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Psychology of Love..........................................................Back to MOMAPA
Love, a sweet word. However, it is not without complications. Some people look for it their whole life, whereas other people are so afraid of it, that they try to quell its appearance with arguments like "I don¡¯t have time to love!", "What¡¯s love, only a waste of time!" or "it¡¯s better to work than to have a partner!".
I do not wish to write a love story. The libraries are already full of love¡¯s novels, the Music shop sell daily hundred of CD, which repeat "I love you!", and cinema has created thousand of films, where the actress¡¯s eyes meet these of a good-looking man.
It is better to live, the meaning of "falling in love". However, why not for one time to try to understand, what are the possible psychological components of love? I know, "love" is ardour, is passion, is heat, on the other hand the analysis of "love" is maybe boring and is cold. Despite this fact, I believe that to understand better, what happens in ourselves when we live this magic moment is a good way to be more conscious about our psychic reality and in the end about ourselves.
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Love is only a face of the life. Life has fortunately a lot of faces. One of these is unfaithfulness. This word is the terror of a large number of people. Yes, terror, but also common reality, because unfaithfulness is a ordinary phenomenon. Why is this reality the origin of so much apprehension?
It¡¯s a difficult topic, love (and unfaithfulness). On the other hand, it is an fascinating subject. Almost all people know what "fall in love" means, and in our life "love" or it "dramatic absence" can have important consequences for our welfare, our health, or in general on the quality of our life.
And for this reason, I decided to face this theme and its complexity. However, I wish to warn the lector that he is not going to read a book of chemistry. Love is complicated both in real life and in the analysis too. In the end, we will have only some ideas about love and how it works. Not nice and clear complete theories and not scientific sure paradigms. Only interesting (I hope) speculation. If you are looking for certainty, maybe the bible can be useful; if you are afraid that with this essay the beauty of love could be questioned, do not worry. Love will remain an intriguing and mysterious phenomenon.
Be brave, and begin the journey in the emotional world of passion (and ...unfaithfulness).
Love: What is it? Love is... No no, the question is terrible and an good answer is impossible. Science can not really define this concept. Why? Because love is an emotion, or better a complex configuration of emotions, like affection, sympathy, attachment, kind-heartedness, gentleness, mildness, amiability, passion, longing, ardour, but also hate, embarrassment, confusion, jealousy, fear etc.
Too complicated? This is nothing. Love is also reflection. Typical thoughts are "I love him/her, but...", "where is he/she now?", "Who is he/she in this moment with?", "I think, he/she should be more...", "I don¡¯t know, if she/he loves me still", "He/she could abandon me...", "He/she is the most good-looking/beautiful man/woman in the world", "What did I do wrong?", "He/she doesn¡¯t understand me..." etc. Love arouses so much questions, that an encyclopaedia would not be enough to contain them all.
And love is also a physical reaction such as the raising of the heartbeats, or the trembling of the hands, or the production of adrenaline in the blood. And of course love is also all chemical substances, which are produced in the brain and are indispensable for our emotional life.
Is it enough? I am afraid, it is not all. Yes, because love is also behaviour, strategy to conquer somebody and ability to keep a relationship. And we know that there are different possibilities to conquer somebody. We can phone, we can buy presents like flowers and chocolates, or write a song. We can speak directly with the subject of our love, but we can also avoid all contacts with him/her, perhaps because we are too shy to show our feelings. We can be kind, nice, amiable, affable, but also cold, reserved, suspicious. Moral: in love it is possible to see almost all behaviour, all emotions, all physical reactions and all thoughts. For this reason there are people, who have great difficulty in understanding, what love is.
With such a complex concept, where such different, and conflicting aspects of our lives can occur simultaneously (e.g. ambivalent feeling), it is not possible to give a nice and clear definition.
Is it necessary? I do not think so, because love is something, which has a meaning only for people, who have already experienced it. For these people a definition is unnecessary, because they already know what I¡¯m speaking about. And for the other people, who have never loved in their life, it is not enough to explain, what "falling in love" means. The words are insufficient and inadequate.
Why does it exist?
