By Paula Lau
“Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well.” — Vincent Van Gogh
What is it about this powerful and complex emotion we call love? Through the centuries men and women have wrestled with this dynamic emotion that has forged kingdoms and destroyed worlds. There are a host of meanings attached to Valentine’s Day. For many it is a day to tentatively express love for the first time through construction paper hearts and crayoned messages. For others an opportunity to renew their commitment pledged in the distant past. Those more cynical in nature would say that it is a day for the greeting card and candy companies to make a killing.
Medical advances and scientific knowledge are proliferating in this day and age and some of the most interesting research is in relation to the heart-brain connection. When asked, most would probably say the heart is a powerful pump sustaining life and longevity. But few would be aware that research points to the fact the heart is much more than just a mechanical necessity within the body. Research began in the 1960’s by John and Beatrice Lacey suggests that, in fact, the heart influences the brain. “The heart and the brain maintain a continuous two way dialogue, with each influencing the other’s function. It is now known the signals the heart sends to the brain can influence perception, emotional processing and higher cognitive functioning.” Before the Lacey’s began their research Dr. Walter Cannon showed there were predictable changes in heart rate, rhythm, blood pressure and digestion with differing emotions. So it’s not so difficult to imagine why we are moved in the ways we are when we feel as if we have fallen in love or we sense the admiration of another. My hands start to shake whenever he comes around. My face turns red when she smiles at me. I lose weight when I’m in love because I don’t need to eat. All the earmarks of love? You bet. And the center of our emotion? Research indicates that it is indeed the heart.
By contrast, research has shown those who impulsively vent their anger and those who continually suppress their emotions are far more likely to develop heart disease. Negative emotions have a debilitating affect on our physical health. As this research indicates it’s important to find healthy ways to balance our emotional, physical and cognitive states. Is it any wonder that the heart has been spoken of through the centuries as the center of the emotions? How did our forefathers come to this conclusion? It’s tough to say, but one thing is sure — they knew what they were talking about.
Does all of this positive emotion apply only to those who have found romantic bliss? Absolutely not! The fact is that our hearts were made to love — whether it’s a cause, a pet, someone else’s children, a notion or anything you can think of that can generate these positive emotions within us. Don’t focus on the traditional symbols of love and find yourself miserable. Rejoice in those things that bring up positive energy within you. Love is not for a day, but for a lifetime.
“Love is life,” wrote Leo Tolstoy. “All. Everything that I understand. I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love shall return to the general and eternal source.”
So find that which you love and give your heart to it. You will be in league with the ancients.
This week’s issue is written by Paula Lau. Paula is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Addiction Specialist who transforms lives through the mediums of counseling, education, and speaking. More about Paula…