What is Love?

Thought provoking article with some interesting answers to the age old question.

Please leave comments on the original post.

QuantumMediocrity

The concept of love predates mankind as a species. Some claim, it is even older than time itself. Whereas our ancestors knew mutual respect, comradeship and shared understanding is essential to the continued survival of their tribe, we believe we perceive love in a more sophisticated light…but do we, really?

“One result of the mysterious nature of love is that no one has ever,
to my knowledge, arrived at a truly satisfactory definition of love.”

However, nothing can restrain the curiosity of spirit. Over the epochs, we have attempted to fit love into various categories, such as eros, philia, agape; perfect love and imperfect love and so on…In a very real sense trying to understand love is attempting to examine the unexaminable and to know the unknowable. It is different every time and with every person in very apparent but also quite subtle ways. Overall, love is too large, too…

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Narcissists and Sex.

narcissists_and_sex

I can’t believe I’ve never written a post before about narcissists and sex, but sex is one of the biggest ways they manipulate and control the rest of us.

Many people mistakenly believe narcissists love sex. Actually, that isn’t true. They’re not even especially promiscuous. In fact, many narcissists are downright prudish. People with Borderline or Histrionic Personality Disorder are much more likely to be promiscuous, because in their minds, sexual attention is equated with love and acceptance.

Narcissists don’t love sex. Sex is merely a tool they can use to get what they want or to control or manipulate their victim. There are two kinds of narcissists: cerebral and somatic. While very different on the surface, at heart they really aren’t very different at all. Neither has any empathy and neither has any desire to emotionally connect to another person and will go to great lengths to avoid it. This means neither a cerebral or somatic narcissist is capable of making love to another person because making love implies an emotional connection to someone else.

Cerebral narcissists.

prude

Cerebral narcissists are the pretentious, insufferable intellectuals and achievers of the world. They think they’re smarter or more successful than everyone else and go to great lengths to be adulated and admired for their “intellectual superiority” or “successful lifestyle.” Cerebral narcissists often hate sex and avoid it. They may even be prudish, especially if religiously-bent (many of them are, because religion gives them “permission” to be hateful and judgmental toward others).

Cerebral narcissists suffer the deepest narcissistic injury when their intellectual prowess or success in the material world is threatened, someone else is deemed smarter or more successful than they are, or they are exposed as being of only average intelligence or ability. Because they aren’t normally promiscuous, they may be either asexual, or (to maintain the image of normality which benefits their lifestyle, or to fend off loneliness), they may desire to attract a spouse, which means sex is used to draw a potential mate to them and/or maintain a loveless marriage. Sex is never an expression of love or emotional connection, because love and genuine emotional connection are things all narcissists avoid like the plague and are incapable of anyway.

Sex with a cerebral narcissist is likely to be cold, machine-like, and lacking in spontaneity and emotional expression. The other partner is bound to feel frustrated and unfulfilled–and of course the narcissist could care less. A cerebral narcissist may also withhold sex as “punishment” or to control their partner. While not usually promiscuous, some male cerebral narcissists may go outside their marriage (such as to a prostitute) to fulfill their physical needs, since to them, sex with someone they don’t know or have a responsibility to is preferable because there’s no risk of emotional complications or demands from the sex partner.

Somatic narcissists.

slutty_woman

Somatic narcissists are concerned with their body image, health, or physical appearance. They believe themselves to be the most handsome, beautiful, or sexiest person in any given room. They go to great lengths to maintain and embellish their most prized possessions–their own bodies. They may use sex as a way to woo potential partners because they know they can. But they don’t genuinely enjoy sex; it’s merely a tool to get them the attention and praise they want. As with the cerebral narcissist, they’re incapable of making love–that is, feeling emotionally connected to another human being through the sex act.

Some somatic narcissists may be promiscuous, but unlike a Borderline, sex isn’t a “replacement” for love. It’s a tool that is used to control and manipulate a potential victim. A woman with somatic narcissism who has maintained an attractive body and style knows her sexual attributes are most likely to win her a potential mate. She knows she can bewitch a man with her body and doesn’t hesitate to use it for that purpose. But once she has won him over, she’s likely to begin to devalue and eventually discard him. If he has attributes she thinks she needs (money or success), she may even marry him because it benefits her lifestyle. But she’s likely to get bored and be unfaithful. It’s a game to her; sex is just the advantage she knows she has to win the game. Lest anyone think I’m being sexist here, there are plenty of somatic narcissist men who act the exact same way, and the women they attract mean nothing to them except a means to an end.

