Saturday, January 9, 2021

14 - Limerence

Somewhere over the rainbow of LIMERENCE

1 – Visual examples of being or sliding into limerence

Falling and being in love floods your body-mind unit with brain made drugs (dopamine, serotonine and others), that means you are floating for a while above real life on a pink cloud in heaven number nine. All the endorphins which flood your brain make you feel good, but at the same time they disturb in several ways the functioning of your so called rational brain, especially its capacity to decide and judge how to act properly (considering your social and cultural environment and other people). All that adds up that you act somehow differently than people under the influence of mainstream common sense! (in any case, common sense is one of the rarest senses of all existing and imagined human senses)! 

2 – Two flashlights on limerence 

  • Love is giving something you don't have to someone who doesn't want it. 
J. Lacan 
Seminar VIII 

  • Limerence is an obsessive, unrequited love. It is actually a disorder. A disease if you will. 
Elizabeth Cohen 
The hypothetical girl 

3 – Two questions
  • Have you ever had a limerent experience?
  • How did you feel?

Por un beso de la flaca 
Daría lo que fuera 
Por un beso de ella 
Aunque sólo uno fuera

4 – “Limerence” in language games

“Limerence” is a word coined in 1978 by the psychologist Dorothy Tennov in her book “Love and Limerence. The Experience of Being in Love”, which means something near to “passionate love”, “obsessive love” or “romantic love”, only with stronger feelings and in general it stays an one-sided affair, that means there is no reciprocation of feelings. 

Using “limerence” for denoting what before was labelled as “passionate or obsessive love” has the advantage that it is a new and neutral word that doesn’t evoque the positive connotations or associations of “passionate love”, which humans used and wrote about for thousands of years. On the other hand this new word has the disadvantage that about 101 per cent of people have never heard of that concept (Attention please: the given percentage number is a wild guess without any real empirical foundation!) 

Limerence is generally defined as a process of being smittened and/or obsessed with another human mammal, and describes the feelings of the one who’s overwhelmed by his fantasized ideal love object, in this case the “Limerent object” (LO), while the person madly in love is called the “Limerent” (L). 

The LO may be from the opposite or the same sex as the person who got trapped involuntarily in the net of strong attachment feelings. The latter are accompagnied by obsessive thinking, ruminations without end about the LO, and an overwhelming romantic desire to be near to it/her/him. Being in the state of limerence gives you, in the best of cases, a dopamine shot that lifts you up to the heighest hights of euphoria and excitement, and in the worst moments it will hurl you into a deep rabbit hole of despair. At least it won’t be boring! 

  • It's like my world has been in gray my whole life and now it's suddenly in color. I feel this crazy mixture of shame, euphoria, humiliation, bliss, guilt, anxiety, loss, yearning. I feel like I'm going crazy. I want it to stop and I don't want it to stop. 
Dr. L 
Living with limerence 

Tennov’s description of the characteristics of limerence are nearly the same, only stronger and without a happy end, as when Helen Fisher describes the manifestations of romantic love in her book the “Anatomy of love”. Here we go, you know you are trapped by limerence when some of the following things happen in relation to your imaginary love object (as mentioned, the “Limerent object” = LO): 

Intrusive thinking about the object of your passionate desire (you can’t stop thinking about her/him). Your brain is on fire, you can’t sleep, you aren’t humgry, you’re completely obsessed with your LO. 
  • You focus your attention only on the LO, all other people don’t exist anymore in your mental imaginarium. 
  • Your mood depends on the actions taken or not taken by your LO, and in relation to your interpretations of her or his actions, your mood swings from ecstacy to despair and vice versa. 
  • You interpret all her/his actions and sayings until mental exhaustion sets in, always reading between the lines looking for clues that s/he reciprocates your feelings. 
  • You’re looking for an emotional union, and this kind of longing can produce physical pain in your body, especially when your LO is not responding as you imagined or hoped for.  
  • You’re floating on soft clouds when it looks like that your LO responded favorably to your avances, but you crash on hard rocks if s/he doesn’t respond at all. 
  • You see only the good sides of your LO and forget about the negative ones, which all other people around you can see at first sight (and some even before!). 
  • It’s an uncontrollable feeling, accompanied by intense energy, emotional dependence on one object and a roller coster ride of emotions. 
  • You fantasize about the life with your LO, you ruminate over and over your last meeting (real or imagined), and you spend all your limited emotional energy on one object (A Wall Street banker would say that this is not a very clever investment strategy, you should diversify your emotional energy onto different objects). 
  • In general it’s a transient state and shouldn’t last that long. Since obsessive love arrives when it wants, it also can vanish without any notice. And, as the 2nd law of thermodynamics also applies to any and all of our human experiences, in the long run, everything will fade away. But then again, in the long run we all will be dead! 
  • There are people who had a wild crush or an obsessive love (= limerence) for somebody and who, even after years or decades, can’t get their former LO out of their minds. An unsatisfactory limerence experience can leave emotional scars and memories that can linger for a whole life in their body-mind unit. 

