Film about limerence.

limerence_movie

A filmmaker, Dan Pedersen on Twitter asked me about my opinions about limerence for a short film he’s working on for Glass City Films. It’s about a “fragile young woman who experiences all the irrational terror of falling into obsessive love.” The clips look intriguing.

Dan Pedersen and Glass City Films hope that the film will help increase awareness of this condition, and offer a bit of hope for people who have a predisposition to it.

Donations are being taken for this project. While I’m not able to make a donation at this time, I do want to spread the word about the film so maybe others can contribute to this project.

Here is the website where you can read more, or make a donation if you wish.
http://www.limerencefilm.com

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/glasscityfilms/limerence-a-mindbending-short-film-about-lovesickn

Question #51: What if limerence is NOT a delusion?

lucy_limerence

This was a question I thought of after posting my list of 50 things I ponder about, but I want to explore this further because I’ve never heard anyone else ask this same question.

Limerence is a term coined by psychotherapist Dorothy Tennov in 1979 in her excellent book, Love and Limerence. Limerence is a newer word for the state of infatuation, being “in love” (as opposed to real, agape or mature love), or simply “having a crush.”  I’ve always liked her word because I think it sounds exactly like what the emotion feels like.  I never liked the term infatuation because it sounds disgusting, having a crush implies an “unserious” problem only teenagers have, and being in love is probably not accurate.

She hypothesizes that limerence is an evolutionary adaptation that makes it possible for men and women to meet and mate, and lasts just long enough for them to marry and reproduce. That’s why the typical limerent episode lasts on average two years, and why it more commonly afflicts the young.

I’ve always been what Tennov calls a “limerent”–a person who gets crushes easily. Not everyone does. People with Cluster B disorders, especially BPD, are more prone to limerence than others, because we tend to idealize other people without really knowing them well or at all. It’s actually very narcissistic, because the other person serves as a kind of mirror, reflecting back the ideal qualities you want to see in them–until they don’t. Tennov calls the object of a crush a “limerent object.” In some ways, when you’re limerent about someone, you do see them as an object, because the idealized image of the other person isn’t based on reality or even accurate. At least that’s the common belief.

psyche
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss – Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757–1822) – Eric Pouhier (May 2007)

But what if it IS accurate? What if limerence is actually a hyper-real state where you see another person as they really are, and just aren’t seeing everyone else the way they really are? What if it’s kind of like the idiot savant phenomenon in severe autism, where the autistic person seems to focus ALL their intellect into one narrow subject at the expense of everything else? In other words, if we were all created in God’s image, then maybe we are all far more beautiful and closer to perfection than we can perceive in everyday reality, and only in the state of limerence, when all our attention is focused on one person, we can see that person the way they really are, which is the way God perceives each one of us.

If you’ve ever been limerent about someone, and especially if they return your feelings (or you believe they do), you feel heady, giddy, euphoric, almost high. It’s a very spiritual feeling, and falling in love with someone does feel very spiritual. When we look at someone we are limerent about, are we really seeing them through a small window that lets us see them the way God sees the whole universe and everything in it?

Maybe the people who are closest to God and the spiritual, and who are the happiest, walk through life feeling limerent about everything. Being able to feel that way all the time about everything is the closest thing to heaven I can imagine.

That feeling can also be induced by certain drugs. Limerence could be closer to a drug high, but I prefer to think it’s a small peek into the divine.

I read somewhere that limerence is being considered as a mental illness in later editions of the DSM. Whether or not it’s real, I think that would be a shame, because limerence can be one of the most profound and magical experiences in life.

Further reading: Do Narcissists Fall in Love?

 

 

 

Do narcissists fall in love?

thelovers

Narcissists can’t love but they can and do fall in love. All the time. What they feel is a state Dorothy Tennov has called “limerence,” more commonly known as infatuation or colloquially known as a crush.

According to Wikipedia,

Limerence (also infatuated love) is a state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person typically including compulsive thoughts and fantasies and a desire to form or maintain a relationship and have one’s feelings reciprocated. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov coined the term “limerence” for her 1979 book “Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love” to describe the concept that had grown out of her work in the mid-1960s, when she interviewed over 500 people on the topic of love.

Limerence has been defined by one writer as “an involuntary interpersonal state that involves intrusive, obsessive, and compulsive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that are contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation from the object of interest”. Limerence has also been defined in terms of the potentially inspirational effects and the relationship to attachment theory, which is not exclusively sexual, as being “an involuntary potentially inspiring state of adoration and attachment to a limerent object involving intrusive and obsessive thoughts, feelings and behaviors from euphoria to despair, contingent on perceived emotional reciprocation”.

