Love Study:

Breaking Up is Hard to Do
What's Early Love Got to Do With It

by John A. Speyrer

"... the most powerful emotional dynamic in human existence:
the attachment instinct. Love."
-- Gabor Maté, M.D., In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts

The May 2010 issue of the, Journal of Neurophysiology, contained a study of love or at least of unrequited love or of broken love or of never-had-but-thought-I-did-have love!

And the questions are: Do the wrenching stories of heart-break and heartache get translated into a changed brain with neuro chemicals gone wild? Is love really a drug? Yes and yes. Why so many brain studies and not more studies of the early environment of the people who get devastated by love rejection? Why are those imaging machines so popular? Don't know and don't know. But, brain studies did show that the emotions felt by those who had been rejected were the real thing. Art Aron, Ph.D., plies his craft at NYU-Stonybrook. He and four researchers likened to what the love rejectee's felt as similar "to what a cocaine addict suffers when giving up his drug." Good comparison!

Aron, a social psychology professor, has been studying the subject for 30 years. The latest study comprised 10 women and five men selected by a flier that inquired: "Have you just been rejected in love, but can't let go?" All volunteers were unanimous in reporting "obsessive thinking and craving for emotional union." They cried, they begged, they telephoned and they e-mailed. They also began drinking too much. Gotta keep the pain and tension down.

They figured that they thought about their "ex" about 85% of the time. But the origin of those bad feelings were from remarkably early stored memories in their unconscious so how could they have known the real source of their misery? How could they endure the truth? Well, only in a measured dribbling fashion as it was a devastating feeling for a baby to experience.

Inside of a brain imaging device they were shown photos of the one who split from them alternated with "neutral" persons. The result was that two areas of the brain showed where their present feelings on the image of choice resided. Just like drug addicts, number one was a dopamine-laden area that mediates brain reward systems. (It also displays when one is feeling loving and lovable). The second area is one dealing with "drug cravings and addiction." No surprises here and no surprises there.

Here's another all too typical example of too much reliance on understanding neuronal activity during a time of crisis and not enough on exploring the ultimate causes of why those guys and gals were feeling so miserable. For them it was crisis-time, although hopefully only temporary as most folk's defenses will again solidify. However some never recoup the ability to re-defend as efficiently as before the negative love experience as their defenses had become too fragile. Wouldn't it be a much better learning and treatment experience for all by exploring why such strong feelings were triggered in some in the first place? What special earlier history did those who were easy to trigger but difficult to re-defend possess?

Would it not be more productive to study or examine the cause of the crisis upset due to rejection? You won't learn much neurology that way but you might very well learn much clinical psychology relating to the imperative need of love by babies. Learning which parts of the brain light up when the in loco parentis withholds love? I'd hope that the love deprived would get good therapy instead.

The news release editor (Ellen McCarthy who does her thing at the Washington Post) concludes with a quote from Aron reminding us that a "stiff upper lip", "a box of tissues", and a pint of "Ben & Jerry's" are just not enough to make those unpleasant feelings go away.

"If we break an arm and take painkillers for a week, everyone understands where the pain is, how bad it might be, and the necessity for taking painkillers....
But what if we have a broken heart?"
-- Arthur Janov, Ph.D. in Primal Healing

The reader is reminded that the study also showed that those who had been rejected the longest time had the least amount of activity in those parts of the brain which mediate bonding between other folks. But those are the lucky ones. Some victims, despite the help from all the king's horses and all the shrinkmen seem never able to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again. Aron writes about the decreasing symptomology of the love rejectees: "It's consistent with the notion that time heals wounds."

The canard is usually that "time heals all wounds," but I guess Dr. Aron knows that version of the saying is not the real truth and neither was it for me. Au contraire!

British psychiatrist, Frank Lake wrote: "Time does not heal fixated wounds...If the infant spirit is thrust at the suffering end of a broken relationship, it is literally swallowed up in fear, panic, or dread." Like myself, Dr. Lake, is concerned about the 'problem of evil' as he goes on to ask about God's tolerance for the injustice and suffering endured by the unloved infant: "Could He stand up to so many death-wishes against Himself, so much hatred of His policy (and) envy of His power...Could he keep His self-respect when He learned that so many innocent babes had been flung into the abyss of dereliction?" [ Clinical Theology (1966), pps. 189-190.]

Personally, I never did get over that experience of rejection completely and was left with more insomnia, more anxiety, etc. But then, I hadn't gotten over that first early experience of rejective despair either. After opening up that old wound I could not get it to close-up again to the extent it was defended against before. The original wounds were from the womb, from the birth canal and from the crib.

