LOVE OR IN LOVE, WHAT IS IT?
"In love" is not love. "In love" is a state of being that, like any endorphin "high," is generally a temporary state of excitement. Similar in feeling to the warm glow of opiates, the "in love" mood will be used by a person in a manner dictated by their present emotional needs plus their entire personality.
"In love" is often a defensive process wherein we may possibly generate brain chemicals that anesthetize our ability to exercise rational judgment or at least they stop us from feeling our deeper emotions. Often we generate the "in love" feeling because we need to cover the anxiety of beginning a relationship. We may actually have good rational reasons for being anxious about the particular relationship that we need to begin. We may be facing a situation where, if we let ourself know what we really see in our potential lover we might not enter the situation. We may be playing out a need to get involved with someone who may already have signaled that they will be a negative experience for us. We may have learned to need a negative kind of person even though the rational part of us would reject them, if we could act on our rational perceptions.
We also generate the hypnotic-like feelings of "in love" in order to begin a relationship that may be positive for us but out prior emotional background may have made us fear any close relationship and we need the "in love" glow. We may think that we have a possibly nice feeling, but still actually only have a needed defense that either allows us to be able to enter into intimacy or to fool ourselves. We may be thinking that we are becoming intimate when objectively it may actually be that we are engaging with people whom we cannot really get close to and who also may not be able to get close to anyone.
Without letting ourself fully realize it we may be selecting people who keep us at the distance that our earlier experience made necessary for us, although we may not want to know it. "In love" can function as an anesthetic, keeping us from thinking clearly and feeling emotions and experiences that we may be afraid to realize are in us.
We can however, also be feeling "in love" with those that we love. We can give ourselves a "high" in our regular relationship of love, with quiet periods usually coming between such highs. We may be so grateful to have our mate that we get some nice "high" on the idea.
Love is a quiet, gentle feeling, warm and cuddly and energizing, but it happens only after many experiences with the person that we love, and it is an enduring, lasting emotion available only to those who have been lucky enough to have been respected, appreciated, and gently shared with by a parent who was capable of love, or else love can become possible if one can work through one's barriers to love and being loved with a good therapy. It takes time and effort, regular attendance and touching upon uncomfortable feelings and events, but with gentle verbal interaction and interpretation from a therapist it is possible that you can learn how to allow yourself to have and give love. Love has to be able to flow both ways for it to endure comfortably.
To fight through one's barriers, unconscious barriers, makes it possible for many to feel capable of love.
The person reading this article and saying to themself that they are not mature enough to have love is usually expressing a false low opinion of themselves and trying to convince themselves that they should not try. It is worthwhile to try, try, and try.
I remember once hearing about a 37-year-old woman who kept applying to medical school every year from age 30 on, and getting rejected every year except that seventh try.
(Dr. Lehrer is a clinical psychologist at Associates in Psychotherapy, P.A. in Scotch Plains.)