In other words, the state of limerence is much like being high on a drug. The “LO” (limerent object) is the person fixated on, and this person is a mirror for the infatuated narcissist. When a narcissist falls in love with you, they can be the most romantic people you could ever imagine. They’ll gaze longingly into your eyes, bring you flowers, want to spend every moment with you, tell you they want to be with you forever.

But it’s not you they are seeing. What they are seeing is a reflection of themselves that you are showing them by reciprocating. You make them feel good about themselves because you are giving them supply and attention, and letting them know how wonderful you think they are. You’re basically nothing more than a mirror, and your narcissist, when he gazes into your eyes, is really gazing at his own false self you are feeding.

This doesn’t mean that only narcissists experience limerence or infatuation. Most people do at some point in their lives. It’s much more common for teenagers and young adults to have a “crush,” but it’s a temporary state. I think it’s more common in young people because they are still rather narcissistic and trying to find out who they are. Mature adults can “fall in love” too, but will normally move from the initial state of limerence with all its heady excitement and intensity, into a more stable state of deep love, which is less emotionally intense but much more rewarding for both partners.

psyche
Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss. Antonio Canova (Italian, 1757–1822) – Eric Pouhier (May 2007)

Limerence only lasts an average of 1-2 years (in evolutionary terms, this is just enough time for a relationship to result in the birth of offspring, and is also about the length of time of an average engagement). But limerence isn’t love. It’s what Tennov calls a state of “cognitive obsession.” You can be “in love” with someone you don’t even know or have never met (like a celebrity for example), so how can that be real love? It isn’t. It’s obsession. You may be projecting what you want to see onto the limerent object, rather than seeing what’s actually there. That’s why later, after you’re “over” the object of your infatuation, it’s common to wonder, “what did I ever see in her?”

A narcissist can certainly fall in love (unless they’re the commitment-phobic type), but once you begin to express your own needs, and begin to show cracks in your armor that mean you’re only an imperfect human, you are no longer mirroring the narcissist as they want to be mirrored, and that’s when the abuse and manipulations will begin–or in some cases they will begin to devalue you before the final discard.

A narcissist cannot move from a limerent state into real love, as a normal adult can. Real, lasting love requires mutual give-and-take, empathy, sacrifice, compromise, and a lot of hard work–all things that narcissists simply can’t handle. That’s why their marriages and relationships usually don’t last that long–or if they do, become such hotbeds of misery and discord.

If you’ve been discarded by a narc and they’ve moved onto someone else, don’t feel too bad. Before you know it, that new “perfect” lover will seem not so perfect to them anymore, and they will be abused or discarded too, joining their long list of conquests.

A Beachside Affair (guest post).

Here is another guest post by the same writer who contributed “The Narc from Costa Rica.” Again she has asked to remain anonymous, but I think this story does a better job of describing the narcissism of a man who seemed to be extremely romantic. Talk about a whirlwind romance!

It’s common for narcissists (especially somatic ones) to act very romantic in the beginning of relationships. But the problem is, it’s an ACT. They can sweep you off your feet with their charm, declarations of undying love (which are lies), seemingly endless desire to make love to you, and gifts of wine, candy and roses. They also can move in very fast, and it’s not uncommon for one to propose marriage very soon into the relationship. (There are other narcs who are relationship-phobic, usually the cerebral type.). My ex proposed only three months after we met. He was cerebral though, so not all “romantic,” fast-moving narcissists are somatics.

The man in this story, Michael, seems to be a covert or “vulnerable” narcissist. They can seem to have very deep emotions and be quick to express their insecurities and vulnerabilities, but they’re still dishonest and manipulative, and they still have no empathy and will leave you in a heartbeat if a better source of supply comes along. Covert narcissists can be more dangerous than aggressive (classic) narcissists because you never see what’s coming. They can completely fool you because they seem to need you so much.

A Beachside Affair
By Anonymous

summer_love

My whirlwind relationship with Michael lasted for only 3 months. It was a summer love, like something out of the movies. Our affair ended abruptly, leaving me completely gutted emotionally and even physically. It was as if he’d ripped my heart out and taken it with him, leaving me with a huge hole inside my soul.

