "doing your best" to be a habit where it resides in your subconscious.

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