Wired for love: The neurobiology of relational emotionality

the triune brain

What if I told you that every human has what is called a ‘triune brain?’ – Namely that our cerebral treasures consist of three key sectors (reptilian, limbic, and neocortex), in which one area in particular holds the existential roots of love.

The Limbic System of the brain is a fascinating organism of emotional reciprocity. Indeed emotions, which are evolutionarily exclusive to the limbic brain, are the mammalian messengers of love and compassion for another; evidently for human beings, “feeling deeply is synonymous with being alive” (Lewis, Amini, & Lannon, 2000, p. 37). Regardless of Modernity’s neuro-alliance with neocortical reason (I think therefore I am), we are unmistakably wired for love through the mammalian limbic system (we love therefore we are), essentially the crux of our humanity lies not in our abstract thinking but in our emotive relating towards one another.

I propose that we honour our humanity when we limbically reciprocate honouring emotions, and we disregard our existential character by relegating others to less than emotive beings. From this point it would be fine to commemorate our mammalian neighbours, indeed my pet rats reciprocate comfort when the other is sick or depressed, yet I’d like to expand on the relationality of our humanity.

If our neurobiology sings of love, would it be plausible to conclude that all human reciprocal relationships are validly…well, normal? If you haven’t guessed where I’m going, I’ll clearly spell it out: both hetero-sexual and homo-sexual relationships are socio-biological expressions of limbic wiring. In terms of (what I call) Emergent Christo-anthropology, it is clear that “Jesus’ treatment of the marginalized and stigmatized requires us to question the conventional approach” (McLaren, 2010, p. 241).

Arguably, Jesus came not to show us the way to ‘divinity’ but the way of being fully human – through his limbic resonance for ‘the other’, Jesus calls us towards a gospel of limbic regard for all who share our humanity. The narrative of the Triune God invites us to partake in the communion of relational emotionality.

Works Cited

Lewis, T., Amini, F., & Lannon, R. (2000). A General Theory of Love. New York: Vintage Books.

McLaren, B. (2010). A new kind of Christianity. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.