I met Michael on the beach. We quickly became obsessed with each other. He was like an addiction to me. I went to work during the day and all I could think about was Michael. I’d go home and polish myself from head to toe, making sure I looked and felt as beautiful as possible. Before I met Michael I just didn’t feel good. I was in a failing marriage to another narcissist. My husband ignored me. He never talked to me and I was dying inside. I remember that I’d go home and get drunk on wine, just to blur out the feelings of emptiness I felt from my husband’s coldness, on top of having suffered an empty childhood and adolescence due to having been raised by a narcissistic father and a borderline mother who wasn’t much better.

I knew having an affair was wrong, but at that point I no longer cared. I needed to feel loved and needed. Michael fit the bill perfectly, at first. I remember the day I met Michael. He was beautiful, his tanned muscles shimmering and rippling in the sun. We talked for a little while and before long he started to kiss me and held me for 4 hours straight, as the sun went down over the ocean.

After that heady experience I made a decision to leave my husband because I no longer could stand being with him. There was just no comparison.

I’m not sure why Michael had me under such a powerful spell. I’m not sure if it was inverted or covert narcissism or codependency on my part that made me so attracted to him. I know he mirrored my own narcissism and I think that was part of the attraction. Or (in my thinking at the time) maybe it was just that we were both artists that craved something more and we needed attention and had a burning desire to express our vision of life through our art. All I know is that when the two of us got together we melted together like butter. All the love that I never got, all the love I craved and all my neediness was being filled by Michael and I couldn’t get enough of him. He was everything to me.

beachside_romance

Michael had an apartment in a very famous town in coastal New Jersey that was known for its rock n roll legacy, especially Bruce Springsteen. Famous bands played in a place called The Stone Pony in Asbury Park. Back then, over 30 years ago, the town was run down and almost abandoned. The Stone Pony was the only thing that held the weak fabric of this town together. But I loved it there. This run down seaside town was always beautiful to me because I always felt like this was my home. I still do. I knew that one day I’d play up on the same stage where other famous artists had played. There was fire in my belly. A void that needed to be filled with a whole lot more than a man’s love. If there was an Angel on Ocean Avenue, she was certainly watching over me.

Micheal was an art student who had nude sketches of himself all over his wall. He played the guitar too and we often played music together and I would sing. I use to stay at Michael’s house every night. We went to parties at the homes of mutual friends we had met out on the beach. The bonfires were wonderful and we would all sit around and sing songs. We sang Beatles songs and Bowie songs and I felt like a reincarnated hippie. My favorite song we sang was David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”

“Tell my wife I love her very much…she knows.
I’m here and I’m floating in my tin can.
Far above the world. Planet earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do.”

beachside_romance2

There was magic and presence and energy and the love in all the people we met at these parties and on the beach. People liked to watch Michael and I, because they were intrigued by our obsession and need for each other. We vicariously fulfilled their need for romance. I felt so validated, loved, sexy and happy. It seemed too good to be true and it was. This couldn’t be real life. It was too perfect.

We were a study in contrasts physically, and I think that’s another reason for the fascination our friends had for us. Michael had beautiful blue eyes and long blonde silky hair, and a great body. I had long black hair and lots of curves. People liked to photograph us together. We use to sit down in front of a long mirror in his room and stare at the contrast. We made each other feel beautiful. And together, we were. At that time it seemed we were good for each other’s self-esteem. At the county college Michael was studying for an Associates degree in graphic arts we were both asked to pose nude for $10 dollars an hour for the students who sketched still lifes in the human anatomy drawing class.

Michael’s background was sad. He told me that he was beaten by his father with a belt consistently during his infancy and his dad was also an alcoholic. Michael was depressed and he had to take psychiatric medication to fight his depression from the abuse he endured as a child. I remember watching him go into this weird state where sometimes seemed almost frozen and off in some other universe (dissociation is a common symptom in people with NPD and BPD). When in these near-catatonic states, he’d punch the floor or the wall over and over again, sometimes lasting for up to 20 minutes. It was sad and very scary. He was not mean or malignant though. He seemed like a gentle, artistic soul who just couldn’t take care of himself. He was never controlling, but seemed very needy for my constant attention and love. I think he was a covert narcissist.

Our affair came to an abrupt end at the end of that summer, because Michael left me for another women who said she was in love with him. She was willing to pay the rent on his apartment. So in the end, he chose money and security over me. I was devastated because the drug of my addiction to him filled me all summer and was suddenly ripped out of my heart in an instant and the devastation and grief was almost too much to bear.

