Have you ever been incapacitated by unreasonable, overwhelming attraction to someone? I have. I once had a crush on Ariel Sharon.
In her book, Love and Limerence, Dr. Dorothy Tennov coined the term “limerence” to mean both that first phase of true love when one’s beloved can do no wrong and also the aptly named “crush.” People who suffer from limerence are called “limerents.” I wonder if there are people who aren’t limerents at some point.
In his beautiful book, An Unexpected Light, Jason Elliot writes about the appeal of jewelry jingling on the covered bodies of Afghan women wearing burkas passing him in the street. Seeing the woman’s face and body might prove disappointing, but one can build a fantasy on a jingle. No shroud can erase our romantic fantasies. A mysterious “Dr L,” a British doctor, has taken on the subject after an episode of limerence that threatened his happy marriage. He writes “Many limerents find themselves carried along on a wave of euphoria, and only realise how deeply they’ve succumbed once it’s too late.” Sound familiar?
I’ll take for example the tee shirt of a woman attending a Trump rally, it had a circle with a downward-pointing arrow and the text, “Grab this.” Do you think that at some future date she will regret her enthusiasm for sexual molestation? Limerents plaster their own fantasies on the LO, the Limerent Object. Trump is a good example of national limerentization. Though he has no platform, he is the redeemer. Audiences are transfixed by sneers and ramblings that would be repulsive around their dinner table.
Dr L calls limerence “person addiction,” a condition familiar to anyone who has fallen in love. Neuroscientists wonder exactly what penetrates the brain of the beholder that can hijack the dopamine factory, overriding logical thinking. Maybe Mother Nature realized that in order to guaranty that humans would procreate, she had to invent a magic potion that would cause people to lose their minds.
For some, and count me in, it can be a major disruption in one’s natural order, ultimately a painful disappointment. The going story is that this happens only in the young, but destructive infatuation can strike throughout our life.
Mastering limerence is a mighty battle, a civil war between two parts of our own selves. Defeating or controlling it teaches lessons in self control and self understanding that are well worth learning. Like Pavlov’s dogs, we are conditioned by rewards, and the rewards of dopamine-heightened sensitivity, excitement, and drive are hard to refuse. A Catholic Monsignor once said to me, “There are many rewards to celibacy,” a fact I could agree with after being celibate for twelve years. But many priests sacrifice their professional and personal lives in order to enjoy the rewards of limerence. The Dalai Lama claims not to be bothered by desire, but can we agree that he is an exception? The human body is capable of many miracles. It can create new neurological pathways after a stroke and new arterial pathways after a heart attack. Why could it not create, with patient, grueling training, pathways for dopamine that bypass the explosive limerent centers of the brain?
Dr L claims that there are ways of coping with the power of limerence. Most importantly, actions can influence thought. The most important action is NC, No Contact. This reinforces the decision to step back, disrupts the limerent behavior patterns, gives mental freedom and a sense of decisiveness and agency to the limerent. One man snaps a rubber band against his wrist every time his mind wanders to contemplation of the LO; reward is thus replaced with discipline. No daydreaming, no playing future conversations in your head, no imagining situations where you might run into each other……SNAP. SNAP. Dr. L also advises telling somebody about your condition, if not the LO, then a trusted friend. The next step is what he calls “future proofing” yourself. Identify the limerence triggers. I am apparently drawn to the strong silent type, while in “real life” I’m drawn to the opposite. Learn to recognize the first glimmer of limerence, so you can turn away before the match flares into fire.
After becoming familiar with your limerent tendencies, live a purposeful life, day after day. Limerence is reactive, living a purposeful life is active. DO something. Dr L suggests that the strongest prophylactic and cure is claiming the strength to make the decisions that shape our lives.
Limerents Anonymous anyone?
For more information: https://livingwithlimerence.com, and Love and Limerence, by Dr. Dorothy Tennov.