Wednesday, June 5, 2024

What is limerence?

 Limerence is a term coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov to describe an intense and involuntary emotional state often characterized by romantic attraction, obsession, and preoccupation with another person. It's often colloquially referred to as having a "crush" or being "infatuated." While limerence shares some characteristics with love, it tends to be more intense, shorter-lived, and focused on the idealized image of the other person rather than on a genuine understanding of their traits and flaws.

From a psychological perspective, limerence involves a complex interplay of various cognitive, emotional, and behavioural factors:

  1. Idealization: People experiencing limerence tend to idealize the person they are infatuated with. They focus on the positive qualities and attributes of the object of their affection, often overlooking or downplaying any negative aspects. This idealization creates a distorted perception of the person and sets the stage for an intense emotional response.

  2. Intrusive Thoughts: Individuals in a limerent state often experience intrusive and persistent thoughts about the person they're infatuated with. These thoughts can range from daydreaming about romantic scenarios to imagining future interactions. The constant mental preoccupation can make it difficult to concentrate on other tasks and responsibilities.

  3. Emotional Roller Coaster: Limerence involves intense emotional highs and lows. A person in this state might feel euphoria and elation when they perceive reciprocation or positive attention from the object of their affection. Conversely, they might experience deep despair, anxiety, or jealousy if they perceive any sign of rejection or indifference.

  4. Fear of Rejection: Limerence is often accompanied by a strong fear of rejection. The person's self-esteem becomes closely tied to the approval of the limerent object, making the fear of being rejected or abandoned particularly distressing.

  5. Uncontrollable Feelings: People experiencing limerence often feel a lack of control over their emotions. The intense attraction and longing can be overwhelming, leading to a sense of helplessness in the face of these powerful feelings.

  6. Dependency: Limerence can foster a sense of emotional dependency on the object of affection. The person might seek constant validation, reassurance, and proximity to the limerent object to alleviate their anxiety and uncertainty.

  7. Selective Attention: Individuals in a limerent state tend to focus intensely on any cues or signals that might suggest the affection is reciprocated. This selective attention can lead to misinterpretation of neutral or ambiguous behaviours as evidence of mutual interest.

  8. Physical Symptoms: Limerence can also manifest in physical symptoms, such as increased heart rate, sweating, trembling, and other signs of heightened arousal when thinking about or being near the limerent object.

  9. Fantasy and Escapism: Limerence often involves elaborate fantasies about the limerent object, creating a temporary escape from the realities of daily life. These fantasies provide emotional gratification and a sense of fulfillment that might be lacking in other areas.

It's important to note that while limerence shares similarities with obsessive-compulsive disorder and addiction in terms of the compulsive thinking and behaviour patterns, it is not classified as a mental disorder in itself. However, if limerence becomes all-consuming, interferes with daily functioning, or leads to unhealthy behaviours, seeking support from mental health professionals might be beneficial.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

I feel like I'm losing my mind - the turmoil of limerence and love

A Reader's story - 
Male 36 Years 

 "I feel like I'm losing my mind.. my LO ""broke up"" with me about 3 months ago. We had an intense physical and emotional affair. We are both married with children and used to work together and no longer do. I moved on to another job. I was semi-happy when she dumped me because the double life was hard, lots of sneaking around but I would have left my family for her is she asked for it. We talked many times about being together but came to realize it was impossible.

 I need this feeling to end. I am a mess, I cry all the time.. I want to be over her so bad but can't. i feel like I broke myself and now don't know how to fix me. I think about her every minutes of the day.. I feel bad for my wife and kids. Why can't I just move on.. I have fleeting moments where I feel better and hops its the start of recovering and then 10 minutes later I'm crying because I miss her so much. I read this can last 3 years on average.. I can't bear another day of this. I am in hell. "

Friday, December 16, 2016

Looking for Love - overcoming childhood trauma - a pathway of limerence

Looking for Love - overcoming childhood trauma  - a pathway of limerence

A reader's experience
Age:36 - 45
United States

Around third grade I began to experience "crushes" on boys.

 I fantasized about them saving me, protecting me, even weeping for me as I lay dying. I remember thinking my boy crushes would love me; that they would complete me, and finally I would feel the love I had always wanted.

