What is Love?

“Baby don’t hurt me” has always been my standard reply (because who doesn’t love Haddaway). But recent personal events and a delightful documentary about American hate preachers has stirred my inner psychology nerd. The generic definition of love is, affectionate feelings towards another person sometimes as a by-product of close friendship or sexual attraction. For me love is not just affectionate feelings for another person. On a personal level it is about who would I not be able to live my life without? Who occupies most of my thoughts? At a wider level it is a mutual respect and acceptance of all those we come into contact with in our daily lives.

If we boil love down to its biological roots it is a mixture of neurochemicals and brain structures, telling us this person deserves our time and affection. Some researchers suggest these neurochemicals are constructed during our time in the womb (so now if someone says they have mommy issues you know why). But the most important neurochemical I am aware of is Oxytocin. Oxytocin is said to be the neurochemical that encourages trust and bonding between individuals (hint the main activation site is located in the nipples), not that I’m advocating finding the object of your affection and tweaking their nipples (at least buy them a drink first). However for me the biological explanation is a difficult way to assess whether you love someone or whether someone loves you. I can imagine how that conversation would go:

“Hi, would you like to go on a date with me?”

“Sure, what do you want to do?”

“Well I was hoping I could carry out a PET scan on you to see if your levels of Oxytocin are high enough”

I have the distinct feeling they would run away faster than if they had just bumped into a killer clown (current topical humour). But what biology does suggest is that love is fundamental to our core.


Of course we must not forget about what our environment can teach us (not that I’m trying to kick off a nature vs. nurture debate). Growing up we take so much from those around us, such as family and friends, that we probably don’t even realise on a conscious level. I consider myself to be such a fortunate person that I have a mother and father who, not only support everything I do, but also set the best example of what a loving relationship should involve. They have shown all those that say young parents are irresponsible and ill-equipped to handle children completely and utterly wrong. While working full-time they have raised 4 outstanding children (myself included, of course), while still supporting each other through good times and bad times (usually when dad has done something wrong). If I am lucky enough to have a relationship that reaches anywhere near the standard they have instilled in me I will be the happiest person on earth.

Which brings us nicely to how we identify whether we love someone. I am sure like myself most of you have a check-list in the back of your mind which we check off when we meet new people. (WARNING HONESTY ALERT) This happened to me recently whereby you meet someone new and instantly they check quite a few boxes; intelligent, funny, handsome, pretty similar interests. I am talking about when most of the time you are not able to stop thinking about said individual, but you don’t know if they are on the same page or even remotely interested (this is where the PET scan would be useful or telepathy). I suppose we all have different way of approaching situations like this. If your like me, then you will play it so cool you could pass for a corpse on the walking dead or you hit them with Salt-N-Pepa’s Let’s Talk About Sex. But like everyone seems to say ‘if it is meant to be it will happen in time’, well hopefully they are right.

Okay. Enough of the personal relationship stuff. At the beginning I mentioned a delightful hate preacher documentary that I stupidly watched. I feel in today’s climate there is a lot of hate (mainly media generated) towards those who are different, whether that be different in religion, race, gender, sexuality (I draw your attention to my wonderful supervisor’s blog thefreefrommama.wordpress.com, who has outlined it way more eloquently than I ever could). The format for this so called ‘documentary’ gave a platform to 2 of America’s most idiotic preachers, which actually left me lost for words throughout the entire hour (which for those of you who know me is pretty difficult to accomplish). But what shocked me was not what they were saying, because I’ve heard all that before, but it was those whom they loved (wives, children, admirers). Their wives seemed pretty complacent, although they did not convince me that they held the same views. Is this what ‘love is blind’ means, we turn our backs on personal beliefs and the rest of the world (Hmm, I think not).

On the other hand I suppose they have opinions on what is right and what is wrong, much like ar**holes everyone has one. What concerns me is that, if love is a product of our environment? It means that the next generation will be conditioned to try and force their ideologies and opinions on others, thus continuing the never ending cycle. What is important to me above all else is acceptance, don’t get me wrong there was a point in my life when I would naturally dismiss others based on first impressions or media generated bull, but I have learned to understand people. Where they come from, what they have experienced and ultimately that they still respect themselves (in the immortal words of Ru Paul, ‘if you can’t love yourself, how the hell are going to love someone else’).

