One of the abiding themes of this site is that purposeful living is the fastest way to recover from limerence, and to protect yourself against future episodes.
An additional benefit of that perspective is that some good can be salvaged from the pain of limerence, if you can use it to inspire the creation of something new, and steer your life in a more purposeful direction. Today’s case study is a great example of this principle in action.
Long-time friend of the blog, Fenna van den Berg, has recently set up a YouTube channel all about Self Compassion.
Her experiences with limerence have shaped her practice as a coach, and limerence is a recurring theme on her channel and blog (in amongst broader issues of wellbeing and self-development).
We recently corresponded about why she launched the channel and how she came to discover limerence (and LwL) and I asked her lots of probing questions which she answered with good grace.
Here then are some of the key lessons learned and future goals that Fenna has taken away from her limerence experience (headings are my questions):
How did you discover limerence?
I discovered the term limerence after I desperately googled on symptoms, like many of us do. We feel that there is something completely off in our emotions, this is not normal and does not feel healthy, so we google.
A few years ago there was less information out there about limerence, but the few definitions I came across ticked all the boxes. Aha, there is a name for it!
When I discovered LwL it was like a warm bath. So many fellow limerents encouraging each other, it was amazing in this often lonely process. Try to explain what limerence is to people who don’t know it…. You come across as… Confused, at best. On LwL I found all the information on different aspects of limerence. It’s also fun to talk to fellow limerents, we can all have a laugh about some aspects.
What’s the most important lesson that limerence has taught you?
Where I really hit a wall is on the seeking professional help for my limerence. I’ve seen several therapists, and although they listened politely when I tried to explain what limerence was, they did not seem eager to take on my insight and kept pushing trauma and attachment theory on me. And although there is overlap, it did not provide the skills I needed.
I basically figured out myself how to help myself. That’s one of the reasons I’m out there. To not only dig in the theory but also to ask: and now what? So yes due to the hormones and circumstances I got myself tangled up in a LE, but now what?
I’ve found that learning to leave, learning to use the power of choice, learning to sit with boredom and pain, to practice the skill to endure, and practicing Self Compassion are the tools that helped me most (next to the psychology education, and doing things). When I am in limerence-pain I have this unstoppable drive to create, to do, to make impact, to matter, that’s the good part I guess. To use that pain energy to create something purposeful.
I’m often asked about the crossover between limerence and other mental health conditions. What are your thoughts on this?
This is another area of limerence that has got me puzzled: the overlap with other mental health diagnoses. Normally I don’t have OCD at all, I’m absolutely not co-dependent. Normally I don’t have difficulties regulating my mood and I don’t have trauma. Well, at least not trauma as in the classical description.
When I look at the circumstances I was in when the LE began, I ticked all the boxes. I was ready for a LE and the person I chose had all the ingredients to be an LO. So I see limerence as an addiction to a person combined with our natural attachment going wild. Wanting to attach in a situation where you can not. Plus, the detaching can involve a long grief process, and of course depression is a normal state in a grief process.
Having said this, I must admit that all the limerents in my counseling I’ve spoken to so far had some sort of attachment wound – I would not say disorder, but wound at least. They all had in common that in their early days someone left, (by choice or died) or parents did not connect to the child needs, so I guess that could raise the question if limerents are more sensitive in the attachment area. I think yes.
How has limerence affected your romantic life?
Limerence has affected my dating life tremendously, I can’t afford to date sloppy because I know I’m attracted to unavailability. On the other hand, I find dating without the glimmer very unsatisfying. I’ve let go of perfect quality men, just because I did not feel the glimmer (aka frustration).
So I can’t promise myself I will never end up in a LE again, but I pick up the red flags sooner, and I know I have the power to leave. I did it before, and can do it again. Even though it’s very painful. Leaving someone you love is very painful, and I want to give as much encouragement as possible for limerents in NC because no one knows how that feels until you lived it.
What are your plans for the Self-compassion channel?
My goal on my YouTube is not only to inform people about limerence, but to take a closer look at the different aspects, since there are so many, and also to normalize people with limerence. You are not weird or dysfunctional for being in a limerent episode!
Besides this I want to give recognition and support to others, because the first limerent withdrawal was the most painful, most horrific experience in my life. I did not know what hit me.
Limerence, and the devastating effect it can have in lives, is highly underestimated. Most limerents I talk to in my work were suicidal at one point. We have to take this way more seriously.
How can self compassion help?
Self compassion has three pillars:
- State what you feel (nothing more; just name it)
- Find the common humanity (you are not some weirdo for having these feelings, everyone struggles in love, everyone gets attached etc.)