5 - When do we need limerence? 

I’m not sure whether we “need” it, it just arrives and there you are, lost and confused in an unknown emotional attachment script, which changes your priorities and a lot of other things in your daily life. 

Let’s say it happens more often that young people have an uncritical crush on somebody, but falling madly in love may strike at any age, it’s not something you can control. I mean you can’t control the falling in love and the emotions you’ll feel, but you can control (more or less) what you’re going to do with them. Whether you act on your feelings or whether you wait and think about the consequences if you follow the emotional impulses of your brain, that should be, in the best of all worlds, your decision. 

It seems that most people forget their limerent experiences of their young adulthood, but, as already mentioned, some get lost and stuck in it, and others repeat it over and over again, because being in the limerent process can be more exciting than leading a monotous mainstream life that consists of getting up - working – TV – sleeping; getting up - working – TV – sleeping; … in a seemingly eternal cycle. 

In general, people fall madly in love when they feel lonely, or there are too many difficulties in their lives, like a marriage crisis or work related problems, and they need a distraction which transports them into a pink coloured fantasy world, where problems disappear and perfect love exists, like in Bolly- or Hollywood movies, and where they don’t have to face the crude realities of their life anymore (at least for some time). 

The recurrent fantasy during the limerent experience: 

Come away with me in the night 
Come away with me 
And I will write you a song 
Come away with me on a bus 
Come away where they can't tempt us, with their lies 

6 – Evolutionary aspects

That limerence still exists and has existed for a long time (thousands of years at least), shows that it must have some kind of evolutionary advantage. Estimates (again, some blind guesses during a moonless night) of psychologists put the percentage of people sensitive to limerence at about 5 per cent of a given population. That means that most people wion’t know and sense the limerence experience, but a few are easily engaged by this roller coaster ride. 

Neuroscientists say that certain biochemical processes in the brain result in the feeling and experience of limerence. According to them, at the beginning of limerence, the pituitary gland releases dopamine and other body produced molecules (neurotransmitters and/or hormones) which produce the subjective feeling of euphoria and being on top of the world. The initial chenical cocktail will be replaced over time by other mixtures and so the feeling of obsessive love will change and soften over time. Nothing lasts forever! 

Some evolutionary biologists think that limerence is a trick of nature for finding a mate, and being in a limerent state of mind gives you the power, focus and energy to connect with your imagined future mate. 

In a limerent state you only have one goal, being near and connected to your LO, and whenever that happens you feel alive and euphoric. So you do everything and anything to conquer your LO, which gives you an evolutionary advantage over other humans who are too shy to approach the “object” they are secretly in love with (there should be trillions of timid people like that!). 

When you are in the limerent state of mind, you feel more alive, colours are brighter, music sounds more transcendent, people seem kinder, emotions are intense, and you feel alive and, as long as your LO seems attainable, everything seems bigger and more beautiful. It’s like eating one pound of cocaine mixed with 200 grams of vanilla ice-cream! (Attention please: this is a very bad and politically doubtful joke; I only mentioned it for comparative reasons, don’t try it!). 

Limerence may last from a few weeks to a few years, although some people live with it for decades. As long as you don’t suffer all too much and as long as it doesn’t disturb your normal functioning in mainstream everyday life, there’s no need to take legal or illegal drugs or visit a mind mechanic to reduce the pain. At least your pain tells you that you are a sentient being and that you are still alive! 

7 - Limerence is useful for 
  • Falling in a rabbit hole of uncontrollable emotion. 
  • Getting drunk and excited with self-made drugs (neurotransmitters, endorphins). 
  • Living in a dream world of your own creation. 
  • Seeing your LO through pink-coloured glasses. 
  • Misjudging tremendously (but only temporally) the importance of another person. 
  • Not caring any more for and losing your job and your friends. 
  • Getting run over by a truck while crossing the street and thinking of your limerent object (= imagined lover). 
  • To have something to do when you are out of work and have nothing else to occupy your mind with. 
  • Living a script of romantic love in your imagination. 
  • Focussing your attention on only one “object” (= human being). 
  • Not caring anymore about what’s going on around you. 
  • Living in a dreamlike state in a fantasy world. 
  • Outside of your LO addiction, you don't take responsibility for anything else in the real world. 
  • Being more dazed and confused and for quite a longer time than the normal mainstream human mammals. 
  • Riding on a roller coaster of emotions where you realize that you’re still alive and you’re not (against all appearance to the contrary) some kind of emotionless working robot. 
  • Realizing that every other emotion you’ve ever had or still have feels in comparison to limerence like drinking lukewarm soapwater on a hot summer day or at best like eating yesterdays newspaper. 
  • Others: … 

8 - Forms of limerence

No idea. Have to think it over! You can invent something for yourself! 