A few narcissists who have become sociopathic may even use sex as a means to control and terrorize their victims. In their minds, it has become equated with violence and rage. Some serial killers like Ted Bundy (diagnosed with NPD) use sex this way, to dehumanize and destroy their victims. Even some who aren’t murderers may use sex this way, like the abusive husband who mercilessly rapes his wife while he beats her.

What is good sex really? And why aren’t narcissists capable of it?

in_love

Good sex is fun. It can be an incredible physical release. But without genuine emotional connection, it’s really no better than a drug–a temporary “fix” that might make you feel good for a little while, but doesn’t last and is ultimately unsatisfying.

Although being emotionally committed to another person isn’t all fun and games, and can be hard and sometimes painful work, sex between two people who genuinely love and care for each other transcends its physical boundaries and becomes a spiritual thing that only human beings are capable of. It leaves the realm of the animalistic and physical and becomes something that transforms both partners and connects them to the divine. Lovemaking requires complete vulnerability–it’s one of the only times in life (outside of childbirth and breast-feeding) that a person is both physically and emotionally naked with another person, leaving nothing hidden.

Such utter vulnerability makes lovemaking scary to many people. And it’s more scary to a narcissist than to anyone, because they’re so terrified of ever appearing vulnerable to someone else. It requires a level of trust they simply aren’t capable of. Even non-narcissists often find it difficult to connect with another person on such a profound level, and I think that’s what’s behind the shame and embarrassment people have when the “S” word is mentioned. It’s also what’s behind the almost universal corruption of a God-given act of love into something sordid, base, and shallow–almost the polar opposite of what it was intended to be.

A word about limerence.

narcissism-mirror_gal

Most narcissists are entirely capable of limerence, a feeling of strong infatuation that is often mistaken for love.   It’s not a bad thing in itself.  Indeed, many long lasting relationships and marriages begin with limerence or “falling in love.” To make the transition to a healthy long term relationship, limerence must become replaced or be transformed into genuine attachment and feelings of deep caring about the other person. Limerence isn’t love and it doesn’t last. You can become limerent about a celebrity but you certainly don’t “love” them since you don’t know them at all. It probably evolved as a way humans could attach to someone else long enough to bear a child and see it through the first year of life, when an infant is at its most vulnerable and needs two parents. Research suggests that intelligent mammals, such as dogs, cats and monkeys, may feel the entire range of “human” emotions, and this includes feelings akin to limerence as well.

Limerence is actually very narcissistic. It’s common for two people who have just met and are “falling in love” to say things like, “I can see myself in your eyes,” or “I feel like we’re one person.”  Popular music is filled with such sentiments.  The person you’re limerent about becomes a kind of mirror. You aren’t seeing them as they actually are; you are projecting your own needs onto them and imbuing them with qualities you desire but they don’t necessarily actually have (if they do, it’s a happy coincidence-and that could become the basis for genuine love).  A narcissist in limerence can SEEM vulnerable and loving, and in the beginning of a relationship with one, no one can act more romantic.  You’ll be wined and dined and woo’d with flowers and candy until you develop diabetes. But all these gifts and promises of undying love aren’t about you at all–it’s all about them and what they think they see in you that can give them what they want and need. Once you reveal that you’re only human and can never be all things to them, the D&D will begin and they will think nothing of tossing you in the trash like an old broken mirror, as if they never knew you at all.

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?

 

 

 

Forever alone, revisited.

keep_calm_forever_alone

This is going to be another “running naked” post.

I have mixed feelings about being in a relationship. On the one hand, I long for it because I can’t deny that my inability to connect with anyone on a deep emotional level has caused me a lot of sadness and pain.

At the same time I need my solitude, and it’s almost always my preferred state, due to my avoidant personality. I’d much rather do things alone than do them with others. I’m simply too selfish and don’t want to give of myself to anyone else. I think the selfishness stems from fear though. I’m too afraid: I struggle with fears of rejection, abandonment, judgement, engulfment, being hurt, being used, being abused, etc. I have little to no interest in sex, although I can be sexually attracted. (maybe this is TMI, but I prefer my fantasies to the real thing).

So I have a sort of conundrum. I don’t want to grow old and die alone, but at the same time I don’t want to and am afraid to do what it takes to avoid being alone forever. I was married to my malignant narcissist ex for many years, but the marriage was extremely dysfunctional and I was always in the codependent role. Thinking about the marriage’s failure (which was inevitable from Day One) now makes me feel sad, although for a long time I just felt rage (which is why I started my first blog).

I would only consider a relationship with a non-narcissist now (and really, not with any Cluster B), but that’s a problem because I’m simply not attracted to non-disordered people. I never have been.

