Have a Lawpsyc Valentine’s Day!

First, a quick weekend update:  If you missed Thursday night’s Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell, we discussed how the ex-wife of the late Gary Coleman (child star of the 1970’s-80’s TV series “Diff’rent Strokes“) invited Inside Edition into her home to see how filthy it is.  I opined that the whole thing smelled bad to me, literally and figuratively, i.e. it looked like a ploy to get back in her late ex-husband’s spotlight, which had faded away, along with his assets, well before he died last year.  What I didn’t get to say was, what’s up with that show (Diff’rent Strokes)?!?  All three of the child stars in it — Coleman, Todd Bridges, and Dana Plato — had horrendous downhill spirals in the years since it went off the air.  In fact, Bridges is the only one still alive (he apparently battled crack cocaine addiction for years though, and Plato, who played their sister, died of an apparently-intentional drug overdose)!  Also, the guy who killed Congressional intern Chandra Levy back in 2001 has been convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison, which is great, but let’s not forget that he was in this country illegally and never should’ve been here to hurt anyone in the first place, so given the continuous influx of illegal immigrants that we, as a nation, continue to tolerate, we apparently have yet to learn the big lesson in this tragedy.  And in that same spirit, one new story to tell you about:  A man is in custody in New York after stabbing several people, killing three — his stepfather, ex-girlfriend, and the ex-girlfriend’s mother (several others who were stabbed non-fatally apparently got “in the way” as he was fleeing).  Details are still unfolding, but guess what we already know?  This same guy has ten, yes 10, prior arrests, the most recent for possession of crack cocaine on January 26 of this year, just a couple of weeks ago, and he’s only 23 years old!  How in the hell could we, as a society, let a ten-time loser be loose on the streets at the age of 23?!?  Is there anyone who still doesn’t see why it would be in everyone‘s best interests to have stiff, nationwide, mandatory minimum sentences?!?  If I were in charge, that’s four people in one weekend update, Levy and the three stabbing victims in New York, who’d probably still be alive, and once again, what an insult it is to our law-enforcement officers that we’ve asked them to chase down this same piece of human debris 10 separate times!  When will we learn?

Now, on a happier note, it’s Valentine’s Day on Monday, and this time each year, I’ve been writing a little something Valentine’s-related.  Starting back on 2/14/08, I told you about all of the Valentine’s cards delivered to death-row inmates from lonely, needy, nutty women across the country.  Then on 2/14/09, I gave a “salute to love,” noting that my frequent recommendation to base major life decisions more on logic and less on emotion in no way minimized my belief in the indispensable role that love plays in our lives.  In fact, on Independence Day of that year, 7/4/09, I went even further and explained what I think love is (half of the reason why I think we even exist — What’s the other half? — That’s in there too, 7/4/09)  and how our country affords us historically-unprecedented opportunities for it.  Last year, 2/10/10, I wrote about the psychology of kissing and also about the psychology of our unique “attraction templates,” which explain why the same stranger can simultaneously seem like a “10” to you but more like a “5,” at best, to a friend who’s looking at that same stranger.  If you’re logged in on WordPress.com, you can find all of those past Valentine’s posts in the archives by entering the search term “Valentine” and searching “this site.”  Otherwise, you can find them by clicking on “December 2010” (that’s when all of the old posts were uploaded to this new blog platform) on the right-hand side of this page and then simply scrolling back through time.

This year, I thought I’d write about the psychophysiology of love.  Oversimplified, the process goes something like this: 1) Your senses pick up indications that a person fits your attraction template (and by the way, as you get to know and love a specific person, that person can essentially become your attraction template, such that he/she, like no other, can induce the following), 2) Neurochemical chain reactions relay these indications (sights, smells, sounds, tastes, sensations) to your brain, where they’re recognized as such, 3) In your brain, levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine rise, as they do when you win a big contest or eat your favorite food, do your favorite activity, etc., while levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin seem to drop slightly, reducing your brain’s ability to “multi-task” such that your thoughts focus in more on this person, 4) Your brain in turn starts neurochemical chain reactions in the opposite direction, sending signals out to your hormonal system telling it to release a cocktail of hormones (like adrenaline and epinephrine) into your bloodstream, 5) These hormones then travel to your bodily organs, preparing them for love by causing, for instance, your heart to beat faster, your pupils to dilate, etc., etc., etc.  By the way, the theory behind various “aphrodisiac” scents and foods is that they stimulate and/or facilitate these psychophysiological reactions associated with love.  Studies show that love, like exercise, can be quite good for people, both psychologically and physiologically, and that it can last a lifetime, i.e. you can have these same reactions even if you fell in love with the other person decades ago.  One study even found that being married added years to the lives of both men and women.  So, if you won’t be spending Valentine’s Day with someone special this year, you’ll see that things could be much worse if you go back and read my piece from 2/14/08 about the women who send Valentine’s cards to people on death row — despite any potential psychophysiological benefits, no Valentine is better than some Valentines to be sure.  And whether you’ll be reading my blogs or sipping wine or eating oysters, with your spouse of 20 years or with someone you met more recently, here’s wishing you a psychologically and physiologically happy and healthy Valentine’s Day!

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