Love is such a diffuse "feeling", and it can become so intensive, that it must have his "natural" and important raison d¡¯etre, maybe in the survival of the human race. What is the primary effect of love, when the strategy of approaching is successful and it allows the lover to reach his target? The formation of a new relationship. We could say, that love exists with the target of increasing the chance of new sexual contacts and in this way the survival of the human race. On other hand, it is really all so easy? Does love exist only to spread our genes? It is unlikely, because love is theoretically not necessary for a sexual relationship. Moreover: love tends to reduce the number of sexual partner and romance, because it favours a stable love affair. And not all love¡¯s relationships end with a child.
It is unlikely that the primary function of love is reproduction, even if this can be a secondary possible consequence.
To understand better why love plays an important role in our life, we should consider the world around us. Since the first human being was born, his life was always in danger. So are we. Today we are not under the threat of lions, tigers or an easy flu, but we could theoretically die at any time. Each second of our life could be the last. Terrible? Maybe, but also normal. That¡¯s life. Assurances, rites, exorcisms, but maybe also the conviction in God can be attempts by women and men to remove fear against the terrible events which could happen in each moment. Deaths, accidents, illnesses, fiascos are only some examples of things, which are always possible. On the other hand, there are a lot of events and outcome, which people would reach, like for example social respect, money, happiness and success. However, it can be difficult to achieve these targets. Moral: there are often obstacles between us and our welfare and also if our actual situation is good, in all moments it could be change and become worse.
Against all these potential negative problems, we create psychological (unconscious) weapons. Love could be one of these. When two (or more) people are together and the relationship is good, they estimate their resources as more positive. And so if self-esteem is high, their strategies will also be more effective. They will be more able to cope with negatives events.
Human beings are not only rational beings. In ourselves we have also magical thoughts. An example of easy magical thought and behaviour is "to touch wood!" to exorcise a possible bad event.
Probably we attribute to the partner peculiarities and features which are not realistic; we "think" unconsciously he/she has a sort of special magical power, and we experience the positive emotional effects of this attribution without recognising our projection. He/she become a sort of weapon. With his/her presence, we feel sure, as if nothing could disturb our welfare. Of course, we dislike the idea of losing our "weapon". Without him/her we feel completely naked, defenceless, powerless, and we are afraid if our partner likes another person. It is a war in order to have our own defence. The concurrence of another person is an attack to our need for security and the alarm and apprehension we experience in these cases, is a clue, that we feel threatened.
Why does live exist?
The primary target is to build a relationship. The relationship and love together improve our self-esteem and so our possibility to cope effectively with bad events. As not only rational people, we unconsciously attribute to the partner "magical power". He/she become our protection against all possible negative events, which could disturb our life. It is an illusion, but that doesn¡¯t matter. This is what we feel, when we fall in love. And in general we like it.
Why is it so intensive?
Reality tries to give a structure to our days. For example, we must get up at 7 o¡¯ clock. Maybe we would prefer to sleep, to stay in the warm quilt of our bed. However, it is not possible. Our duty is to get up, to have breakfast, to take a shower , to shave, to get in our car and at 8 o¡¯clock to be in the office, because we have to work. And then, we have our short break, only 15 minutes, to find new energy to resume our job. At 12 o¡¯ clock it is time to eat. We have 1 hour for this target. At 5 o¡¯clock the office closes and so we can go home, meet friends, watch TV, etc. Reality gives us a structure, this means that each hour of a day has a specific meaning. Evening means meeting friends, or watching TV, or staying with the family, midday means lunch and break, morning means job, etc. This structure is often rather rigid. Changes are difficult. For this reason, love has to be a strong feeling to modify the day¡¯s routine. When somebody falls in love, the hierarchy of priorities in his/her life changes. What was important before, like i.e. friends, family, work, etc. can suddenly lose its importance. He/she experiences a crisis in his/her needs, and when somebody is in crisis, changes are easier. In this way it is more likely that the new partner becomes integrated into the life of their sweetheart and that the new relationship starts.
There is another reason, which may explain the intense force of love. A strong feeling reinforces the relationship. Lovers are more motivated to use all their energy to support their partner in difficult moments, but also to favour the possibility of having a good time. If this emotion is reciprocal, both partners have more resources, more force, more motivation, and more instruments to cope efficiently with negative events or to reach their target.
So, there are at least two reasons, why love is such an intense feeling: on the one hand because the intensity of this feeling increases the chances of a new relationship against the monotony and the rigidity of normal daily life, on the other hand, because this emotion increases the resources at the disposal of the partners.
How does it work?
... or in other words, the cold mechanics of love.
