Is limerence all bad?

Although the title of this site is “living with limerence”, and so could seem analogous to “living with diabetes” or “living with OCD”, limerence really isn’t all bad. Most limerents, if given the option of a permanent limeroid-ectomy, would emphatically decline. Limerence can be one of the most euphoric experiences in life. Although my personal experience is limited, I’m sure it feels very like a chemical high. If your LO is a worthy person, and if they can – while unable to offer consummation – at least  reciprocate enough to make you feel like a happy fool, rather than a complete fool, then their company can be intoxicating and exhilarating. Turning off limerence would be akin to willingly sedating oneself, and while limerence for a toxic LO can be a catastrophe, to be incapable of limerence for a worthy LO would also be awful.

When Tennov defined limerence, she did not frame it as a pathology. It was described as a common set of experiences that, while having the potential to be distressing, could be the prelude to healthy affectional bonding. Later researchers have steered limerence towards the pathological end of the spectrum of emotional states, reserving the term for circumstances that cause overt suffering and mental distress to the limerent. I have some sympathy for this position, because limerence in a positive context is probably not so very distinct from the non-limerent’s experience of romantic love, especially if the absence of uncertainty prevents a full nucleation. Nevertheless, the fact that limerence can turn pathological in the wrong set of circumstances shouldn’t be a cause to reject the phenomenon wholesale as a negative life experience. The optimist in me wants to believe that it is possible to benefit from the capacity for limerence, and use the energy associated with it to productive ends. I guess only experience will determine whether the attempt to capitalise from limerence is riding a stallion, or riding a tiger.

So what are the positive benefits of limerence? Oh goody. Time for a list!

1) Creativity

It’s almost effortless to justify this. Shakespeare! Pop music! Poetry! How much of art through human history has been fuelled by limerence? It’s obviously recognisable in some cases, but even when limerence isn’t an overt driving force in the plot of a work of fiction, so many artists use self-expression as a mechanism for exorcising their limerent passions. At a less elevated level, how many limerents are moved to write love letters or love poems that may never be seen by a reader, but nevertheless offer relief through externalisation of feeling?

stocksnap_960338787a_resized

Why not, eh? What could possibly go wrong?

Big feelings need big outlets. Limerence can be a spur for unleashing creativity in even the most staid people. And who wants to leave the earth without leaving some sort of unique impression?

2) Energy

A fine balance this one, and all about focus. During limerence, the limerent can feel supercharged. If all is going well with LO, life seems rosy and full of possibility. Perhaps this energy will be directed into creativity, but it can also be used to help keep motivated and focussed on another job at hand. This can be as simple as thinking “LO will be really impressed if I manage to get this done”. I’ve even tried to trick myself with this by telling an LO I was planning on doing something that I always wanted to get to, but never seemed to be able to find the time. That project is going to get a good old injection of energy if the alternative is diminishing my status in the eyes of LO by not following through. I suppose this can also be seen as using LO to get a hit of euphoria-power for your own selfish needs, which is a bit unworthy. But I wouldn’t mind if I were the LO in that situation (unless the limerent was deliberately disrupting my day). The danger with this strategy is when your energy is diverted entirely into feeding the limerent urge, and all other projects become neglected. But, we’re focussing on the positive today, so let’s pretend for now you can handle the limerence responsibly.

3) Self-improvement

Most limerents care more about their health, appearance, charisma and overall attractiveness when in the midst of a episode of limerence. It can be the motivation needed to get to the gym, to learn a new language (especially if the LO speaks it), to improve your diet, to refine your social skills. Very few limerents make the calculation that LO is going to be more impressed if they neglect their personal hygiene, gain weight through sedentary life and poor diet, and narrow their interests to limit their conversational repertoire. Motivation to gain health and new skills is an obviously positive thing, even if it doesn’t succeed in amazing your LO with your awesome attractiveness. And best of all, if you can manage to keep up the self-improvement for long enough that it becomes an ingrained habit, you can keep it up even after the limerence has passed, and establish good routines for the rest of your (improved) life.

Also, try and become limerent for someone who has a really interesting or soul-nourishing hobby. Like scuba-diving, or chess, or Argentine tango. That way, when you feign interest to impress them (as you obviously will) and start to learn something about it, you will accidentally get the benefit of a solid life skill as a bonus.

4) Self-knowledge

Really a subset of 3, but worth considering separately. If you’ve read my earlier posts, you’ll realise that I very much subscribe to Socrates’s dictum “the unexamined life is not worth living”. I learned a lot about myself from my last limerent episode. I am glad it is in the past, but I don’t regret the gain of recognising my triggers, my deep-seated drives, and the aspects of my relationships with my parents and loved ones that had made me vulnerable to that LO. That sort of self-awareness rarely comes without a crisis of identity, and boy does limerence deliver that! This has the touch of the invigorating cold shower, but handled with reflection and honesty, it is possible to emerge from limerence with a better understanding of yourself that will protect you in the future. Many people recommend seeking professional help with this, and I would certainly agree that if money and time make it possible, it is definitely worth pursuing. However, I share Tennov’s anxiety that a poor counsellor (she particularly criticised Freudian psychoanalysis) is worse than no counsellor, and may do active harm. The conundrum of not being able to determine whether a counsellor is helping without having sufficient experience and self-confidence to adequately assess their skills, is a real problem. So I would strongly advocate honest self-analysis as the first stage. You know yourself best, and if you can develop the ability to be ruthlessly honest with yourself, you’ll be in a much better position to both judge the value of independent counselling, and benefit from it.

Limerence can be a positive force in life, if you cultivate the life skills to honestly judge your own drives and capabilities. Limerence, when tempered by an awareness of your own vulnerability, can be a blessing. The skill is in recognising when an LO should be avoided, when they can be trusted, and when they are so well suited to you that they can be sought as a potential significant other. Non-trivial, especially when in the grip of the reality-distortion field of a limerent episode, but possible with self-awareness and true self-honesty. And then, limerence can offer life enriching power.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s