The world appears so complex, layered with multiple challenges and conflicts ranging from personal to global everywhere you look.
As though things aren’t complicated enough for humans considering our relationship with the natural world, now we must also deal with a new class of “machine people” in the form of AI. Some of them even have human names; however, they sound anything but human.
One of the most salient characteristics of humans is the presence of “the love hormone”, oxytocin. This hormone is central in separating humans from their artificial counterparts.
When we go back to biology, we see that nature provided us with this hormone, which, when released into the bloodstream, causes some rather remarkable effects. Effects that I strongly suggest can play a major role in resolving world conflicts like war, as well as the corporate war waged against our precious ecosystem.
When oxytocin is released, it’s as though we’ve fallen in love, not only with another of our species but also with life itself, as well as with all of nature’s sentient creatures. We have a renewed, refreshed, more engaged relationship with life because we’ve been flooded by none other than “the love hormone”.
This is not science fiction or the meanderings of an idealist utopian (though I have been accused of this before and it may be true). This is a biological feature endowed upon us.
Modern medicine considers oxytocin an important hormone during childbirth. On one hand, the mother goes through the excruciating process of childbirth, and yet it’s all for bringing into the world a being that she has been talking to, loving and nurturing for the past 9 months.
Oxytocin release is directly related to the process of lactation; it is released as the infant sucks the mother’s breast. Also called “the bonding hormone”, oxytocin’s release is largely responsible for the feeling of trust and a sense of ‘connectedness’ a mother feels toward her child, and the father too, all the way around.
I imagine that this is probably partially responsible for the pleasure women often experience when their breasts are fondled and sucked by their lover as part of a romantic or sexual encounter. It is well known that romantic and sexual experiences evoke the release of “the love hormone”. Along with lovers making love, being affectionate and even “whispering sweet nothings” into each other’s ears is sufficient for the hormone’s release.
Other than pleasure, oxytocin release is also linked to the uptick in a sense of trust, a biological set-up for building family, friendship and community. As a species, we are traditionally tribal and continue to be to this day. We are social beings; trust, connection, and kindness, all enhanced by oxytocin release, bring these valuable feelings forward.
Since living in tribal communities has helped keep our species alive, we can come to appreciate the role oxytocin has played in creating love and bonding between tribal members, allowing them to risk their lives for each other while foraging for food and protecting the group from predators.
For all we know, heroes are made from oxytocin!
If the primary hormone responsible for the love and bonding between parents and newborns, and spouses, couldn’t it be that this hormone could also perhaps be the answer to so many of the world’s woes where trust, bonding and love are so sorely missing?
So many of the world’s woes are caused by people who have no feelings for each other or only have feelings of anger, jealousy or rage toward other groups or tribes. Love is not usually very present when people are feeling reactive or violent with each other.
Yet, it could be.
Let’s stick to biology and mother nature. Although, modern medicine, contemporary technologists, engineers and climate scientists think they’re smarter than She is - truly one of the most hubristic, if not funniest, jokes of all time - it may be She who may liberate us humans from our own lower selves with the pharmacopoeia She has endowed us.
Sticking to biology, we see that everything in the human body is designed for survival, including the chemicals responsible for evoking higher levels of sensitivity, perception, awareness and consciousness. On the rawest level, oxytocin, by bonding us together, is keeping us connected. Being connected, we feel more love for each other. While feeling more love for each other, the probability of violence or excess territoriality, which has so often led to colonialism, decreases significantly. Sometimes, oxytocin release, depending on the circumstances, can lead people to sexual bonding, bringing the people involved even closer as it, in turn, releases more oxytocin.
In short, there is a positive feedback loop afoot here that is connecting people who might not otherwise have an interest in being connected. An interesting phenomenon!
When people feel connected, as in either being lovers, friends, parents, spouses or what have you, the tendency to get closer is increased. The tendency to harm one another, as mentioned, is decreased.
I think you see where this is going and that we’re onto something.
If we encourage people to be physically closer, which can then evoke the “oxytocin response”, we might feel more inclined toward love and taking care of and protecting one another instead of the opposite.