Psychoanalysis and especially its father FREUD discovered projection. Great concept! Maybe only with the idea of projection can we really understand how love develops and why probably only human beings are able to experience this emotion. Projection means to transfer (mostly unconsciously) on to other people our own feelings, thoughts, fears, hopes, but also aspects of our own personality and identity. The consequences of projection are incredible and radical in our life. For this topic alone, it would be necessary to write an exciting essay. In brief, I can say that projection allows to understand important phenomenon like envy, prejudices, morale, empathy, religion, but in part also illnesses like depression, schizophrenia, neurosis, etc.
In our complex psychic world, we have needs (to feel sure, to feel safe, to feel important, to feel accepted, to have good "weapons" against the always possible small and big tragedies of our life), we have conscious and unconscious targets (to have respect from other people, to earn a lot of money, to become mother or father), etc. The list could be endless. All these psychic, in part unconscious, components need to find a place in the outside reality, this means they need to find a screen in the world (e.g. the future, the past, but also our actual world), to find a screen in one or more ideas (e.g. God, philosophy, ideology), or of course to find a screen in another person. Wee meet him/her. He/she has special features, he/she is in a special situation, he/she has an interesting (for us) physical appearance, he/she has a particular way of behaving, of acting, of thinking, etc. This person with these features, in this situation, with this physical appearance, with this behaviour, etc. is the right person on whom to project our necessities and our conflicts.
Love is therefore primarily a projection of our unconscious elements on to the partner. However, that is not all. We need the other person, sometimes in such a radical way, that we believe, we can no longer live without him/her. We depend on him/her. Between our partner and ourselves develops an asymmetrical relationship. We are the child, he/she is the mother or the father, we are the believer, he/she is our God, we are powerless, he/she is almighty. For this reason, elements of our childhood or of our faith (where relationship were or are asymmetrical) can affect so strongly our love¡¯s relationship.
Therefore the secondary significance of love is as an asymmetrical relationship.
However, it is not all. If the love between the partners is reciprocal, both people are in a state of need. Both are at the same time ruler and ruled. So we can say, that:
Love is a reciprocal asymmetrical projection of unconscious elements.
In this context, there are some questions, which merit deeper attention.
What kind of unconscious elements ?
I wrote "In our complex psychic world". Yes, our psychic world is incredibly complex, not only because there are a lot of different elements that fill it, but also because a great quantity of these elements do not follow the "normal" rules of common sense, or with other worlds, they are not rational. Our psychic reality is full of magical thoughts and convictions. People who work with schizophrenics know very well what kind of fairy-tale universe hides in the head of human beings. Between patients with schizophrenia and healthy people, there are not so many differences. One of the biggest dissimilarities is, that this kind of patient has lost his/her concept of reality, this means they project a multitude of unconscious elements on to the reality but no longer have the capacity to differentiate between what is only fantasy and what is actuality. Psychiatric illnesses can represent a door which gives access to magical world people¡¯s. In our psychic world under the layer of rationality exists sorcery, wizardry, witchery, magic power and a lot of other offensive elements (for our common sense). There are people, who believes them (cosmic energy, global spirit, power of nature, etc.). also culture looks for ways to give people an institutionalised possibility to express their need for magic (church, religion, mass). All these considerations support the idea, that we are not only rational beings. When we find the right person and we start to project our unconscious elements, we project also our magical components. We give (unconsciously) to the partner an incredible power. He/ she has now in our feeling, the possibility to control and affect our reality (also these aspects of reality, which nobody can really control). In him/her arms, we feel sure and protected. Of course, we live in an illusion, but in our emotion we believe in this state and we accept (unconsciously), his/her great power. This can explain, why unfaithfulness arouses very often such radical emotions. Unfaithfulness means, that an other person tries to "steal" our "weapon" (= our partner). We live this fact like a danger. If we lost our partner, the target of our projection, we would feel naked, powerless, without defence against the hazards of life. Unacceptable. Either we would fight to keep our partner (our defence, our security) or if our partner gave in to temptation, we would abandon them, because he/she is no longer a dependable screen for our projection.
Moral: as long as we are blinded by love and passion, we cannot see the real identity of our partner. We see and feel only our unconscious projection, and in this transference there are many elements. Maybe it is terrible, but in the end, we love our unconscious, or more precisely, these aspects of our unconscious, which are projected on other person and which are so important for our stability¡¯s and security¡¯s need.
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