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This reading, from A General Theory of Love is helping me to understand myself. To summarize, mammals are the only creatures with a limbic brain, and it is where we form attachments--to our young, so that we will rear them, to our lovers, and to our other assorted dear ones notably including other mammals. Reptiles and amphibians don't attach the same way, they lay eggs and leave them behind. Birds care for their young but the attachment seems to be completely instinctive and not personal in the least. But mammals, we attach to individuals.

The bit about separation is particularly poignant considering that I fell in love with someone in another state who is unable to sustain connection over distance. So I have been going through separation, and knowing that what I have experienced is common to all mammals helps. It doesn't remove the pain, but understanding it gives me further permission to do what I can to make attachments here that will sustain me. I have long known that my isolation here is bad for me, but I didn't invest in changing it. I am doing so now. Better late than never. But back to the book, and some quotes:

p76 "Take a puppy away from his mother, place him alone in a wicker pen, and you will witness the universal mammalian reaction to the rupture of an attachment bond--a reflection of the limbic architecture that mammals share. Short separations provoke an acute response known as protest, while prolonged separations yield the physiologic state of despair."

In summary, protest involves two main behaviors: searching and calling. The puppy protest phase is pacing, scanning surroundings, barking, piteous high pitched whining, scratching at the floor. All these noises are designed to get the attention of the individual to whom they are attached. The interesting part for me is in the description of humans in the protest phase:

p77 "...inescapable inner restlessness, the powerful urge to contact the person ("just to talk"), mistaken glimpses of the lost figure everywhere (a seething combination of overly vigilant scanning and hope). All are part of protest. The drive to reestablish contact is sufficiently formidable that people often cannot resist it, even when they understand that the other person doesn't want anything to do with them. Human beings manifest searching and calling in lengthy letters, frantic phone calls, repeated e-mails, and telephoning an answering machine just to hear another's voice. The tormented letter that a rejected lover composes turns out to be an updated version of a baby rat's constant peep: the same song, in a slightly lower pitch."

It's pretty damn familiar. This is what I have been doing, against my better judgment. Pining for connection with one who cannot connect. But I am a creature, and it's a relief to know that this drive to make contact is normal and expected. I am a mammal, and I became strongly attached then lost all communication. There's more, I want to make some notes on the despair phase too, but must run for now.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 3rd, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you. This makes me feel less insane.
Nov. 6th, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
Hah! Been there many times. Thank God the hormones finally run down.
Nov. 3rd, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
This makes complete sense as well as helping to solidify my thoughts on abandonment, which I have experienced many times in my life and I think it my greatest fear as an adult.

Can we form these same attachments with inanimate objects? I think we can... imagine how we feel when we lose something sentimental. I wonder if that's because of the attachment to a person or if it is for the object itself.
Nov. 7th, 2010 07:44 pm (UTC)
attachments to inanimate objects
I've been thinking about your inanimate object question. I think that we attach to inanimate things only in so far as we connect them with human/mammalian attachments. I think stuff is emotionally inert when it doesn't remind us of someone, or a time spent with someone.... at least I can't think of any exceptions. Can you?
Nov. 8th, 2010 01:06 am (UTC)
Re: attachments to inanimate objects
Right. I really like my motorcycle and would be upset if it was wrecked, but I wouldn't be emotionally upset over the loss of it.. unless I'd had it for ten years and attached a bunch of experiences and memories to it.

So I guess I can't think of any exceptions where I might become attached to an object that didn't have sentimental value in some way.

Having said that, I have heard of a few instances where people have fallen in love with inanimate objects... like the woman who married the Eiffel Tower.
Nov. 8th, 2010 03:03 am (UTC)
Re: attachments to inanimate objects
Fascinating that people with OS (Objectum-Sexual)...I'm going to call it a syndrome, are also likely to have Asperger's syndrome. Difficulty attaching to humans does combine easily with strong feelings for objects.

Thinking of my personal experience with someone who may have Asperger's; B has a passion for machines, motors, cogs, gears, metal that works and works well.

Edited at 2010-11-08 03:05 am (UTC)
Nov. 8th, 2010 03:13 am (UTC)
Re: attachments to inanimate objects
Hmm. It's really interesting to think about this. Objects - motors, metal, machines, etc... have a specific order of operation, unlike humans. I wonder if this is part of the draw - they are predictable based on mechanics. If they break there is a specific reason. No psychology involved.
Nov. 8th, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)
Re: attachments to inanimate objects
Nov. 8th, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
Re: attachments to inanimate objects
Nov. 6th, 2010 02:25 pm (UTC)
What is also interesting to me is that humans maintain these attachments over time, including to their children, while other mammals leave their offspring after the hormones end. So something must have evolved in humans (don't know about the apes) where we do not walk away from what is ours.
Nov. 7th, 2010 07:40 pm (UTC)
a theory about why humans stay connected even when away
I think that the human capacity to maintain connection over massive time and distance has to do with our ability to relive connecting moments over and over. I can call up a certain kiss in memory and find the exact same feeling that I had in the moment that it happened. Even though I am recreating this moment mentally, my limbic system interprets it as if it just happened. Freud and Jung would say that it is my unconscious that feels the relived memory as if it were in present time.

I think it probably takes a fairly developed cortex to do this, and apes do have quite a bit of cortex. So it is possible that they do it. I think dogs also remember their humans years later, and maintain some attachment, so perhaps they entertain memory... this would be supported by their acute sense of smell and the strong link between smell and memory.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )



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