Could we choose not to have feel­ings for some­one?

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - BULLETIN -

In The Devil’s Dic­tionary ‘love’ is de­fined as ‘a tem­po­rary in­san­ity cur­able by mar­riage’. The mar­riage part is an ir­rev­er­ent joke, but the amorous in­san­ity will be fa­mil­iar to many. It’s the rea­son why – once you’ve de­vel­oped the af­flic­tion – you can’t re­sist act­ing against your own judg­ment (‘Don’t text him! Don’t text him! Whoops, I texted him’), let alone the flaw­less ad­vice of all your friends and rel­a­tives. Play­ing hard-to-get is nearim­pos­si­ble when you’re deeply en­am­oured with some­one, as is ex­tract­ing your­self from a harm­ful re­la­tion­ship when you’re still be­sot­ted with your part­ner. The heart wants what it wants. But what if it could un-want it?

Love is, in one re­spect, bio­chem­i­cal, and it’s been shown to be sub­ject to med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion: Prozac can dis­rupt lust, while drugs like ec­stasy have been shown to en­hance it. In a se­ries on ‘the chem­i­cal break-up,’ from Ox­ford Univer­sity’s Ue­hiro Cen­tre for Prac­ti­cal Ethics, re­searchers pon­dered the moral co­nun­drums that would ac­com­pany the devel­op­ment of an anti-love drug to in­ter­cept oxy­tocin (known as the ‘bond­ing hor­mone’ and the chief sus­pect in the on­set of pas­sion).

Such a pill could turn the sub­ject of your ob­ses­sion into just another ac­quain­tance. Imag­ine! No more ag­o­nis­ing months spent in emo­tional re­cov­ery from un­re­quited love; no more in­equitable re­la­tion­ship dy­nam­ics foisted on you by your zeal­ous brain chem­istry. But if it has perks, it could also have down­falls. One con­cern of the re­searchers was the pos­si­bil­ity of co­er­cion: par­ents forc­ing their child to stop see­ing some ruf­fian they dis­ap­proved of, for in­stance. Another had a more po­etic res­o­nance: ‘If you … give [some­one] an oxy­tocin-re­cep­tor blocker,’ hor­mone-ex­pert Larry Young told New York Magazine, ‘you’re ba­si­cally go­ing to dampen their sense of con­nec­tion to every­one in their life.’

It seems we have to be fools in love, once in a while, in order to know love at all.

A se­lec­tion from Siemer’s on­go­ing se­ries en­ti­tled ‘Hu­man Er­ror’.

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