- Make a friendly sentence (what would you say to a friend)
What I love about this is, by naming what you feel you give acknowledgement to the emotions, which is always healthy. By finding the common humanity you make less of a freak of yourself, you are normal and everything you feel had a reason. By approaching yourself with friendliness, it calms your stress hormones.
What I also love is that there is no struggle in self compassion, there is no explanation, justification, you just name it. We limerents have to struggle all day between what’s good and bad in our head. There is no fight in SC.
Research shows over and over that people who practice SC have more motivation, less depression feelings and more feeling of well being.
Many thanks to Fenna for her insights, and inspiration. For more, check out the self compassion channel directly:
“Where I really hit a wall is on the seeking professional help for my limerence. I’ve seen several therapists, and although they listened politely when I tried to explain what limerence was, they did not seem eager to take on my insight …I basically figured out myself how to help myself. ”
Yes. I have learned more from reading this site, the forum and the Crappy Childhood Fairy (reading her site, watching her videos) than I ever have after years of therapy. I don’t think I will ever go back to therapy. Sitting in a room, rambling on about myself just doesn’t work for me. I just feel like I am going over the same old ground, over and over again, in therapy, with the therapist asking every so often, “And how does that make you feel?”
“Limerence has affected my dating life tremendously, I can’t afford to date sloppy because I know I’m attracted to unavailability. On the other hand, I find dating without the glimmer very unsatisfying.”
Yes to this, too. Limerence sets one up for completely unrealistic expectations in terms of interest level/attraction at the start of dating. I have had several women friends say they accept dates if they feel neutral and there are no red flags. And, of course, being a limerent, I think to myself: Should the bar be that low? If the situation were reversed and I was asking the guy out, would I want him to say yes based on those criteria?
Allie 1 says
The whole dating thing is interesting isn’t it… I have never got on with that either. I hated being in a potentially romantic one-on-one situation with someone I don’t really know that well, and therefore don’t know if I glimmer for yet. Hence the last time I tried it was in my late teens. After that, I instead got to know guys as friends, guys that I met and interacted with in life naturally. Occasionally, I found myself being attracted to one of them… sometimes they returned my interest… sometimes a relationship would slowly develop, usually accelerated by a slightly drunken snog on a group night out. No ‘dating’ involved whatsoever.
“After that, I instead got to know guys as friends,”
I think we have exchanged messages about this before. We are very different. I have never dated a guy freind. If I thought of a guy as a freind, it was because I wasn’t attracted. I don’t need a long time to know if I’m attracted (it can even happen a few seconds after first meeting), but I have to interact face-to-face. For instance, the other day I meet a guy whose voice was really hot and I enjoyed talking to him. Had he asked me out, I would have said yes. There was a sparkle of attraction there (at least for me). Whereas I remember a guy I worked with, after a couple of initial conversations, asking me out and I remember thinking I didn’t feel anything. And I’d had enough face-to-face time to know that. Wasn’t unattracted to him. Wasn’t attracted to him. Neutral. So that was my question … is that enough to say yes?
Wow! Thank you for posting this. Both times I’ve been severely limerent had the same combination: SO being unavailable which fired up the attachment wound; attentive , attractive, and unavailable co-worker; and wildly fluctuating thyroid levels. Awful combo. The feelings of admiration and attraction were there before but just the, “Oh, he’s a great person and I enjoy working with him.”type. Everything that was happening in my life became much more emotional and painful with the hormone hit. I’ve heard they test thyroid levels of new admittees to mental institutions… It took a long period of grieving and getting things sorted out. At least a couple of years. I definitely think I have a tendency towards limerence, but that combination tipped it over the edge and brought out what looked like to me mutual limerence. Maybe they were just trying to figure it out and were concerned? IDK, they were people who cared about other people.
Agree, Marcia, that therapy, while helpful can only do so much. She said I seem to learn more by reading and gave me a long list of books about attachment and emotionally immature parents. I was attracted to my SO because of his sweet nature and lack of drama. I think if we have trauma-drama-laden childhoods we think that can be boring?
I do know I’m having a rediscovered love of gardening and puttering around. It helps to set goals each and every day. Keep busy. Will definitely check out Feena’s site because I hope to keep learning, especially self-compassion because I’m a blown out that the LEs happened in the first place.
Thank you for recommending Fenna’s YT channel! Loving her content! Also love your weekly emails – they help to keep me sane!
I wil Emery, not done yet, by far.
Thank you 🙂
Just got started! Thank you Vicki
Limerent Emeritus says
Well done, Fenna!
Isn’t it cool when it finally comes together?!