"In this way a pain now, a rejection, can resonate with serious past rejection from our parents and thereby produce an anxiety attack. It gives weight to the present reaction, which may seem inordinate, but in reality is the bottom rung of a neuronal circuit."
-- Arthur Janov, Ph.D. Why We Root for the Dodgers - a blog article

Later, there was another woman I wanted to date and another rejective experience had stirred up the contents of my unknown mind. After a number of anxiety attacks, and a number of shrinks, and a number of dollars, I am sorry to report that I had not become healed. For one moment, it seemed that I had begun the healing process, as the psychologist asked me to tell him about my mother. I became speechless as waves of warmth traveled from my feet to my head.

I had been on the cusp of an important truth, a breakthrough was trying to well - breakthrough, but unfortunately the subject was never brought up again! But I had learned it was about Mom because after that experience, he asked me to talk about Daddy (I'm from the South) and the information about him had flowed freely from my being. Sadly, that's as far as we went with that only Mama opportunity I was to have with that particular therapist. Sadly, the paydirt was presented but had not been mined. Many years later, additional work with gestalt therapy was to make it possible for me to begin self-regressive psychotherapy, I had finally begun the healing process. Notice that I did not write that I finished it. No one ever does!

In his final work, Mutual Caring, (1982) British psychiatrist Frank Lake describes how womb crises, birth crises and later ones of babyhood can be uncovered and break out from repression during some childhood, adolescent or adult crisis. Such nervous breakdowns can be triggered by a negative miserable failure or rejection, which, due to the strength of the memory, becomes impossible to re-repress again. The reaction, occurring perhaps many decades after the original assault, is disproportionate to the severity of the present day hurt which nonetheless contains the kindred feelings of the original primal trauma which provide the essential resonance in the present. [ ibid.. (2009), p. 76.]

That's how it happens and that's why it hurts so much.

The quotations below support that reality. Hopefully, too many will be enough.


"The. . . unquestioning love of our parents is so deeply rooted that hardly anything can destroy it, and certainly not insight into the truth. It is grounded in the natural need to love and be loved."
-- Dr. Alice Miller in Paths of Life

"Now the idea that our parents did not love us well or sufficiently is one that creates enormous resistance in people. Better to believe the fault lies within us, then at least we maintain the illusion that we can win their love if only we cut our hair, take a bath, become a doctor, marry the right person, earn more money, call home more often -- you fill in the blanks to fit the situation."
-- Bernie S. Siegel M. D. in Peace, Love and Healing

"There is nothing which is more necessary and more precious in the experience of human childhood than parental love.... nothing more precious, because the parental love experienced in childhood is moral capital for the whole of life.... It is so precious, this experience, that it renders us capable of elevating ourselves to more sublime things--even divine things. It is thanks to the experience of parental love that our soul is capable of raising itself to the love of God.
--Valentin Tomberg - Russian Christian Mystic

"The stress of our lives and tension which emerges has much more relationship to our early histories than to our daily lives in the present. . . Even when one cries for a parent at a funeral, the agonizing quality of the grief derives from infancy, when love-loss was totally unbearable, much less from the present."
-- E. Michael Holden, M.D. in The Journal of Primal Therapy - Winter 1976

". . . (T)he most painful disease I have every seen is that of an unloved child."
-- Dr. Bernie Siegel

". . . (T)he 'Casanova syndrome,' which compels a man to try to show himself that he is lovable by making up in numbers of conquests what is missing in the special quality of love that should have been found in his mother, the kind that assures one of one's existence and one's worth."
-- Jean Liedloff in The Continuum Concept

"Every case of psychotherapy, to a greater or lesser extent, is a problem of a failure to love."
-- Paul Fleischman, M.D.

"The first real choice a human baby must make is whether to trust or mistrust other humans. This basic trust-versus-mistrust stage is the first building block upon which all later love relationships are formed."
--Dr. Ken Magid and Carole A. McKelvey in High Risk

"To be fully open to the baby's emotional needs is to become reacquainted with oneself as a baby, to reexperience the pain of being totally dependent and desperate in love and yet being shut out and feeling unwanted."
-- Robert Karen, Ph.D.

"Ninety percent of the people I meet are dealing with issues they can't overcome because of bad parenting. That's the truth. There's that side of you that says, `Time to get over the hurt and move on,' ... It's hard to do. So you just hang on to the emotion that this one didn't love me, or why didn't that relationship last? That stuff stays with you forever. You want to say, `Get over yourself! Come on! Time to grow up!' Some people are able to do that, but a lot of us remain victims of it. So I was fortunate with my parents."'
-- Leonardo Dicaprio, movie actor in Parade Magazine, Oct 5, 2008

"I have never known a patient to portray his parents more negatively than he actually experienced them in childhood, but always more positively -- because idealization of his parents was essential for survival."
-- Alice Miller, Ph.D.