Your turn: … 

9 - Shadow sides of limerence

There’s no shadow side of it, because when you are in the limerent state of obsession you are already moving in and out of the shadow side of life. The prolonged period of limerent arousal can be overwhelming, it dysregulates your everyday habits and all your lifestyle. 

During the peaks of limerence you can’t sleep properly, the windmill of your mind turns faster and faster, you have intrusive and obsessive thoughts, accompanied by euphoria, panic and anxiety. A perfect coctail for experiencing some psychotic symptoms, and from the outside for mental health professionals it may look like a bipolar disorder (formerly known as manic-depressive disorder). 

10 – How to increase your limerence voltage

I’m not sure whether that’s a good idea. If you really insist, just try to be open to fall blindly in love with somebody, without carrying about anything else. See how it goes and be aware of the advantages and disadvantages for later comparison. You love, you learn! 

11 – Three examples of limerence in literature and/or in real life 
  • Narcissistic personality disorder is, of course, named for the Greek myth of Narcissus, of which there are several versions. In Ovid’s version, which is the most commonly related, the nymph Echo falls in love with Narcissus, a youth of extraordinary beauty. As a child, Narcissus had been prophesized by Teiresias, the blind prophet of Thebes, to ‘live to a ripe old age, as long as he never knows himself’. 
  • One day, Echo followed Narcissus through the woods as he went about hunting for stags. She longed to speak to him but dared not utter the first word. Overhearing her footsteps, the youth cried out, “Who’s there?” to which she responded, “Who’s there?” 
  • When at last she revealed herself, she rushed out to embrace Narcissus, but he scorned her and pushed her away - … 
  • Echo spent the rest of her life pining for Narcissus, and slowly withered away until there was nothing left of her but her voice. … 
Neel Burton 
Hide and Seek 

  • Intense feelings of romantic love generally first occur around puberty. But even young children can experience a “crush” or puppy love. The youngest love-struck person I ever met was a two-and-a-half-year-old boy. Every time a particular little girl came to his home for a play-date, he just sat beside her and stroked her hair; after she departed, he became depressed for about two hours. She was special; he was obsessed. 
Helen Fisher 
Anatomy of Love 

  • One woman I met wore two wedding rings, one on her ‘ring finger’ and the other on her right hand. She said: ‘That ring never, ever leaves my finger. I would have my finger cut off rather than remove that ring.’ It was given to her by her first husband, a handsome rake whom she married at the age of seventeen and who left her with a small child not long afterwards. 
  • She has not even seen him for nearly thirty years – but says that not a day goes by when she doesn’t think of him, yearn for him, long for him. Her present husband, a steady, nice, stable, loving man, has never been able to excite her passions in the same way – although she acknowledges that he makes a far better husband. But although she has tried and tried, she cannot stop thoughts of this early, unsatisfactory love from returning to haunt her. 
Liz Hodgkinson 
Obsessive Love 

12 – Coda
  • Interpretation: You are my one and only one (although you don’t know it!) 
  • Mission: To lose yourself in your obsession. 
  • Duration: Depends, from a few days to decades. 
  • Shadow: You’re in the shadow already! 
  • Force: Hope and fantasy (“come away with me”). 
  • Energy level: roller coaster high and low and focused on one “object”, some kind of bipolar energy waves.

The lyrics are excerpts from "Can vei la lauzeta mover", a 12th century Occitan troubadour song written by Bernart de Ventadorn (or Bernard de Ventadour). The troubadours and their female equivalents, the trobairitz – of the eleventh and twelfth centuries lived in what was then and nowadays still is south-western France. 

Their core competence was the creation of songs and poetry about their yearning for unobtainable lovers, which is exactly what limerence is all about: Falling in love with somebody out of limits, with somebody who doesn’t respond to your feelings, and also somebody you can’t reach for social or cultural reasons. And in the end you may realize that 
Ai, weary! Ai, weary! 
 How much I thought I knew of love 
And how little I know 

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