 I know now that I didn't feel loved or wanted as a child. I don't have memories of my mother comforting me. She didn't hug me or hold my hand. 

I do remember the violence in my home - my father was unpredictable and would lash out, often beating us violently. I remember passing out and waking up to find him still beating me. 

They told me that I belonged in the family and that therefore I was loved, that I should be grateful for being housed and fed and that meant love, but I don't believe I experienced or felt love.

 I often turned to teachers (usually male but sometimes female) to fill the void of a positive adult figure. If anyone gave me the slightest nod of positive attention, I worshiped him or her and soon after, the fantasies would start. I imagined I was the most important person to them. That they would do anything for me. That I meant so much to them.

These limerence fantasies ended for me after I sought therapy for trauma recovery, and after I cut ties with my parents completely. Through therapy, I also uncovered memories of sexual abuse by my father, in addition to the traumatic memories of physical violence. I began to understand the emotional and mental abuse I had gone through, as well, and that my upbringing was not healthy and positive.

I used to feel badly and wonder if something was wrong with me - my nature - for the obsessive crushes, especially as I got older and I began to act upon them by calling my crush, reading into his words too deeply, stalking him on the Internet. 

I forgive myself for these behaviors now; I know they stemmed from the lack of attachment in my childhood, and from the trauma of abuse.

I'm so glad I finally went to therapy.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Overwhelming love

A Reader's honest story. 

I was struggling with both the overwhelming love and need for this other woman

I had never expected that out of the blue I would feel obsessive about one of my women colleagues. 
She is happily married with kids as old as 10 years.

That I felt I had a special link, that time spent away from her was time wasted. 

I also loved and valued my family, did not want to hurt them, did not want to “upset the boat” .

I was struggling with both the overwhelming love and need for this other woman (LO) and the inability to think about the consequences. My rational mind knew I was being a “fool” but I also knew that LO was my soul mate, they were meant to be, LO was truly my significant other. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, I didn’t want to stop. Everything reminded me of our unique bond.

 As time went on I frequently wept to lessen my emotional pain.I had gotten to the point where I was desperate to move on and get back to being what I call “normal” again, to feel on an even level and not on an insane roller-coaster of emotions and thoughts. In my case, the humiliation I felt when I overheard some nasty comments from LO, and my sudden fear my behavior was making me notorious and a butt for unflattering jokes were helpful in supporting my desire to be free of LO and limerence. In fact, I felt deeply ashamed, appalled at what I might have done and might have gone on to do, desperate to escape from the whole situation, and very afraid that my family and friends might have gotten an idea of what went on. 

Actually, very little had gone on in one sense. I had smartened up, taken to spending more time in Whatsapp as LO seemed to be there more frequently.I had started sending messages to her through Wapp.I described how beautiful and glamorous she was, and how I have never felt anything like this before.The girl was seeming to like these things.I was in euphoric stage for quite few days.Life's major problems did not matter for me at all during those seven days .In fact they were pushed to the back ground.I had a new found energy within me.

Only her and thoughts about her preoccupied my whole being.I was in the cloud nine- the walking in the air stage.

The otherwise recluse LO Began to send me letter, sometimes praising my English and sometimes praising my pranks and lively jokes.I thought the limerence was mutual.She visited my room frequently.

Then what happened - 

Then the girl begun avoiding me like a leper.I was now alternating between seeming paralyzed with fear and being hysterically afraid of being exposed, all the time with the limerent thoughts darting in like arrows of fire to sear my being with false hopes. Slowly,I tried to regain my emotional composure. I made myself avoid places and situations where LO was likely to be, and while this seemed impossible initially, it did, over many months, become easier. 

Still not fully recovered yet.I couldn’t believe what I had experienced. I felt humiliated, felt deeply bereaved and angry that she had not been the soul mate I had believed. I had tried to bargain with a god in whom I did not believe that LO and me could become true friends, with no limerence. Then I felt apathetic: what was the point of working, talking, being alive when I had lost the most significant person in my life? I struggled for a year and half ?Then I felt I am beginning to get relief.That relief does not last, but it returns and as time went on, the relief lasted longer and occurred more frequently. 