"Parents are a serious adaptive problem for the infant.
-- Weston LaBarre, Anthropologist

"People who have been traumatically abused are saddled with the worst expectations - terrifying anxiety, loss of control, feeling like killing and being killed,(and) being alone and unable to survive in a murderous universe."
-- Leonard Shengold, M.D.

"...Probably no adult misery can be compared with a child's despair."
-- Iris Murdoch

"The first notion of identity in the infant, what is most his own, comes from the outside. . . through the mother's gaze, the infant (receives) precise instructions as to "who he is" and "how he must be" in order to be loved and recognized. . . "
-- Raquel Zak

"Some women have children only to express how desperately they want to be loved as only babies are loved, and to try to wrest from the experience of giving birth the nurturance they never received from their mother."
-- Jane Swigert in The Myth of the Bad Mother

"Our early lessons in love and our developmental history shape the expectations we bring into marriage."
-- Judith Viorst

"You show me a murderer and I'll show you a person who's been failed in the supreme need for love -- who never learned how to love. . . ."
-- Dr. Ashley Montagu in Touch the Future

"The expectation that her search for love will be rewarded at last by her own love-needy infant is the tragedy of many a woman. And of course, it is a looming factor in the quality of deprivation suffered by the child. . . What could be more pathetic than a child crying for want of mothering and the mother striking out at it because it is not mothering her in answer to her longing?"
-- Jean Liedloff in The Continuum Concept

Our national spotlight should clearly be on the crib -- not on the criminal -- if we are to change the future. Infants who do not receive a warm welcome into the world will seek their revenge."
-- Dr. Ken Magid and Carole A. McKelvey in High Risk

"The trauma that causes neurosis is lack of love and attention from parents."
-- Thomas A. Stone in Cure By Crying

"Each generation begins anew with fresh, eager, trusting faces of babies, ready to love and create a new world. And each generation of parents tortures, abuses, neglects and dominates its children until they become emotionally crippled adults who repeat in nearly exact detail the social violence and domination that existed in previous decades."
-- Lloyd deMause in The Psychogenic Theory of History

"How can we have the courage to wish to live, how can we make a movement to preserve ourselves from death, in a world where love is provoked by a lie and consists solely in the need of having our sufferings appeased by whatever being has made us suffer?"
-- Marcel Proust

"We call a person 'normal' if the self-deception that he uses to repress, deny, displace, and rationalize those basic wounds that are ubiquitous in human beings from babyhood works quite well. He is 'normal' in so far as his defenses against too much painful reality are as successful as (all unbeknown to the person himself) they are meant to be." -- Frank Lake, M.D.

"The fact that many people find romantic excitement in a lover who displays the qualities of a rejecting parent, an excitement that they do not find in others, suggests the degree to which they remain not just committed to but enthralled by early attachment figures. They can't let go of the mother or father who didn't love them the way they needed to be loved. And they continue to be betwiched by the hurtfulness that compromised their care."
"(It) feels like giving up love itself. And so one seeks love in return .. . An obvious corollary is that the prospect of being (cared for) in a truly loving way is undermined at every turn; indeed, it feels perversely unacceptable."
-- R. Karen Becoming Attached

"Our unique desire and ability to fall in love have to do with attachment experiences we all had very early in life, before we even knew what was happening to us. Attachment leaves such a lasting impression that much of our later life is spent trying to recreate its specific character, for better for worse. We are intensely attracted to those particular individuals who resonate with our earliest emotional map."
-- Robert W. Godwin, Ph.D. in One Cosmos under God

"In every nursery there are ghosts," such that "a parent and his child may find themselves re-enacting a moment or a scene from another time with another set of characters."
-- Selma Fraiberg

". . . the rage of psychopaths is that born of unfulfilled needs as infants. Incomprehensible pain is forever locked in their souls, because of the abandonment they felt as infants."
-- Dr. Ken Magid and Carole A. McKelvey in High Risk

"The catecholamines which convey the 'messages' to do with emotions round the mother's circulation, gearing all her organs and cells to feeling joy or sorrow, love or loathing, vitality or exhaustion, pass through the placental barrier (which to these substances is no barrier) into the foetal blood stream via the umbilical vein.

