A CURE FOR LOVE
Could we choose not to have feelings for someone?
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’.