So what is love? I believe love is a subjective concept. We each have our own different ways of identifying and expressing love for one another. Ultimately I feel love takes time (even The Supremes said You Can’t Hurry Love) and I want you to just take a moment to think about those whom you love, and what they mean to you? You may notice I have left out sex, this is because I am a good catholic boy (Ha, not). I have deliberately excluded it from this post as I feel it encapsulates a whole range of complex emotions, which deserves an entire piece of its own.

Watch this space!




Thrill of the Fright

In the wake of American Horror Story season 6 beginning (which is my favourite TV series of all time), I found it curious that something which I thoroughly enjoy also induces bouts of screaming at a significant volume. So naturally like everything else I had to go in search of an explanation, why do we enjoy horror?


However rather naively, I thought I would find an answer straight away. But as is common in most of psychology there are conflicting theories/viewpoints. Some researchers suggest reasons like tension, relevance and unrealism. The tension draws us in, the relevant aspects of death, fear and 0h my god I am never peeing with my back to the door again make us scared. Leaving the unrealism (though there is not a lot) to allow us to enjoy the film/show/book, because that idiot went towards the dark basement to ‘check out’ the knocking where as, I am sat in bed with a tub of ice-cream.

Real life horror situations inevitably cause the release of adrenaline, which invokes one of 2 responses. Either “I’m going to take this axe wielding maniac head on because I’m Rocky Balboa” or much like Duncan Bannatyne “I’m Out!”. This form of response has evolved with us as a quick decision making tool. Because during the time of hunter-gatherer societies our ancestors did not have the luxury to process whether that noise in the bushes was a predator or Janice the local bike (of course she probably wasn’t called Janice, and they didn’t have bikes but you get the picture). All they could do was take a 50/50 gamble of run like hell or stand your ground.


I read another interesting point in an article called Darker Shades of Joy (which is not a Gothic version of Fifty Shades of Grey). The researchers suggest we have certain mental frames which we attach to situations in order to reduce the full psychological impact of negative emotions, such as, fear or disgust. The frame I was drawn to was the ‘Perspective Frame’, which emphasises creating psychological distance between the situation and the emotions induced. I think we can apply this some what to the enjoyment of horror, because much like the element of unrealism we can reassure ourselves that “I am safe” (unless you’re an anxious kind of person, then the follow up would be “but am I really?”).

I of course fall into the latter category of “am I really safe”. But I think part of my enjoyment of the horror genre (although I don’t go out of my way to watch horrors) is the story behind all the gore & psychological torture. With American Horror Story (AHS) in particular a lot of the back story to the seasons are based on (partially) true stories and history, which as a psychology nerd intrigues me to think that some of these characters may have been real people, a true testament to the dark side of human psychopathology.

It would be rude of me to also ignore the fact that the creators of AHS continue to cast insanely attractive actors to play the most psychotic killers. I mean come on, what killers look like this?

Just pure, unhealthy sexual attraction and lets face it these guys are not part of a long-term mating strategy.

So in summary, I feel the reason why we enjoy horror (or at least why I enjoy horror, attractive actors aside) is the form of detachment or protective bubble if you like. We can feel the primal urge to be scared & run, all while eating ice-cream. Oh and don’t worry I may come back to unhealthy sexual attraction.

Watch this space!





Why Blog?

Having finished my undergrad in psychology, and being 2 weeks away from embarking on my masters in Clinical Psychology, I decided it would be best to declutter my mind. Which has led me to create this blog. I feel as though I should explain my choice of title (Mr Congeniality). There are 2 reasons for this title. Firstly I think it’s nice to embrace your narcissistic side every once in a while, and secondly I feel I could have been a suitable replacement for Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality.

My intentions are to write about a variety of day-to-day topics with a mixture of psychological perspective and my own experience. I am rather mesmerised and obsessed by psychology which is why I now have an uncontrolable urge to look at everything from a psychological perspective. I question everything, from the people I meet to the TV shows I watch (which sometimes removes the enjoyment), but I would not have it any other way. For this reason, and the fact that American Horror Story S6 has just begun, my first official blog will be ‘The Thrill of the Fright’, which will look at why people find enjoyment in horror.

Watch this space!