Thursday, February 13, 2014

This Is Your Brain on Love, an Awesome Talk by Ginny Brown

Since the project that emerged for me at the conference was to learn how not to panic when I get excited about somebody, I was superexcited to go learn about NRE and neurotransmitters. I guess naming the talk kinda gives away which conference it was, not like it was such a big mystery anyway. If you ever get a chance to see this talk, I couldn’t recommend it more. If you're headed to Atlanta Poly Weekend, you'll be able to see it there!

I think most poly folk are familiar with the brain processes of love, but looking at the list of “symptoms,” of being in love made me realize there’s some overlap with anxiety and even depression. (Perseverating, obsession, jealousy…) But the biggest flash of insight came from learning that, during the early stages of passionate love, serotonin levels drop! As a (now pretty mildly, I’d say) depressed person who’s been treating herself with non-medicine fixes, that was the most helpful possible tip! If I’m going to wade into excellently lovey-dovey emotions, I have to make sure to take extra care of my brain first with as much sunlight as possible (rare these days but I’m hoping the sun will be back…) don’t skip the gym, eat lots of produce, etc, and slow down enough so that anxieties don’t snowball and turn something cute into something overwhelming.

As with the advice I got in the previous post, I got a chance to test this theory right away. On Tuesday night, I was planning an ironing-some-things-out talk with the fantastically NRE-ful Mystery Man, so I took care to put writing and getting to the gym first. Probably we’d’ve done fine anyway, (We’re very cute.) but it was a lot easier to talk past sticking points and be open with my needs when my brain was all thankful and calm.

Since I’m still mostly a single girl (Well, as single as a girl with about five Valentines can be…) a lot of what I’ve experienced in the past couple of years has been the wonderfully anxiety-producing new parts of relationships, and to some degree I have used it as a (somewhat ineffective, it turns out) mood elevator, but also it’s just how I am.

I probably will always get very enthusiastic about lots of people, but I look forward to eventually seeing what comes after the “Call Me Maybe” phase of things—what happens when I’m calm and slow enough to ask for what I need and be able to hear what other people are asking for, too. I’m starting to feel like I can feel safe forming real attachments. As a lot of my snuggle pals are long distance, I’m clearly in a needing-some-elbow-room phase, but I’m curious to see which folks will end up evolving alongside me, becoming lasting bonds.

One thing that bothered me about the audience of this talk (Not the talk itself—seriously, see it.) was that even in this most poly of poly settings, people were still approaching outside relationships as potential problems, NRE as a threat to the existing structures. Nice poly person after nice poly person talked about “making it up to” the existing partners, with extra chores and hugs, as if excitement about somebody else were something to atone for rather than drink up and share.

It was kind of interesting to watch even the most seasoned of poly folks still separating themselves out into disparate relationships rather than feeling like a network of connections. When I love somebody, I love their whole thing, and to me that means loving their partners too, even if I don’t want to smooch them. (Probably I want to smooch them, though.) I guess not everybody wants to smush all their people together into one big pile, but that’s how it looks in my ridiculous heart.

Anyway, that day was one of the most illuminating learning experiences of my nascent sex geek career, and I’ll think about it all the time.

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