I was thinking today about how romance appears to be a neocortex hack over the limbic system and reptilian brain (triune brain theory).
So romance is the stories we (our neocortices) tell ourselves to trick our lower brains into artificially inflating the value of our partner.
“I searched for you beneath a thousand stars”
sounds better than:
“I fucked you in a nightclub toilet because we were both drunk and horny.”
“After so many years I found you — my destiny, my one true love”
sounds better than:
“We met through friends. I settled because I’m getting on a bit and I’m worried about my eggs.”
If a man buys his fiancée a $50,000 engagement ring, well, “She must be worth at least $50,000.”
The neocortex can use stories to attach extra value symbols to people and things. These symbols can fire the reward circuits (the lower brains). A good example of a neocortex symbol firing reward circuitry is money. Money is a concept only existing in the neocortex, yet it can inspire fear or motivation as well as a physical threat or enticement.
So with romance we take something pleasurable (sex, company, affection) and make it into a story with extra symbols to get free “hits”. Greedy. 🙂
The problem here is that, when the partner is lost, you lose all the extra investment you attached to them, too. You don’t just lose them — you lose the story, laced with its myriad reward circuit–baiting symbols. The more you lose, the more it hurts. And to explain the loss, you will have to create a new story — usually one involving them being an absolute shit. Since how else could you have lost so much?
Of course, the romance story also binds the relationship to time. It means the symbol can act as an ongoing calming agent for the lower brains, so they can stand down from high alert. The story also establishes social boundaries and expectations by declaring the resource claim or agreement. So it is multi-purpose.
But wait, let’s turn it around
What if the neocortex in this case is not creative, but reactive?
Maybe the emotions emanating from the lower brains are so strong that the neocortex is compelled to interpret them by immediately confabulating a convoluted yarn, to account for the why?, when? and how?, and therefore maintain causality.
Perhaps a bit of both is going on. Both processes take place and feedback into each other (co-creating systems).
Perhaps all of this just happens — there is no inherent separation between the processes, and the separations we apply to it are simply the world view of the left hemisphere.
This is a good example of how the only model that can describe a system fully is the system itself — and how the same phenomenon can be understood in an infinite number of different ways (model agnosticism, zeteticism).