It’s fair to say that limerents think about their limerent objects quite often. Say, every moment of every day. OK, maybe every other moment. The point is: they invade your mind.
The nature of this invasion tends to change as the limerent experience progresses. By the time limerence has advanced from euphoria to obsession, the limerent is often plagued by the classic “intrusive thoughts” that define limerence. You don’t want to think about LO. You really want to concentrate on defusing this bomb in the basement of the orphanage, but god damn it that red wire reminds you of the rakish tassle he wore around his wrist at the gig last night, and you suddenly realise the clock has counted down to 3 seconds without you noticing.
Or even worse, you desperately want a break from thinking about them, but it turns out to be like that “don’t think about a pink elephant” psychological trick, and the harder you concentrate on not thinking about them, the more insistent the thoughts become.
Or, it could be just that any time your mind wanders from the task at hand it always wanders to the same place. In fact, it’s not wandering at all. It’s stuck in an LO-shaped cage.
But there are other times – particularly early in the limerence experience – before the intrusive thoughts have become established, that we bring this on ourselves. Limerent reverie (or rumination) is the mind loop that many limerents happily indulge in, in an attempt to get some of their bliss-brain-drug feelings when LO is not around. A way of feeling connected to LO when you can’t be with them. A way of getting some of the (watered-down) reward that your brain is urging you to seek.
It’s an understandable impulse, but comes with a few downsides.
1) It establishes the centrality of LO
Our brains aren’t all that good at distinguishing fantasy from reality. This is easily demonstrated by vividly imagining a stressful thing that isn’t actually happening, and noticing that your body responds as though it is happening. Your heart races, you feel queasy and anxious; you have a striking physiological response to something imaginary.
There are very good reasons for this, from an evolutionary perspective. Rehearsing events in your imagination and predicting the outcome is a very powerful way to shape your behaviour to a complex environment. But memory is a weird thing, and imagined and real events can get mixed up.
All of this means that while greedily seeking the physiological response triggered by thoughts of LO, we end up filling our minds with a curious amalgam of actual interactions with them, imagined interactions with them, and fantasies about alternative lives in which our desire to be with them comes true.
That is a very effective way of programming your subconscious to accept LO as the most important thing in your life, because they are the most conspicuous presence in your mind’s eye. It’s a positive feedback loop that takes the “glimmer” that they provoke, amplifies it in your imagination, and makes them central to your internal as well as external world.
2) It’s a very biased account
Another defining feature of limerence is the idealisation of LO. Despite the evidence of LO’s flaws, the limerent has a remarkable capacity to gloss over them or rationalise them away. I think reverie is partly to blame here too.
The nature of fantasy is wish-fulfilment. We rarely idly daydream about a future where LO continues to behave selfishly, or is boorish, or emotionally cold, or exhibits any of the other red-flags that we willfully ignore in our intoxication.
In keeping with the real/fantasy confusion noted above, the more we imagine LO as we want them to be, the worse we become at seeing them as they actually are. This can be particularly striking after a period of no contact – you “remember” the fantasy version of LO because they are an old familiar friend that you spent so long thinking about, that you start to get hazy about the real actual living version of LO that exists in the world. And the temptation to get back in touch builds, because you remember the good times (polished to a shine by your imagination) and forget the bad times (discreetly shrouded with a tarpaulin by your imagination).
Smothering real memories with perfectly tailored fantasies is a great way to idealise someone.
3) It doesn’t work
If the purpose of imagination is to allow us to rehearse the outcome of future experiences without actually having to have them, then limerent reverie often fails dismally. Especially when dealing with a very common rumination: what will I say or do next time I see them? Is there a way I can find out whether they reciprocate through some super clever tactic? If I can just devise a masterful conversational dance then I can lead them to reveal themselves!
Although our brains can be poor at recognising it, fantasy and reality are usually very different. In our limerence-fevered imaginations everyone behaves correctly, plays their role according to our script, and our cunning plans come effortlessly to fruition.
In reality, of course, LO doesn’t behave the way you expected them to, and even more unsettling, you don’t feel the way you expected to feel. Suddenly, instead of the nicely rehearsed scene you had in mind, you find yourself wildly improvising. You’re flying blind.
Under those circumstances, we default back to our habitual behaviours. This usually leaves us vulnerable to the same mistakes and emotional traps that we always fall into when around LO, and then castigate ourselves for once we are alone again (and doomed to sink back into rumination).
4) It’s a downward spiral
Here’s the real trap: reverie establishes the habit of thinking about LO. It’s a learned behaviour for seeking reward. You’ve reinforced it through repetitive indulgence of pleasant fantasies. All of this sets you up for when the limerence tips into addiction, and it becomes hard to stop. It’s speculative, but I don’t think it’s too much of a reach to propose that intrusive thoughts are the children of reverie. Once you program your brain to think about LO for pleasure, it is hard to make it stop.
As I’ve discussed before there are ways to undo the ingrained habit of reverie by overwriting old memories, but it’s a slow and careful process. Much better not to start. So, next time you find yourself at the start of a limerence adventure, be wary of the dangers of reverie, and recognise the role it has in cementing limerence habits.