TU130 – The Deep Biology of Love – Oxytocin Unpacked, with Research Pioneer Dr. Sue Carter

by | Sep 8, 2020 | Attachment, Brain Science, Episodes, Guest Interviews, Neuroscience, Relationships | 0 comments

Show Notes

Love is not a soft feeling, it is “deep biology.”  Oxytocin research pioneer Dr. Sue Carter joins co-host Sue Marriott to unravel the mystery of Sue's favorite neuropeptide.  You may have heard of oxytocin in the popular press, it's often called that “love drug.” You'll hear that t's story is a bit more complicated than just that, as it also helps us protect and defend from intruders, and heals our body physically.

Also learn in this episode about the intricate molecular dances of oxytocin and vasopressin.  These dance with each other to fine-tunes social activities such as parental care and protection.  They also helps us heal from trauma and come together after crises – so this is truly – powerful – medicine.

Dr. Carter and Sue Marriott go through its origins, complex biological function, and most importantly – how to turn up natural oxytocin!

Who is Dr. C. Sue Carter?

Dr. Carter is a Distinguished University Scientist and Rudy Professor Emerita of Biology at Indiana University and is literally the person who originally discovered the important role of oxytocin. Forty years ago she embarked on a personal scientific journey that bridged together her interest in both biology and psychology, and now her work has been cited in over 25,000 scholarly articles.  Recently, she has been examining the role of these neuropeptides in psychiatric and neurological disorders such as autism and depression.  She shares in the episode that she is proud to be married to Dr. Stephen Porges, neuroendroconolgist who developed the Polyvagal Theory so popular these days among relational neurobiology informed therapists.

What is Oxytocin?

  • Oxytocin is a biomolecule and neuropeptide with an important role in childbirth, nursing, social bonding and social defenses.  Most people know it as the bonding molecule in your brain. While it does do that, it’s also involved in all kinds of other biological processes.
  • Oxytocin is used in our immune systems, for food intake, to heal wounds, and even prevent and treat cancer!
  • You can understand it as a universal hardware, which our bodies can access with all different kinds of software.

But what does it do?

  • Often we think of oxytocin as just the chemical that helps connect parents and their babies. However, it has a much more complex function.
  • Interestingly, its original function was to help us be social and connected to others. Specifically, it worked to build up the attachment between mother and child.
  • In this way, oxytocin helps promote growth, restoration, creativity, and closeness.
  • But that’s not all it does. Uniquely, it became a key part of our bodies stress response pathway. It began to be used to separate threats from non-threats. With this one little molecule, our brains would both connect with our family and defend us from outsiders.
  • This happens because your body can sometimes misread the bonding signal, and perceive your situation as a threat to your loved ones. Of course that reaction then makes us want to be defensive and protect our family.
  • Because of this paradox sadly, we can’t just put this little powerhouse in the water and make us all happier.
  • Also unique is the way that it interacts with sex hormones in our bodies. Together, those different hormones can really change the way the body responds to oxytocin.

So then how can we safely get more Oxytocin?

  • The easiest way to produce more oxytocin is to be with an actually safe other. Our brains are primed to see babies and young animals as very safe, and often they are.
  • Crucially, you can’t fake safety. Your brain can spot a fake smile with a blink! So it’s important to really be present and attuned to the person you’re with to help you both co-regulate.
  • Turning towards therapy, if a client can genuinely feel safe with their therapist, then it can begin to do its own healing. Holding ourselves in that safe place long enough to move out of defensiveness and towards connection and warmth is key.
  • And even though too much oxytocin at the wrong time could cause a defensive reaction, your body is really good at self-regulation. You protect yourself from too much of a good thing naturally from the main risks of taking oxytocin if it’s produced naturally.

Resources

Love as Embodied Medicine – open source article by Dr. Carter from the International Body Psychotherapy Journal

The Kinsey Institute ebook Feb 20 V4 – 8449  The Biology of Love, Observations from the Kinsey Institute by Dr. Sue Carter

Talks between Dr. Carter and Dr. Porges on Stephen Porges Website

Dr. Carter talk on Love as Embodied Medicine

Enjoyed this episode?  You will probably be interested in these as well:

TU Episode 93: Polyvagal Theory in Action – The Practice of Body Regulation with Dr. Steve Porges (clickable link)

TU Episode 102: Finding Neurological Safety Through Relationships with Guest Bonnie Badenoch (clickable)

 TU Episode110:  Story Follows State – Investigating Polyvagal Theory with guest Deb Dana (clickable link)

(Can you BELIEVE the resources we've cobbled together?!?  Seriously we are proud of this library of content – please share freely and rate/review us to help others find this good stuff ok?)

