GENEVA â€" Beloved French singer Edith Piaf probably wasn't aware of it but what made her see â€œLa Vie en Rose,â€ or life expand=1] through rose-tinted glasses, as she sings in one of her most famous love songs, could have just been a rush of phenylethylamine or oxytocin.
Several types of hormones are released when a person falls in love. The brain produces vast amounts of phenylethylamine, or PEA, a hormone as addictive as drugs, which provokes a state of ecstasy, euphoria and hyperactivity.
If you believe that your new partner is perfect, blame it on the PEA.
"PEA alters reality," says Anouk Truchot, a relationship therapist. "It gives people the illusion that they are one, that they'll never be any conflict. When the hormone release reduces, the relationship can continue to function well as long as the couple does their best to continue what worked in the beginning and is aware of what really matters."
That's when dopamine, another hormone linked to pleasure, takes over. "This hormone provokes a strong stimulation that the brain will seek. It explains certain unreasonable behaviors such as â€˜reboundsâ€™ despite difficulties in a relationship or a breakup, a little like relapse for alcoholics,â€ says Patrik Vuilleumier, a professor in the neuroscience department at the University Hospital of Geneva.
With oxytocin, the relationship enters the phase of stability and long-term attachment. It's oxytocin that decides whether we have monogamous tendencies.
Eau de Oxytocin, A Love Fragrance? â€" Photo: Vetiver Aromatics
"The manipulation of this hormone can transform a monogamous species into a polygamous one," says Vuilleumier. "That's the case for two species of shrews. One is monogamous, the other polygamous. If we suppress oxytocin receptors in the brains of the monogamous species, it becomes polygamous."
Women's bodies secrete oxytocin during when they give birth â€" it triggers contractions â€" as well during breastfeeding, which is believed to stimulate attachment to the baby. Oxytocin is reproduced in the form of a nasal spray to stimulate milk production in mothers. But this hormone is also released in women during sexual intercourse.
Can this spray, which is available over the counter, also then guarantee the attachment and loyalty of your partner? A little spurt on the pillow before going to bed?
"In theory, yes," says Vuilleumier. â€œConversely, in case of a difficult breakup, we could prescribe chemicals that would block the pain inflicted by the separation. This is part of ongoing scientific research."
Truchot refers to Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages that notes down actions that make one feel loved and secure â€" physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time together, gifts (of course) and help, like changing the tires of your loved one's car.
"A man once told me, â€˜If only I'd known during all these years that all I had to do to make love to my wife was to vacuumâ€™,â€ Truchot recalls.
"It's about chemistry," says Vuilleumier. "And when you get the right cocktail, it's good.â€
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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