In this context the foetus does its own emotional homework and responds, either passively accepting the mother's bad feelings as its own, as if true for itself, or by being protestingly overwhelmed by them. It can aggressively fight them back, in resolute opposition to sharing the mother's sickness. Others become 'fetal therapists' trying to bolster up a debilitated and debilitating mother from their own feelings of relative strength. Sensitivity to 'poisonous' feelings coming from a rejecting mother is very great . . .To be the focus of mother's love imprints a confidence that 'sets us up' for life."
-- Frank Lake, M.D., in Report from the Research Department

"She may have been full of anger internally, while fear, compliance or compassion prevented its ever being shown externally. She may have loved the man by whom she became pregnant, while hating the resultant fetus, or loved the prospect of having a baby, while hating, fearing or feeling deeply disappointed and neglected by its father. The fetus receives all such messages but has difficulty in distinguishing what relates specifically to it and what belongs to the mother's feelings about her own life in general."
-- Frank Lake, M.D. in Tight Corners in Pastoral Counseling

"I believe first of all that which all my patients assert, that the embryo already feels plainly whether its mother loves it or not, whether she gives it much love, little love, or none at all, in many instances in fact in place of love sheer hate."
-- J. Sadger in Preliminary Study of the Psychic Life of the Fetus and the Primary Germ

"A baby born today has a roughly 50-50 chance of keeping his father. This is the first generation of American kids who must face not the sad loss of fathers to death, but the far more brutal knowledge that, to their fathers, many other things are more important than they are."
-- Maggie Gallagher in The Abolition of Marriage

"As we have seen, those who underwent persecutory experiences in the first year have many ways of defending against the emergence into adult consciousness of their infantile 'descent' into hell. These defences may break down in adolescence or middle life, but most commonly they take from forty to sixty years before they break down. When they do become de-repressed and emerge into consciousness, we encounter the persecuted infant exactly in the state of terror in which it was `put down'. And we see, in retrospect, that the paranoid or otherwise distorted personality pattern which has made this man or woman so difficult to live with over the years has all along been a defensive position based on unforgettable, unrecallable, 'memories' of this infantile descent into hell."
--Frank Lake, M.D., Clinical Theology

"Complications in the intimate emotional reaction with one's mother or father can cause recurrent problems with sexual partners."
-- Stanislav Grof, M.D. in The Adventure of Self-Discovery

"Intimacy is showing another person the parts of ourselves that we believe to be unworthy and thereby risking that they will turn from us the way our parents did. . . Intimacy brings with it tenderness and humor, companionship and affection, but it also demands that we relive the most agonizing moments of being a child."
-- Geneen Roth in When Food Is Love

"It is not merely a question of inner conflict or of 'growing up.' 'Stop fussing over what your parents did to you!' as skeptics command patients in therapy. The scar consists of changed anatomy and chemistry within the brain."
Dr. Peter D. Kramer in Listening To Prozac

"A parent may feel rejective toward a child, consciously or unconsciously, constantly or intermittently, but seek to suppress this feeling by not permitting it to come through in actions. But there is a belief that the child senses the true feeling."
-- Frank R. Donovan in Raising Your Child

"If a child does not receive adequate attention and richness of social experience in early life, the results are apt to be irreversible. No amount of subsequent training can fully compensate for the error. Nature relies heavily on the behavior of the mother toward the newborn in its first years of life. . . The measure of love the child receives, the types of training and education and the time when they take place, will determine the characteristics of the future man."
-- George Crile, Jr. M.D. in The Naturalistic View of Man

"The first notion of identity in the infant, what is most his own, comes from the outside. . . through the mother's gaze, the infant (receives) precise instructions as to "who he is" and "how he must be" in order to be loved and recognized. . . "
-- Raquel Zak

"So many of the patients have experienced a neglect of their most basic, deepest human needs -- for touching and for companionship, for sharing inner feelings, for expressing creative energy, for sexual fulfillment, for personal validation, and for the giving and receiving of love. Instead their lives were characterized by duty and obligation to the very people who gave them little or nothing in return."
-- Dennis Jaffe -- Quoted in The Type C Connection: The Behavioral Links to Cancer and Your Health by Dr. Lydia Temoshok and Henry Dreher

"In the self-help literature directed at parents virtually no attention is paid to the emotional upheavals that the parent is likely to face -- the disturbing return of long banished feelings, the sense of being driven to behave in ways that one would rather not think about, the haunting sensation of being inhabited by the ghost of one's own mother or father as one tries to relate to one's child."
-- Robert Karen, Ph.D.

"The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother." -- Anonymous

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