But if I’d known about narcissism, I would have known Idealize and Devalue is all part of their game. They can’t help it. Even covert narcissists are at heart predators out to use you and throw you away when you’re no longer of use to them.

My next phantom lover was a drummer named Karl. I was so needy that I of course fell into the hands of another narcissistic man. And so it goes on…

Infatuation and transference

infatuation
I was just reading about infatuation on Wikipedia (everyone should know why by now) and found this:

In transference
In psychoanalysis, a sign that the method is taking hold is ‘the initial infatuation to be observed at the beginning of treatment’,[16] the beginning of transference. The patient, in Freud’s words, ‘develops a special interest in the person of the doctor…never tires in his home of praising the doctor and of extolling ever new qualities in him’.[17] What occurs, ‘it is usually maintained…is a sort of false love, a shadow of love’, replicating in its course the infatuations of ‘what is called true love’.[18]

Freudian theory holds that when a person enters psychoanalysis, they will develop strong feelings toward the therapist, usually in the form of a powerful crush, but it can take other forms too. It happened to me with one of my therapists many years ago. I had to quit because it became so intense. He kept telling me it was normal and to work through it (he was a Freudian psychoanalyst) but I just couldn’t deal with it anymore.

I think what happened to me these past few weeks was really a form of transference, even though the person in question is someone I never met. I looked up to him as an authority on mental health and found (well, still find) his writings therapeutic and powerfully written. This man is also a person who I’ve been told has this spell-like effect on many women (and probably some men too) who have been victims of narcissistic abuse and look to him as an authority. But he is also a narcissist and he proved to me today he’s exactly what he says he is. My idealization of him came crashing down to reality. I had hoped he was “different.” He wasn’t.

I don’t think transference is really beneficial to the therapist-patient relationship. I think it’s a distraction that keeps the patient from focusing on themselves. I noticed during the time I’ve had this ridiculous infatuation I haven’t been focusing on ME as much as I should be. I think developing a “pleasant diversion” (at least pleasant until your fantasies are shattered by hard, cold reality) in one’s mind by forming an obsession over another person might be a way to not have to focus on painful emotions that might be coming up.

Infatuation has also been called “limerence” in Dorothy Tennov’s excellent 1979 book, “Love and Limerence,” which I highly recommend (and have provided the link if anyone wants to order a copy). Tennov gives the best description of the experience I’ve ever read. I don’t know why that word hasn’t really caught on because it’s a good one. In later chapters, she also writes about the phenomenon of transference in psychotherapy.

Infatuation is not love. Many people confuse the two, and it can feel like “love” to those entering a new relationship and finding themselves obsessed with the other person. It can lead to real love over time. But infatuation is shortlived unless it’s continually fed and has little to do with genuine love. You can be infatuated over someone you don’t even know–such as a celebrity, and how can that be love?

Infatuation involves increased levels of dopamine in the brain similar to a cocaine or opioid high, which is why it feels so good and why it must be “fed” to be kept alive. When it can’t be fed anymore, the infatuated person, like a person withdrawing from drugs, may “crash” or experience depression. I wonder if people with addictive personalities are more likely to develop this condition.

dopamine

Real love isn’t drug addiction or a “condition.” It involves commitment, genuine caring about the other person, willingness to compromise and sometimes sacrifice, and mutual understanding. Genuine love must include true friendship and mutual give and take. It also requires an ability to empathize with another person you care about. Real love may or may not include infatuation. They are two different things, although one can lead to the other. A mother’s love for her child certainly doesn’t involve infatuation, but it’s love in one of its highest forms.

Infatuation includes none of these things, only an unrealistic idealization and obsession with another person. The idealized image the infatuated person has of their object of obsession may or may not be accurate at all. Most likely it isn’t. That’s why crushes tend to be shortlived. Tennov calls limerence/infatuation “cognitive obsession,” and that pretty much sums up what it is. Sure, it can be a lot of fun (like a drug high), and an interesting diversion if not taken to extremes, but it’s not “love.”

I’ve always wondered too why crushes are so embarrassing for people to talk about, since they’re so common and normal. I hesitated a LOT about discussing this on a public blog, especially knowing the person in question is most likely going to see all this, but you know what? I don’t care, because I’m not going to lie about anything in this blog. It’s my therapy, and I made a commitment to never lie about anything, so there you go.