Thursday, April 23, 2009


After a sluggish start to the year, my recent dislocation has afforded me time to actually do some reading. I've read a friends zine and 'The Black Swan' this year, that's 2 by month 4. Pretty pathetic. But in the past few weeks I've managed to catch up by finishing off 'Social Intelligence' and am close to finishing 'The Female Eunuch'.

These two books have been extremely good for me, because it seems I've been struggling for far too long now with an inability to move on from Misaki. I have made great progress in recent months, largely by ceasing all communication with her.
The problem is that Misaki is like the Simpson's was to my brain.

In highschool I often marvelled at my own ability to be able to recall every single conversation ever had in a Simpsons episode and yet was unable to memorize a few stanzas of Shakespearean verse. I put this down to the fact that Simpsons was actually entertaining (believe it or not kids, it actually was once upon a time). So too I would still maintain that with very little prompting I can remember just about everything Misaki ever said to me. From 'I don't like Italians' at our first date at Tiamos, to 'Where's the proof?' when commenting on my weightloss the last time we met in Takematsu.

I can remember almost every conversation, facial expression, outfit and text message (even though they are all long deleted and met their death with my old phone) although I will admit that when I say 'every' it of course carries the burden of silent evidence, after all I can't remember the conversations I have forgotten.

At any rate it seems vivid. Burned into my brain where almost every other conversation I have had was written in sand at low tide. I was beginning to wonder 'was this true love?' was this a sign I should drop everything and cross oceans to fight for her hand in marriage?

Yes and no. Both Germaine Greer and Daniel Goleman in their respective books.

Let's start with Goleman's 'Social Intelligence' Their are three 'romantic' sections of the brain. A triumvirate of attachment, caregiving and sex. When all three are working in unison, you get romantic love. The three triggers combine to form a strong relationship basis. The exclusivity comes from attachment, the nurturing and support from caregiving and attraction from the sexual centers. Attachment without caregiving is just dependance, attachment and caregiving without sex is just friendship, sex and attachment is just a narcissistic obsession and so on and so fourth. This is the neurological mechanics.

Mechanics that have the insentives and reinforcements to encourage behaviour that is biologically in our favor. For example, men only get a hit of dopamine when a woman they find attractive looks at them. An attractive woman forming a smile then making brief eye contact is an effective flirting technique because it effectively hits the guy at the other end with pure heroin. So too looking at pornography with an attractive centerfold gazing lustily into some camera does not work, does not give that hit of dopamine, even though it maty succeed in arousing a man.

One of the opiates used to reinforce romantic behaviour is oxytocin:

Oxytocin wells up in particular strength in men during this 'refractory period' after orgasm, when they typiccaly cannot get an erection. Intriguingly, at least in rodents (and possibly in humans), abundant sexual gratification in males spikes a threefold rise in oxytocin levels-a brain change that apparantly brings male brain chemistry closer to that of a females for the time being. In any case that clever chemical endgame for lovemaking affords a relaxed time to build attachment, another function of oxytocin.
The lust circuitry also primes a couple for the next tryst. The hippocampus, the key structure in memory storage, holds nuerons rich in receptors for AVP and oxytocin alike. AVP, particularly in the man, seems to imprint in memory with special strength the enticing image of his partner in passion, making his sexual mate singularly memorable. The oxytocin produced by orgasm also boosts memory, again imprinting in the minds eye the lover's fond figure.

There are far more brain functions to love than that, it is just one chemical state, of particular interest because it effects memory. But the fact is, that love in most of its forms has far more in common with a chemical dependancy than romance novels permit. The other important thing being that it is effected by both higher-brain functions (active deliberate thinking) and low-road (habitual-instinctive reflex). Higher brain functions can be reflexive as well, ideas conditioned into us until they form our thinking patterns. As an example, I am acutely aware of feminist issues right now because I'm reading 'The Female Eunuch' than I am conditioned to be by media and otherwise.

But it was known to me, albeit in far less detail about the chemical addiction of love. I also had a vague sense of the dance of body language in triggering these chemicals. Because of this specificness of not just a person, but a person behaving in a certain way, a breakup is actually equatable to the partner with death.

Thus when Claire dumped me, the chemical addiction withdrawel symptoms kicked up. It seems ridiculous to me now, but I used to find a week preceding a 1 hour meeting with her unbearably interminable periods of time to wait. It was agonizing to get through each day, so desperate was I to get that hit of dopamines that came from my former lover. Like waiting in emergency with kidney stones and nobody is giving you painkillers really makes the time go slowly (this I have also experienced).

Thus imagine my frustration that since she had broken up with me, even when my junkie brain saw her, she could cleverly deny the body language cues that triggered the dopamine hits in my brain, leaving me more frustrated and depleted than having not seen her the previous days.

The physiological effects where incredibly hard on me. It seems when I am in a relationship, I tend towards overdosing on the drugs that cause attachment. Which is probably why I have a 5:2 ratio of being dumped to doing the dumping.

With Misaki though, the breakup was a gradual, arguably healthy weening, where she went home to Japan, then the contact gradually declined until eventually she just broke it off. And I never really saw her after that, except for 6 months later by which time we acted almost as if we were still dating for the brief few weeks I visited her, then back to radio silence.

Thus I never hit rock bottom in my addiction to Misaki, crawling through the painful withdrawel, instead simply weened down like nicotene patches until I think I could cruise lightly through with denial.