Connecting the dots
If more and more people feel connected, harm and violence will proportionately decrease. Then the preponderance of war, mass shootings, and violence all around will drop because people will love each other, feeling closer, more connected, and more intimate.
The craziness of other hormones, such as excess adrenalin and cortisol, is commensurately reduced. This opens a path to not just decreasing but eliminating war. The pathology of war will be perceived more objectively. What feels good will win out.
In short, war can become something of the past.
Violence and war occur when people don’t feel connected to each other. It has happened many a time that even when on the battlefield, soldiers have gone AWOL because their feelings wouldn’t let them kill “the enemy”.
Soldiers are taught to objectify and demonize the enemy, the heart-oxytocin-feeling connection is suspended and hell breaks loose - the lowest aspect of the human species. On the contrary, when people feel connected, as part of human nature, the probability of hurting each other plummets.
More good news is that there are many ways to cultivate and prompt the release of oxytocin.
Beauty inspires oxytocin release
One way to evoke oxytocin release is the presence of beauty. Whether that is perceived as physical beauty, the beauty in nature, in a film or music, beauty inspires the release of oxytocin. It could be the beauty of a woman, a man, an animal or a flower. It could even be of a picaresque sunset.
The idea of “feeling one with all life, with the Universe” may even have its biological basis in our experience of oxytocin. This could naturally extend to the issues of global warming. If people would relate to the beauty of nature, their appreciation of Her becomes foreground and damaging Her and polluting Her are no longer viable - no one would harm one’s Mother.
When one gets attuned to beauty and connectedness, they are no longer under the influence of anger, rage or indifference, but instead feel connected to all of life. One’s imagination can connect one to beauty and love. In short, these two inspire the release of this precious, under-appreciated hormone called oxytocin.
Yes, it’s a funny thing as said earlier, that life appears to be so complex, yet a simple hormone such as this could possibly resolve all or even most of life’s biggest challenges.
On the surface, it may seem far-fetched, but I ask, why not??
We override our hormones all the time. We control how angry we get in a given context and we override our sexual hormones which may be driving us toward someone with a sexual force that is inappropriate to the person or situation. We call this ‘being civilized’.
So this is something we can do when we choose to. It’s not always pleasant or desirable, but it can be done.
Bringing world leaders together for an oxytocin party
More good news is that oxytocin can be released when people who like each other are together, when they are listening to music, watching comedy and, eating a meal together.
Putin doesn’t have to sit on one of Biden’s knees while Netanyahu sits on the other for oxytocin to be produced. They can be breaking bread together while listening to a comedy act or beautiful music. Not that I want you to imagine the three listening to some Russian folk songs while eating blintzes and drinking vodka, and the oxytocin starts flowing, leading them to take a sexual interest in each other. Absolutely not! But a feeling of connection, brotherhood and trust? Ah, now we’re getting somewhere.
You may laugh at these suggestions or images, but why? They are only members of the human family like everyone else, but they act as though they are in a superior club, and herein lies much of the existential, human dilemma. They hold themselves out from the mammalian tribe called humans. Thus, separation and indifference typically arise. The entitlement arises and all hell breaks loose.
But if we were to take the reality of what our biology and mother nature have endowed us with and take it to a macro-level in our world, we may have a real answer to practically everything.
Yes, the mind will kick in as it should, but modified and mollified by a sense of trust and good cheer because the oxytocin has kicked in for “the good times to roll”.
I trust that if you think about this, you will see that, if allowed, this approach to global issues of war, creating justice and protecting our planet, could really work.
Oxytocin & dialogue: the magic elixir
Most realistically, it should be understood that my suggestion about the role of oxytocin in establishing world peace, peace in the family, peace with nature and the like sets the stage, a tone, and the environment for intelligent, rational dialogues to take place toward peace in all domains, but is not really a solution in itself. In an atmosphere of trust and love, fruitful, productive dialogue is positioned to be much more effective and successful.
Thinking that nature, the wisdom in our body, organically holds the keys toward peace if we were to use it and listen, we’d be a lot closer to a better world.
It’s up to us to first kick off the party among ourselves and then spread the good cheer.