nah : 03.2016 : Love Cures (Culture & Sociology)
Love alone is untouchable, one of the last frontiers where the ability to manipulate or shun an experience seems to be asking for too much – but why? Love is in many ways a chemical reaction, and when love causes intense suffering or conflicts deeply with other values, people who want a chemical solution should, providing they give informed consent, have one. Access to anti-love drugs could bring some of us closer to one of the core values of Western society: personal autonomy, and a future where we control our lives and become the people we most want to be.
By insisting that no one can opt-out of the love experience, suffering and all, we often ignore the very real damage that love can cause simply because the source of the damage is seen as so necessary. When it comes to deciding whether to treat suffering, we hold the pain caused by love to a standard much higher than the pain from many other conditions, even as anthropologists and doctors argue that the experience of love can function as an addiction, or a mental illness – and even when suicide can result.
but how would we create art if there was no pain..
Where there is love, there is suffering, and especially in modern times, we’ve glorified suffering because of its power to create art. Dante’s unobtainable Beatrice is said to have been the inspiration for much of his work. A body of scientific evidence now points to the power of post-traumatic growth – the positive transformation sometimes brought about by surviving such hardships as cancer and war; should you make it through the trauma, life’s meaning might be enhanced.
But often, suffering is just suffering, and it can go on endlessly, without providing new sources of meaning or inspiration, or any growth at all. In her book Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession, the journalist Lisa Phillips recounts how, after being rejected by a lover, she checked herself into a medical centre because she ‘didn’t know what else to do’. The psychiatry resident gave her a prescription for painkillers, telling her that she was far from the only one to check herself in because of love trouble. In her book, she recounts the stories of woman after woman waiting by the phone, filled with desperation, sometimes accused of stalking, sometimes in pain for years. Many people have friends who can’t seem to move on and the internet is full of pleas from those who don’t understand why unrequited love still hurts. ‘It has been 10 years and the pain, the anger, the hurt and yes the love is still fresh,’ one woman writes. ‘I saw his picture on Facebook and I hurt so bad! I no longer cry, but I still get depressed over it.’