The other problem is I’m “in love with the idea of being in love.” Like most Cluster B’s, I become limerent easily (though less so than I used to) and get addicted to the whole “high” that infatuated feeling brings. But it never lasts and I know intellectually it’s not real love. It’s a type of addiction that feels as good as a drug, but the crash (and there always is one) is just as bad as coming down from a powerful drug too. I miss that drug-like high of falling in love though.

To rectify this longing, I live the limerent experience out in my mind by developing powerful crushes on people who cannot give me anything in return for a variety of reasons. Oddly enough, this lack of reciprocation is okay with me. I don’t feel like anything is “unrequited” because I deliberately and consciously get attached to a person only in my own mind and prefer not to share my feelings with the person in question. I have an active enough imagination that there is no need to play it out in reality. In fact, I’d probably run away in terror if it became obvious my feelings were returned. I’d get off on the supply that comes with that, of course–but it would send me into panic mode too. It’s very weird. I don’t know if this is just an eccentricity of mine, or if this sort of thing is experienced by others. Having an active imagination does have its benefits. It’s very narcissistic though.

I think unless I can become non-disordered (which is unlikely), that I need to accept the idea of being alone for the rest of my life. On a day to day basis, I’m okay with that, but it’s sometimes so hard when you look around and everyone else in my age group is married or in a relationship, and I have to do everything on my own. You’re treated by society as defective and if you don’t make a good living, it’s hard to even survive. I feel like a freak sometimes. I can’t look at singleness as a permanent lifestyle or I get very sad and afraid. I have to do what they do in AA, and take things one day at a time.

Narcissists *can* love…but run!

This article by psychotherapist Ross Rosenberg makes a surprising claim about non-pathological narcissists (those who are not malignant or psychopathic, which means high spectrum Ns having ASPD traits)–they CAN love. But the “love” is shortlived because it’s really intense infatuation (limerence) and depends on the other person fulfilling the idealized image of the person the narcissist has formed in their mind, and such a relationship is doomed to fail.

Narcissists Can Love–But Run! Understanding Narcissistic Codependent Love
By Ross Rosenberg, M.Ed., LCPC, CADC, CSAT

narcissus1_caravaggio

Considering Narcissists have hurt and damaged the lives of so many people, it makes a great deal of sense why there is a proliferation of information, advice, articles and books on the subject of narcissism. There seems to be a surplus of people on Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites who are making it their life’s mission to vilify narcissists, while making themselves out to be specialists (or even experts) on the subject. Those who contribute are often victims of narcissistic abuse and want to help others avoid their mistakes. I am thankful for their efforts, especially since it is connected to codependency recovery, which is where I spend a great deal of my personal and professional effort. It seems to be one of the biggest psychological movements I have seen in recent years.

And there are well-researched and experienced experts in the area who have and are making valuable contributions to the understanding of narcissism. Sam Vaknin is one such expert on narcissism who, just by his own efforts, has almost made the term “Malignant Narcissist” a household term. But even with his contributions, and perhaps because of them, there has been a backlash of misunderstanding on the subject. By focusing on Malignant Narcissism (which happens to be the condition he purports to have), he has accidentally and unintentionally given the impression that “Malignant Narcissism” is the same clinical condition or psychopathology as Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The truth of the matter is Malignant Narcissism is a subcategory of NPD. Moreover, those with NPD, or what I call “garden variety narcissists,” do not display many of the same characteristics as those with Malignant Narcissism.

One common mistake about Narcissism, which I see frequently on the Internet, about which there is now a deluge of articles, posts and blogs is that those with NPD cannot love and do not have empathy. This subject was discussed in detail in a recent YouTube collaboration video with me and Sam Vaknin entitled, “Can Narcissists Love and Do They Have Empathy?” Although Vaknin and I agreed it was a complicated question that has an equally complicated answer, we agreed for the most part that narcissists can, in fact, feel and express love and can be empathetic.

We also mostly agreed that Malignant Narcissists and those with Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD or Sociopaths) cannot feel or experience love. Because Malignant Narcissism is often confused with ASPD, it is necessary to simply define it as a subcategory of NPD, which is not only a pathologically narcissistic disorder, but also combines traits of Paranoid Personality Disorder and Antisocial Personality Disorder. For more information on Malignant Narcissism, consider reading Vaknin’s book, “Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited” (2015). It is, therefore, correct to assume that Malignant Narc’s and ASPD’s cannot love as it is understood in our general culture. But it is incorrect to make that same leap for those with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, which will henceforth be referred to as “narcissists.”

Please read the rest of Dr. Rosenberg’s article here:
http://humanmagnetsyndrome.com/narcissists-can-love-but-run-understanding-narcissistic-codependent-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.