We fall in love because the heart wants what the heart wants. Helen Fisher says it’s much deeper than that, even though the idea of a helpless heart “falling” explains why women and men pursue doomed relationships.

As we wrap up this third week in our month-long series around “fallen women”, we dig deeper into understanding the story of Bonnie Parker and her romanticized and tragic love for Clyde Barrow. Wednesday’s article shared the story behind their infamous partnership as Bonnie and Clyde, mid-west bank robbers who captured the public imagination of America during the Great Depression.

The public paying their last respects at Bonnie Parker’s funeral in 1934

But looking back, you can’t help but wonder why Bonnie fell for Clyde and was willing to risk everything, including smuggling a gun into the jail when she had just met him.

It was early in their relationship and seemed incredibly foolish for a woman recently separated from a cheating husband.

But Helen Fisher to the rescue, with some insightful thinking in today’s TedTalk about understanding the Brain in Love. As an anthropologist, Helen’s studies around the evolution of human emotions and romantic love help provide insight into the actions of women (or men, for that matter) who are reckless in love, like Bonnie Parker.

More than 6 million viewers have tuned in to hear what Helen has to say about the addictive powers of love. In a study of 32 patients, 17 claimed to be deeply in love and the other 15 were had been recently dumped. Helen and her team of scientists studied brain scans of the 32 people to understand why they craved love even after it had ended.

They discovered there is a very real and physical need for romantic love. There are many reasons, of course, that explain our willingness to fall hard and to hang on to love even when it’s over. Four chemicals – dopamine serotonin, estrogen, and testosterone – exist in regions of the brain that affect our sense of self and how we feel when we are rejected or lose.

This same area of the brain is associated with the region that makes us willing to take big risks or feel deep attachment. Think high rollers who risk it all or people who commit crimes of passion. Many of her findings show how love goes beyond emotions and rational decision-making. Love can be so overpowering that we are truly, in many ways, helpless.

Enjoy today’s fascinating learning, and if you are really inspired check Helen’s second talk about why we also cheat when we are in love. Happy Friday and to see next week’s feature stories, be sure to sign up for our Sunday newsletter at Womanscape.com

Rose McInerney

Author Rose McInerney

Rose combines her love of all things artfully-designed to connect women to a shared community of learning and a richer, more fulfilled self. As a passionate storyteller, published writer, and international traveler, Rose believes women can build a better world through powerful storytelling.

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