Keep it up!
Allie 1 says
Might want to delete that comment DrL?
Limerent Emeritus says
He can edit comments so maybe DrL can just tweak it a little.
No problem LE
Maybe Dr L can make it Lia or Sia or Kia 😄
Dr L says
Don’t know what you mean. Looks fine to me 😉
Limerent Emeritus says
It really is cool to see what this place can do for people and where they go with it.
“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” – Adm David Farragut
This is a lovely post!
“You are not weird or dysfunctional for being in a limerent episode!” – we all need to hear this. Having an LE feels so crazy-making, and so overblown that one feels a bit like a freak. I’m still having a hard time accepting it was okay, and part of the spectrum of human experience. I love the three pillars/steps! Just IS.
Im posting this week about limerence and shame, since they go so well together. Self compassion and finding the common humanity helped me so much in normalising things. We limerents go against mother nature, hormones, against our nerve system, and there are no stronger forces to go against. We should give ourselves a pat on the back.
Limerent Emeritus says
Song of the Day: “Sequel” – Harry Chapin (1980)
“And then I asked her why she looked so happy now
She said, ‘finally like myself, at last I like myself'”
When LO #2 told me that she was going to fly from Seattle to LA to spend the weekend with the guy she was crying on my shoulder about because he was cheating on her, I said to her,
“I thought you had more self-respect. You really don’t like yourself, do you?”
She didn’t respond.
I wonder if she ever outgrew that.
Allie 1 says
Well done Fenna… love your channel!
I am lucky enough to have studied Mindful Self Compassion a few years ago with a wonderful mentor so can wholeheartedly concur about how powerful a practice it is. Changing my inner dialogue with myself to set aside judgement and criticism and be as supportive, encouraging and comforting as I would be with a beloved friend or child makes such a difference, especially with something like limerence where no-one real in your life truly ‘gets it’.
Keep up the good work! 🙂
Thank you Allie, will never forget your kind support.
Road to Recovery says
“Normally I don’t have OCD at all, I’m absolutely not co-dependent. Normally I don’t have difficulties regulating my mood and I don’t have trauma. Well, at least not trauma as in the classical description.”
I think the above makes me feel so much better as this is where I feel I sit too – for me it felt more like I was trying to solve a problem mentally over and over again that got me in such a pickle.
Having feelings for someone of the same gender (never has happened to me before), being already in a straight married relationship was probably what tipped me over and started all the questioning of who I am as a person. Something I wasn’t all that keen on trying to figure out in my early 40’s as thought I knew exactly who I was!
Self compassion, telling myself their is no shame in connections as long as we can act with our values in mind. I think having my children kept me disciplined with NC but does not mean to say that I didn’t not go off in la la limerence land and experience the worst pain I’ve ever endured. It really did hurt to say goodbye knowing I could never reach back out. I’m proud for catching myself to go NC but I found it really difficult to switch the mind off.
Spiritual and self awareness books really helped me as well as telling my husband and looking at new ways of us connecting, having a laugh together and looking at little things I really enjoy doing – these all took me to another place during those dark days and made me feel not so sad and lonely.
I now think of that person with fondness but without the super charged emotional attachment – just an experience from my past.
I think the best thing anyone can do is work hard on themselves – dig deep, spend time in solitude, cry, sleep, get out in nature, nourish your body with good food, creature comforts. I also found that cold water therapy (cold showers and ocean swimming) helped me come out of the anxiety and depression.
I look forward to watching these videos Fenna 😍
“I also found that cold water therapy (cold showers and ocean swimming) helped me come out of the anxiety and depression.”
That does make sense, since pleasure will also raise the pain levels in the brain, ( thats why limerence first feels great untill it doesnt, that goes for any addiction) so will pain also raise the pleasure ( aka dopamine) levels. Since the brain always wants to come in balance.
I`ve given up on the controlling my mind, its too much work with too little results, I just take good care of myself and practice Sc .
Thank you road to R! can’t wait to see you on YT!
R to r, I’m doing a video on the topic, grieving the other while in a relationship. To give support to the limerent
I wonder how much hate mail I will get lol
Road to Recovery says
Oh I so look forward to seeing this – it feels so wild to grieve so much for someone when you are already in a relationship.
I look forward to seeing it Fenna!
Limerent Emeritus says
The topic of disenfranchised grief needs more discussion, not less.
I hadn’t heard of it until DrL talked about it in one of his blogs.
If you’re prone to guilt, grieving over the loss of something you probably shouldn’t have been doing in the first place only makes it worse. Giving yourself a pass can seem wrong but the grief is still real.
Looking forward to it.