I was flipping through the radio the other day, and while I normally listen to modern alternative, I turned to the pop station, and happened to hear Gnash’s “I Hate U, I Love U” (Featuring Olivia O’Brien). I really liked the song musically, but I also realized it has a real lesson about true nature of love. The lines in particular that describe love are:
I hate you I love you
I hate that I love you
Don’t want to, but I can’t put
Nobody else above you
You can see the full lyrics here.
You know the feeling of being in love, don’t you? You can’t stop thinking of that person. You have to be around them all the time. Right before bed and first thing in the morning thoughts of them fill up your mind. Your social media becomes about them. And, even if your love interest may not be “good for you,” or the person doesn’t return your love, you still maintain your love, even though part of you may hate them.
It’s like there are two people inside your head fighting it out. One part is in love, and the other part doesn’t know why the “in love” part acts that way! In fact, the other part may hate the person that the “in love” part loves. Yes, it is really confusing, but science has an answer.
You literally do have two basic parts of your brain fighting it out when you’re in love. This is because you “fall in love” largely subconsciously: it occurs in areas of your brain outside of your awareness, which we share with lower animals. You may ask how you can do something outside of your awareness, but you do it all the time, like when you touch something hot and you automatically pull away your hand, or you shiver because it’s cold.
Well, guess what? You fall in love in the same basic areas of the brain that cause you to react to danger, and not in the areas of the brain responsible for logical decision-making. It’s why you may fall for a girl or guy that every logical thought says isn’t good for you, but you do it anyway. Falling in love isn’t logical, and the logical part of your brain knows that, creating a huge internal conflict.
And falling in love isn’t only not logical, it is strongly emotional, which means that it will stick with you a long time. I know people who fell in love in their teens and years later they still love that person, 10, 20, even 30 years later. Sure, they have settled and “moved on” but they still pine for that one person who made them feel great, even if they are currently partnered up with a generally nice person.
Like Gnash sings:
I miss you when I can’t sleep
Or right after coffee
Or right when I can’t eat
I miss you in my front seat
Everything makes you think of that person you’re in love with. In terms of brain activity, being in love is like being hooked on a drug. Dopamine receptors in the brain light up when you’re in love, and when you miss someone and can’t have them, it is literally like going through drug withdrawal. It’s why nobody can compare to that person or why your friends and family just don’t make you feel the same way. It’s why when you can’t be with them you don’t eat or sleep, and why when you’re with them, the world seems happier and brighter. In fact, I would probably rather withdraw from a drug than from a person I’m in love with!
Why does the brain make us crazy like this? It’s because of evolution. It’s about survival. Your brain wants you to fall for someone so you reproduce and continue the species. Falling in love is making sure that the mother and father are connected so closely that they both stick around and raise the child. It seems like an unromantic explanation, but it’s the truth.
Knowing this doesn’t make love any less great, or ridiculously confusing. It’s just the reason behind why we feel this way.
So, Gnash and O’Brien (the co-writers of the song) may not have known it the science behind love when they wrote the song, but it is a great example of how love is so messy, yet also so exciting and amazing.