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On love and post-partum depression On love and post-partum depression
by Joseph Gatt
2021-05-03 07:58:00
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Oxytocin is the love hormone. It is the hormone our body secretes when we fall deeply in love. And it is also the hormone our body secretes when we give birth to a child.

The hormone works like a steroid. It makes the body feel light. It makes us accomplish once-dreaded tasks with virtually no effort. It gives us the energy to accomplish physical and mental tasks that were once impossibility.

Oxytocin is also a bit of a cheating and lying hormone. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus as they say.

posdepre01_400Oxytocin in men makes them reinvent themselves as rich and powerful people. You'll notice that when men fall in love or give birth to a child, they will start telling people around them all kinds of lies about their wealth and influence and intellectual accomplishments and so on.

Let me embarrass myself by giving a personal example. 100 years ago, when I was 16, I had feelings for this girl. The feelings were very strong. The good thing is I became a kind and helpful kid, when my teachers and school staff used to worry about my past crankiness and prickliness.

The bad thing is: for about the span of a month (the duration of the crush) I became a pathological liar. I claimed to work all kinds of jobs I did not work at. I made claims about my family history which were completely false. And I made the claim of being one of the leaders of the Berber rights' movement, when I was nowhere near being involved with those guys.

The pathological lies were just too much. Day in and day out I was sharing anecdotes with friends about my accomplishments and fame and what not, hoping the rumor would spread. I even took a couple of risks by openly challenging teachers, just so the rumor could spread. I even claimed that I had been kidnapped by terrorists in the past and that I was a cancer survivor. Every time I think about September and early October 2000, I blush.

But in hindsight it wasn't such a horrible thing. I was moving from Ankara, Turkey, to Algiers, Algeria that very month. And the fact that I left Turkey with that heavy bag of lies meant that I was not tempted to contact my friends in Turkey, not tempted to miss them or to be home sick for Ankara. That was a defense mechanism of sorts, because I really had a decent social life in Ankara until the huge crush point.

Anyway, oxytocin in men causes euphoria, but also leads to claims about wealth and power that are not true.

In women, oxytocin causes women to engage in sexual relationships that they would otherwise avoid. It's really hard to teach a woman deeply in love to wait for marriage before sexual relationships, because a woman in love will “reinvent” her sexuality. Once prude, the woman in love will tell her lover she's into that stuff.

This explains a lot of teenage pregnancies and why a lot of teenage and young adult women take risks by having sexual relationships with men, especially given the risk they have not sealed the deal by getting married, they have not dated for that long, and that the man could disappear and leave her alone with a baby.

So oxytocin is a powerful hormone that many societies try to repress, because it causes men to cut corners to achieve wealth and power, and it causes women to engage in risky sexual behavior, including sleeping with someone on the first date.

Post-partum depression. What happened? In natural circumstances, giving birth to a child leads to an immediate oxytocin rush in the parents, and that oxytocin rush helps mothers (and sometimes fathers) endure the hardships of parenting, including sleep deprivation and all the tasks that parenthood involve. And oxytocin makes raising children almost effortless, and when parents think back to all the efforts they put into raising their children, they go like “how the hell did I do that?”

But. Some parents (usually mothers, sometimes fathers) do not get the release of oxytocin when giving birth to a child. What happened?

In “les animaux malades de la peste” (animals and the plague) by Jean de la Fontaine, the fable has a line that says “les tourterelles se fuyaient. Plus d'amour, partons, plus de joie” (the doves ran away from each other. No more love, further, no more joy.)

In times of threats and uncertainty, human beings have to focus on internal or external threats and uncertainties and how to avoid them.

Like I discussed in a previous article about depression, threats and uncertainties can be external, or can be internal.

That is, there could be a pending threat that the parents have to deal with, which halts to secretion of oxytocin, and leads to toxic hormones invading the body, which makes parenting incredibly difficult, as parents lose the natural God-given ability to accomplish incredibly difficult tasks effortlessly.

The threat could be real or perceived. It could be that parents watch the news a bit too much and are uncertain about the future. It could be that parents have uncertainties at their job. Or they could be dealing with complex internal threats, unpredictable surroundings. Maybe there's crime in the streets. Maybe there's a plague.

Or the threat could be internal. There could be no real outside threat, but for various reasons, parents could have imaginary threats that bother their minds.

The imaginary threats are too numerous to list. I've talked to a few patients, and imaginary threats (semi-fictional examples) go anywhere from “no one talks to me because everyone's a racist” to “I'm not going to apply for jobs because no one hires George Washington High School graduates.” Sometimes it's even more ridiculous than that, but I think you get the idea.

So in the end, simplicity is the key to effortless love and parenting. Oxytocin is the kind of hormone that can lead to the undertaking of complicated tasks, complicated ventures, or risky behavior.

So my advice is, even when in love, keep it simple. Your child or your lover doesn't need you to win the Golden Grand Slam to love you back.

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