the state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship.
In my practice, I have seen more than a few clients who have had the experience of being painfully infatuated with someone who did not return their affection. In this article, therapist Pamela Milam, defines this experience of limerance and compares and contrasts it to the experience of being in love.
In my therapy office, psycho-education was a big part of my job. Clients came in to discuss their feelings, and I taught what I knew about feelings. One of my clients (I’ll call her “Leslie”) felt miserable, reporting that she was in love with her supervisor at work. She saw him every day, dressed in the morning with the goal of impressing him, and imagined that he might be her soulmate. Leslie suffered through fantasies that kept her awake at night—focusing on unrealistic and improbable scenarios in which she would discover that he loved her, too. She had trouble concentrating.
We discussed the fact that a simple crush on her boss had turned into something damaging and unhealthy. She said that she had been in love before, but the prior love had felt healthier somehow—a more positive, mutual experience. The more recent experience had a whole different set of features.
In her book Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, psychologist Dorothy Tennov describes the typical features of limerence:
Numerous studies have shown that once we become attached to someone, the two of us form one physiological unit. Our partner regulates our blood pressure, our heart rate, our breathing, and the levels of hormones in our blood. We are not longer separate entities. The emphasis on differentiation that is held by most of today’s popular psychology approaches to adult relationships does not hold water from a biological perspective. Dependency is a fact; it is not a choice or a preference. -Amir Levine M.D., and Rachel S.F. Heller, M.A. “Attached: The New Science or Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find-And Keep-Love.”
Adult Children of Alcoholics: “Upon reaching adulthood, the majority of children of alcoholics continue to experience problems related to trust, dependency, control, identification and expression of feelings.” – Claudia Black It Will Never Happen to Me: Children of Alcoholics As Youngsters-Adolescents-Adults
I just finished re-watching the sixth episode of the first season of the original Star Trek (if you count the pilot.) It does a fair job of illustrating the basics regarding the dangers of non-acceptance and non-integration of the shadow-self with the persona. These are terms Carl Jung used largely to replace Freud’s terms, “conscious” and “subconscious.” (The persona being the self we tend to show the world- often our “best” attributes- while the shadow-self is largely unconscious and comprised of aspects of ourselves that society, culture or family have told us are “bad.”) If explored, accepted and integrated the shadow-self provides us with much of our creative energy and power. In this particular episode, an alter ego of Kirk is sent back with the original Kirk to the SS Enterprise when the transporter malfunctions. Continue reading →
For many years I have been speaking to the increasing shift in traditional gender roles and the ways in which this shift is altering the power differential between the sexes. In my practice, I see these changes manifest in a variety of new and interesting ways, both adaptive and maladaptive. My work is primarily with men and this latest New York Times article gives a comprehensive overview of the very real and immediate need to foster and accept emotional vulnerability in men for the sake of their health and success.
“Last semester, a student in the masculinity course I teach showed a video clip she had found online of a toddler getting what appeared to be his first vaccinations. Off camera, we hear his father’s voice. “I’ll hold your hand, O.K.?” Then, as his son becomes increasingly agitated: “Don’t cry!… Aw, big boy! High five, high five! Say you’re a man: “I’m a man!”
In our culture, the term naricissist is used often, informally and carries a pejorative connotation. Jari Chevalier’s podcast, Living Hero, examines narcissism from all angles and provides a more humanistic perspective on the clinical meaning of the word. Continue reading →
This is one of the best articles on addiction I’ve read in a long time. It echoes what I have seen and experienced around attachment and safety the lengths to which humans will go to find comfort in their absence. Continue reading →
I get asked this question a lot and the answer is, “yes.” This is comforting to many and not such welcome news to others. In the psychological world, “screwed up” is better known as “neurotic.” Psychoanalyst Karen Horney described neurosis as “a distorted way of looking at the world and oneself, determined by compulsive needs rather than by a genuine interest in the world as it is.” Yep. Unfortunately we all do this to one degree or another, in one or more areas of our lives. The extent to which this occurs is in proportion to the severity of the mental and emotional suffering we experience. Continue reading →
Patience, kindness and the simple act of our LISTENING can mean the difference between unbearable suffering and a life worth living for many people around us. In listening to this episode of This American Life recently, I was struck by the positive transformation of an adopted child diagnosed with an attachment disorder that was likely the result of abuse or neglect as an infant.