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: