When in a thoughtful mood, one of the more absorbing aspects of limerence in my opinion is the potential for intersection with other psychological traits and mental disorders. A notion that has been occupying me recently is that the tendency to become limerent may relate strongly to where someone lies on the introvert-extravert spectrum. Given that limerence can be seen as person addiction, the key personality trait that determines how interactions with other people play out is likely to have a significant impact on limerence experiences.
I’m an introvert, so have limited experience of what life is like for extraverts. Nevertheless, it does seem that certain tendencies of the introvert brain make it especially vulnerable to limerence capture.
1) Most people are a drain, LOs are a supercharger
A defining feature of introversion is that interactions with other people – even if positive – are energy sapping, and can only be managed in regulated doses. Alone time is needed to recharge and recover. In contrast, extraverts thrive in the company of others, and become restless and weary during time alone.
Given that difference in temperament, it’s quite a surprise for an introvert when they encounter an LO. Instead of the usual fatigue, the company of this new person is invigorating, exciting, stimulating – all the things that aren’t normally associated with extended time with other people. It’s a categorical difference, even from very familiar friends whose company is welcome and enjoyable. LOs give introverts a taste of extravert energy; of how electric the company of others can be.
Eventually, of course, even the company of LO becomes wearisome, but even the short-term energising boost of limerent supercharging can be an exciting and novel experience for an introvert. That, of course, adds to the sense that LO is someone especially special and wonderful, and/or that cosmic powers must be at play. “Nobody’s ever made me feel like this before,” can be literally true after an introvert meets an LO for the first time.
2) Rumination comes naturally
Another defining feature of introversion is the centrality of the internal world in contrast to the real, external world. Introverts live more consistently within their imaginations than in the material world. The external world is a source of stimulation that can be explored, before retreating to the internal world to make sense of the experiences encountered. To extraverts, the external world is more real, and the proper location for experiencing life. Rumination and reflection are helpful, but only inasmuch as they can direct one to better action in the real world.
It’s no real surprise, therefore, that limerent rumination comes so easily and naturally to introverts. Obsessive, intrusive, relentless thoughts about LO. Detailed fantasies about past or future encounters with them. So much of the introvert life is defined by replaying and analysing experiences or ideas, and rehearsing future scenarios, that limerent rumination is simply an extension of this core habit. It’s how we make sense of the world; limerence is a just massive amplification of this general tendency until it becomes uncontrollable.
Another thought (but not one that is easily verified), is that the hole into which limerents sink could be deeper for introverts. More of an introvert’s attention is captured by thoughts and memories. Being trapped in a more vivid and expansive internal world could be worse than being trapped in an internal world that is subordinate to the external world.
3) Escape is harder
When faced with a threat, the natural impulse of any animal is to retreat to safety. For extraverts, this comfort zone is the company of friends and society – which are actually very useful distractions from the thoughts of LO churning around in their mind.
For introverts, in contrast, LO has taken up residence in the dead centre of their comfort zone. Normally, stressed introverts will retreat to isolation to recuperate. But that is where the threat is located.
In some respects, this is a balancing of threats. For extraverts it will be harder to escape LO’s company if they are out socialising in the world. For introverts, it will be harder to escape rumination about LO if they have retreated to their internal landscape. Frankly, it’s hard to escape LO regardless, as they exist as a centre of gravity in both internal and external worlds, but extraversion does offer the opportunity to seek alternative company to distract from LO, while introversion cannot offer alternative isolation. You’re stuck with your own mind.
4) Transference is harder
One possible method for eliminating limerence for an inappropriate LO is to look for a new one. Limerence does seem to be a serial experience: it is not possible to become limerent for more than one person at a time. This tactic is obviously counterproductive if you are trying to get rid of limerence while in a relationship, but if the limerent is single, then seeking an alternative, healthier, LO is a feasible option.
Given the tendency of introverts to avoid company, it is likely to be considerably harder to find alternative LOs. Especially as the process of seeking and socialising with new people is going to be debilitating, rather than a useful and energising distraction. Introverts generally have a smaller social network than extraverts, so it is also harder to make new connections, even if you pluck up the courage to reach out.
Nowadays, there are technological fixes, but again, extraverts generally have the advantage when it comes to casual encounters. Introverts tend to overthink them.
I promised cat videos in the last post, but appear to have instead written about deep pits of despair. Whoopsie!
To end on a more positive note, whilst there seems to be a good case that introverts would be more vulnerable to limerence than extraverts, the counterpoint is that many introvert traits can also be a positive force for recovery. The key principles for managing limerence are self-awareness, self-discipline, and the desire to live a more purposeful life. Introverts are likely to be more adept at the self-reflection needed to recognise how their own choices and decisions led them into the limerence briar patch. They are also better practiced at marshalling their internal narrative – telling themselves the story of who they are and what they want to achieve. The “reprogramming” needed to break the mental connection between LO and pleasure/reward is also likely to come more easily to introverts, being based around playing out scenarios for what can go wrong if they give in to the limerence drive.
So, while the short-term distraction tactics are more accessible to extraverts, the long-term strategy for mastering limerence and subsuming it into your life should be more accessible to introverts.
So, those are my thoughts. Extraverts with a different view are most welcome in the comments…