But when it comes to love and addiction, well that's the 'no' side of the equation. And Germaine Greer has the most pragmatic advice. Witness:

I remember a woman boasting to me once that she had something in bed that I did not therefore a mutual friend of ours must of loved her better than he did me. I eventually found out what she had in bed was a desire to be beaten and humiliated, which forced our mutual friend to recapitulate a tendancy in himself that he had always mistrusted, which made him very unhappy. Women are happy to replace spontaneous association for pleasure's sake with addiction because it is more binding. There are hundreds of cases in England where wives consent to dress up in leather or rubber, and beat their husbands or shit upon them or whatever they require, because the compulsivity of the activity is their security.

Before people start suspecting the kind of shit I might have solicited Miki to do to me, I only select this poigniant citation of Greer's because its destinctive tactic is clear. Basing a relationship on compulsion and addiction, these are ctivities or behaviours of the women in question not qualities such as 'intelligence' or 'charisma'. Prostitution in other words, women doing things any woman could do, but seeking an advantage by doing something most women would not subject themselves to (or so the theory goes).

Addiction as 'love' though has a very faulty and egocentric rationale. 'love isn't sposed to be rational though!', I think it is. Greer continues:

When abandoned women follow their fleeing males with tear-stained faces, screaming you can't do this to me, they reveal that all they have offered in the name of generosity and altruism has been part of an assumed transaction, in which they were entitled to a certain payoff

I would find it hard to argue that I actually capitulated to any of Misaki's compulsions in order to build an addiction to me. I guess the evidence that I didn't being that she is now in Japan, happily single while I am here happily (though probably less so, but for reasons not to do with her) single in Melbourne.

There is still the question of my own addiction versus 'true love' and should I swim oceans to get me some? from someone I believe is particularly 'special'

To this Greer poses a test that I must admit agrees with my own sensibilities and prejudices and thus I like it:

The hallmark of egotistical love, even when it masquerades as altruistic love, is the negative answer to the following question 'Do I want my love to be happy more than I want [her] to be with me?'

And whilst I must admit, I would like her to be here with me, perhaps experience, and perhaps my compassionate nature tells me, if she was here and unhappy it would bring me more pain and less joy than the sporadic contact I have with her now. I would rather hold her hand after 30 years and 5 divorces than force her to be on my own periphery right now. A bit player in my own life and not the major player in her own.

It still doesn't excuse me from being egocentric though, one thing that made her decision her decision to make was because I had already indicated having no interest to live and work in Japan. I made no accomodating gestures to her planned future making her choose a dilemma between life or me. Albeit, neither of us really had knowledge or bothered to enquire what each others plans were when we made our respective choices. It was never so cold or blunt. The decisions were made as individuals and the terms assumed.

But why do I remember Miki vividly, one could argue that I've memorized her, when others have faded from memory. And whilst I could dismiss it as recency, there are other girls whom I remember far better having dated than ones directly after them that even lasted longer.

Greeg again comes to the rescue with pragmatism, there is no special quality within Miki that I was specifically attuned to, but rather specific conscious decisions in my mind that I particularly liked about Miki. I chose to remember Miki, because I liked her so much in other words. Not, Miki chose to be remembered by me because she is so likeable. The difference being a world of empowerment:

the sensations caused by the two kisses are not genuinely distinguishable... The fact still remains that Betsy can only distinguish between the two kisses on some political ground; it is in fact desirable for Betsy to marry into her own class, and one would not object if the policy openly stated instead of cloaked in mumbo-jumbo of the comparrison between two kisses.

Which I stood out when I read it, because when I think about it, I can't distinguish readily between any of the kisses I've ever encountered. I can barely remember any of them. I remember thinking my first one tasted like clag, and I can remember a really bad kisser at Bryce's 18th birthday party. But apart from that they were all the gentle soft experience they usually are.

Thus it is more likely than rather than having a particular chemical attunement to Misaki, or her lipstick being laced with 'LSD' or some such that makes her burn into my memory like magnezium, is thus explained by Daniel Goleman to come full circle.

A more cynical view has it, "Men look for sex objects, and women for success objects." But though women tend to find allure in signs of a man's power and wealth, and men in a woman's physical attractiveness, these are not the prime draws for either sex-just the ones they differ most on. For men and women alike kindness tops the list.

And Misaki, if nothing else was kind. She was also quite physically attractive. But the strength of my attraction to her probably allowed both my higher brain functions and lower brain functions to work without misgivings. I furthermore went in with a clear head having taken ample time to be single and be over that last relationship. I furthermore went in to that relationship with a very gung-ho attitude. I never second guessed myself, and I just tried to enjoy every day. Where with other relationships I had constantly reavaluated the future, and second guessed all the time.

Furthermore, regardless of addiction or genuine love, there's that world of difference between empathising (feeling Misaki's love) and projecting (assuming Misaki felt the same way). And I have to say, I sincerely doubt that my own attachment is any reflection or could ever serve as evidence for Misaki's.

The challange remains, for everyone, to find a partner that spontaneously chooses to stay with you because you make them happy. And not the happyness of suppressing the misery of addiction withdrawell. Someone with whom you are not forcing the situation where you by necessity are arguing 'Do I want my love to be happy more than I want [her] to be with me?' and answering 'No'.

And the drugs just make it harder.

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