******************

CEU's??  We've got you covered, use OURCLAN for 10% off –

brain neuroscience, amygdala, course

It's Not Me It's My Amygdala – Advanced Course Connecting the Sciences of the Mind to Everyday Relationships

FOUR hours of quality content and 3 CE's available to professionals. Since you are this deep into our show notes, then you are indeed one of our peeps and thus invited to be part of our clan 🙂 GET 10% off this signature course by using code OURCLAN!  –

Recent Episodes

The Neuroscience Behind Our Collective Dysregulation: Navigating Today’s Social Crisis (232)

The Neuroscience Behind Our Collective Dysregulation: Navigating Today’s Social Crisis (232)

We can understand our social pain by considering the nervous system, just think of it as a collective amygdala hijack!  Threat is pressing us to live in an alarm state and then we get used to it, as if it’s normal to be so divided, hopeless and disdainful to those who are holding different positions in the world. We need to cultivate secure (mature) relating to move ourselves back into a social, relational place that makes us more generous, compassionate and able to work with complexity to stay engaged to solve some of these pressing world and community issues. Keep hope alive! Iwww.therapistuncensored.com/join

read more
Hypnosis for Healing: Understanding the Powerful Science with Dr. David Spiegel (231)

Hypnosis for Healing: Understanding the Powerful Science with Dr. David Spiegel (231)

Join Dr. Ann Kelley and Dr. David Spiegel as they dive into the benefits and misconceptions of hypnosis. Hypnosis is a state of highly focused attention and cognitive flexibility, allowing individuals to explore new possibilities. Whether it’s trouble with sleep, intense anxiety, or a need to break bad habits, hypnosis has proven to be an effective tool for many. Dr. Spiegel has dedicated years of research and emphasizes the importance of accessibility to hypnosis in our healthcare systems. His app R E V E R I has over 1 million downloads and allows you to rewire your brain, conquer negative habits, and achieve personal growth from home.

read more
Mind, Body, Heart, Spirit: Embodying Liberation Psychology with Dr. Shena Young (230)

Mind, Body, Heart, Spirit: Embodying Liberation Psychology with Dr. Shena Young (230)

Join co-host Sue Marriott and Dr. Shena Young as they dive into liberation psychology and the conflict between intuition and the traditional European model of psychology. Dr. Shena highlights embodying a holistic approach to help heal traumas and deeply root us in our most authentic selves. Whether through connections with nature and/or the exploration of ancestral traditions, this discussion is enriched with various opportunities to reconnect and liberate our mind, body, heart, and spirit.

read more
Setting Boundaries that Stick with Juliane Taylor Shore (229)

Setting Boundaries that Stick with Juliane Taylor Shore (229)

We’re back with long-time friend of the podcast and expert, Juliane Taylor Shore LMFT, LPC, SEP. As we reflect on our episode from six years ago on boundaries, we dive into new knowledge and how we can create boundaries that stick. Juliane Taylor Shore blends
her original methods like “the jello wall” with new research to share exciting and thoughtful insight on how through boundaries we can harness compassion in our relationships with others and ourselves.

read more
Decolonizing Mental Health Delivery with Melody Li (Part 2, Episode 228)

Decolonizing Mental Health Delivery with Melody Li (Part 2, Episode 228)

This is part two of a two-part series with the founder of Inclusive Therapists, Melody and TU Co-host, Sue Marriott. This episode features challenging yet important conversations on active anti-racist practices, exploration of oppression, and dismantling whiteness in mental health structures. Melody emphasizes the need for white clinicians to examine their own complicity in upholding oppressive systems and to listen to and center the experiences of marginalized communities. They also highlight the interconnectedness of healing and the power of collective liberation through rehumanizing.

read more
Decolonizing Mental Health Delivery with Melody Li (Part 1, Episode 227)