Two years on from our first meeting, I seem to back to being in balance with my world—family, work and leisure. But problem still persists.I get mad if I don't see her for once in 2 or 3 days.Though I am recovering,I see my LO- still not ex-LO -as the embers of a small fire, just enough warmth left to give an occasional tiny bit of discomfort, and even this will probably fade more with time.

 I see myself as “older, a bit wiser, a lot more aware and careful”, but also not totally regretting the amazing emotional highs and inspiration I have experienced.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Is infatuation a common experience when falling in love?

"I just can't get him out of my mind. I think of him all the time. Every waking moment of my day is spent dreaming about him. My whole life is built around his existence! Everything about him preoccupies my thoughts. He totally consumes my every waking moment."

This is not an uncommon experience for many people, particularly in the 'early days' of  falling in love. The journey of romantic love in the first flush of attraction is filled with the most sublime, agonizing and intense thoughts and feelings imaginable.

The infatuation pathway we find ourselves traversing is profoundly personal and both exhilarating and disturbing. Before we know it, we are catapulted headlong into an emotional frenzy which seems unstoppable, unmanageable and all consuming.

What causes this infatuation - this all consuming obsessive thinking and focus? What causes such intensity of emotion?

This is how one person described their experience.

"I met him at friend's home. I was already in a relationship. But I knew from my previous experiences of infatuation, that I was always limerent vulnerable and limerent ready. It was his physical proximity and his open conversational vulnerability that linked us. He spoke in a way about his life that laid bare his defenselessness. His honesty had real integrity and transparency. He was unpretentiously authentic. 

His openness about his struggles and life journey so resonated within me that I instantly and emotionally connected with him and felt this deep yearning to be embraced by his understanding and empathetic words as well as his physical touch."
All this happened within minutes of meeting him. Unexpectedly, like a lightning strike, a bolt out of the blue!  I was hooked! 
To experience such open authenticity gave me a pathway into his life where I felt safe and secure. That's what made him irresistible. His emotional exposure embraced my own vulnerabilities and I felt totally safe! I wanted to experience more."

Infatuation contains so many mixed emotions. We all invest so much of ourselves into what others may see as an irrational and unsustainable response when we become infatuated. Infatuation is such an individual experience, which is so captivating and consuming that we become totally mesmerized by the person who now becomes the focus of our inner world. 

The agonizing power embedded in this transfixing experience reverberates throughout our whole being and we are rendered almost totally helpless as we often inadequately deal with many of the primal psychological forces now controlling our lives. 

This experience is so primal, so primordial, so universal that when we enter into the realm of infatuation we are entering into the instinctual driving forces which have little to do with rational behaviour, and everything to do with basic instincts which are part of the fabric we share with the rest of humanity. We should never underestimate or ignore the primal drives which nature has invested us with, as part of our behavioural response necessary for the procreation of the species. 

Attraction and infatuation are prescripted natural awakenings generated within us by the  biological agendas which form part of the human fabric we all share. Their compelling power when ignited, create physiological and psychological responses in us which display primal agendas which seem so foreign and antithetical  to the domesticated and respectable socialized agendas which are considered to be the normal and acceptable codes of behaviour.

When deep attraction occurs and infatuation experienced, we are witnessing within ourselves a complex mixture of primal drives and  psychological needs and desires. For some of us our needs and drives seem to collide and we are left totally overwhelmed by the intense feelings of sensuality, sexuality, exhilaration as well as emotions which create anxiety and a disturbing urgency for resolution. 

 In fact the existence of "infatuation" in our attraction-attachment kit, is what brings the opposite sexes (same sexes) together and is part of the arsenal nature uses to create initial responses along the pathway of bonding. 

Added to the natural psychological and physiological forces of attraction/attachment within us, are the overlays of needs created within us by the personal life histories we have experienced from the moment of our birth. The authenticity of attraction/infatuation we experience so naturally, is 'flavoured' by the agendas we carry from childhood. 

We interpret these experiences of attraction/infatuation  through the prism of our personal life journeys.

Deep 'irrational' infatuation has a powerful and authentic natural instinct as well as an emotional agenda which is peculiarly unique for each of us, based on the life experiences we have encountered before "infatuation" obsesses us.

If you feel overpowered by in infatuation forces consuming your life, you are not alone. It is understanding and unraveling these forces which is so necessary to get our lives back into some form of equilibrium.