“There’s No Such Thing as Everlasting Love (According to Science),” says the Atlantic in a review of a book titled Love 2.0: How Our Supreme Emotion Affects Everything We Feel, Think, Do, and Become. In fact, the book posits that we don’t actually experience the grand, sweeping love of myth and Hollywood screenplays, but instead experience (or create) “micro-moment of positivity resonance.”
[Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson] means that love is a connection, characterized by a flood of positive emotions, which you share with another person—any other person—whom you happen to connect with in the course of your day. You can experience these micro-moments with your romantic partner, child, or close friend. But you can also fall in love, however momentarily, with less likely candidates, like a stranger on the street, a colleague at work, or an attendant at a grocery store.
This is how I experience love all the time. I think that’s one reason I’m not on the lookout for a mate: there’s so much love everywhere, all around, at every moment. Why limit yourself to focusing on romantic love with a specific person? Fredrickson calls the focus on attaining romantic love a “worldwide collapse of imagination,” and I absolutely agree.
When I cross the bridge on my way to work in the morning, I look to either side, at the river flowing east toward the piney woods and west toward the desert mountains, and each morning think about how much I love this state. As I thank God for Texas, I feel a rush of love for all of creation. That’s a mighty fine way to start the day. Fredrickson considers love a nutrient: “If you are getting enough of the nutrient, then the health benefits of love can dramatically alter your biochemistry in ways that perpetuate more micro-moments of love in your life, and which ultimately contribute to your health, well-being, and longevity.” So I’m getting a good breakfast indeed!
Fredrickson looks at the biochemical and physiological components of these micro-moments of connection and positivity, and describes one facet as the vagal tone, meaning how conditioned the vagus nerve is to responding to and connecting with others. While some folks have vagel tones as flabby as my abs, they can firm it up by practicing. She prescribes a daily course of loving-kindness meditation, a Buddhist practice in which you sit in silence and cultivate compassion for another person.
Since vagal tone mediates social connections and bonds, people whose vagal tones increased were suddenly capable of experiencing more micro-moments of love in their days. Beyond that, their growing capacity to love more will translate into health benefits given that high vagal tone is associated with lowered risk of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.
This practice has another benefit as well: if you’re dealing with someone who is making your life miserable but whom you can’t eject from your life (like a moronic co-worker or a shrill parent on your PTA committee or the control freak on the HOA board), if you concentrate just a few minutes each day on showering that person with love, just envisioning them floating in grace and light and love, their divinity coming to the surface and dissolving their obnoxious exterior, this person will often stop acting like such a jackass and behave more tolerably. The article on Fredrickson’s book doesn’t mention this benefit to the practice, but it totally works. Maybe it works on the dickhead in question because their behavior changes, or because you become more tolerant (with your newly toned vagus nerve and all), but it’s a remarkably effective practice.
Anyway, it sounds like a great read that is promoting a message that single people need to hear, because although I’m dedicated to the old-maid path, my life is filled with love (family, friends, community, pets, music and poetry, God showing up in infinite ways) and I rarely feel lonely, although I am often alone.
Lonely people who are looking for love are making a mistake if they are sitting around and waiting for love in the form of the “love myth” to take hold of them. If they instead sought out love in little moments of connection that we all experience many times a day, perhaps their loneliness would begin to subside.