Decolonizing Mental Health Delivery with Melody Li (Part 1, Episode 227)

series with the founder of Inclusive Therapists, Melody and TU Co-host, Sue Marriott. We are pushing for more inclusive, anti-racist, and decolonialized practices.The conversation is  challenging but important as we explore liberation psychology that helps us recognize and unlearn patterns of thinking that are rooted in colonization and European Western education. You may not agree with everything this guest says but you will learn something and likely feel quite a lot. Discomfort is a necessary part of liberating ourselves from engrained traditional patriarchal and white supremist thinking that continues to harm so many. Don’t forget to help us reach our goal – if you appreciate TU, then please pre-order your copy of Secure Relating today & help raise the bar of secure relating in the world. www.SecureRelatingBook.com

read more
A Neuroscience-Proven Expressive Writing Protocol with Dr. James Pennebaker (225)

A Neuroscience-Proven Expressive Writing Protocol with Dr. James Pennebaker (225)

Co-hosts Ann and Sue discuss this powerful tool directly with the original researcher, Dr. James Pennebaker. While expressive writing is not a simple “elixir” to cure mental or physical illness, Dr. Pennebaker has dedicated years of research and found it to be an effective method of healing for many people. Going straight for the hardest memory is hard, but replicates many techniques used by therapists yet without the cost and accessibility barriers. www.therapistuncensored.com/tu225. www.securerelatingbook.com

read more
How Good Boundaries Actually Bring Us Closer, with Juliane Taylor Shore – REPLAY (224)

How Good Boundaries Actually Bring Us Closer, with Juliane Taylor Shore – REPLAY (224)

Interpersonal co-regulation requires boundary-setting. Therapist Uncensored co-hosts Ann Kelley and Sue Marriott join the founder of IPNB Psychotherapy of Austin, Dr. Juliane Taylor Shore, in a discussion on interpersonal neurobiology and regulation. We’ll explore the three types of boundaries, how to co-create them plus how to stay regulated using internalized relationships with the self.

read more
Believing Chronic Fatigue – Living with Long Covid, ME/CFS (Myalgic Encepholomyelitis) and Hard to Diagnose Chronic Illnesses (223)

Believing Chronic Fatigue – Living with Long Covid, ME/CFS (Myalgic Encepholomyelitis) and Hard to Diagnose Chronic Illnesses (223)

25.6% of adults who have had COVID-19 report having experienced long Covid (source). While there are a variety of symptoms and severities that come with the illness, it doesn’t
erase the physical and mental toll it can take on one’s life. In this episode, Ann and Sue take their research as well as personal experience with the illness and discuss the stigmas, advocating for your health, being a supportive caregiver, and secure relating in regards to chronic disease.

read more
Trailblazers in Love: Understanding & Advocating for the LGBTQ+ Community with Jeff Lutes (222)

Trailblazers in Love: Understanding & Advocating for the LGBTQ+ Community with Jeff Lutes (222)

We are kicking off the new year with a special conversation between co-host Sue Marriott and special guest Jeff Lutes. Both members of the LGBTQ+ community, this discussion dives into raising families, the evolution of the community, allyship, gender, and the importance of advocacy. While there has been some progress, the LGBTQ+ community still actively faces discrimination. Whether you’re a practicing therapist with clients in the community or have LGBTQ-identifying loved ones, this episode is for you. Through a personal and professional lens, this conversation offers new perspectives and shines a light on the significance of staying educated and being an active voice.

read more
TU 2023 Year in Review: Building Internalized Secure Voices (221)

TU 2023 Year in Review: Building Internalized Secure Voices (221)

We explored many ideas this year and despite the variety of topics we found a consistent theme – nurturing secure relating in an insecure world. From interviews with our oldest son on the climate crisis to the power of awe in everyday life, we were met with rich conversations and endless opportunities to grow. As we close out 2023 with gratitude, Ann and Sue look back at important episodes from this year, review lessons learned, and exciting announcements to come in 2024.

read more

What else do you want to learn today?

Get Your Modern Attachment-Regulation Spectrum (MARS)Bundle

3 videos, 3 handouts, and 7 podcast episodes to get you started on your path toward secure relating.

Success! Please check your inbox to confirm your subscription and access your starter pack.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This