Medium 9781855755109

Love: Bondage or Liberation?

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Much has been written about the function of falling in love in the course of therapy itself. This book has a much broader aim. Deirdre Johnson, a Jungian analyst and psychotherapy trainer, uses her teaching and clinical experience to illuminate the whole range of this near universal human experience.How, and why, does falling in love affect us so profoundly? How can it enhance who we are, or must it ultimately fade without lasting value? Johnson argues that the many valuable studies by psychoanalysts, relational psychologists, anthropologists, neuroscientists, and philosophers have all made valuable contributions, and uses these to highlight and explore the many values and dangers inherent in passionate love. However, she claims that a more holistic approach is required to show how these various accounts can be seen as complementary rather than competing, and can be accommodated within an overarching view of the integration of the human being in its heights and depths.Deirdre Johnson's interdisciplinary approach cuts across the different modalities and will appeal to a good cross-section of psychotherapists and counsellors, while being accessible to anyone interested in the meaning of falling in love.

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Chapter One: The psychoanalytic discourse:The psychoanalytic discourse: emphasizing the intrapersonalemphasizing the intrapersonal

ePub

Let us first address the question: why does falling in love provoke such intense, negative feelings, such as jealousy and possessiveness, greed, rage, sadism and masochism, rivalry and competition, and extremes of idealization and denigration? Classical psychoanalysis has provided some explanations. In this chapter, I will explore those theories that emphasize a person’s inner world, a world dominated by the workings of fantasy. Effectively, these narratives put an emphasis on a person’s disposition or character. Psychopathology is seen in terms of arrested development: a person is “stuck” at a certain developmental stage that has not been fully worked through. The imputation is that the individual has some innate characteristics, such as a weak ego, that makes them susceptible to psychopathology. This account tends towards the nature pole of the nature/nurture debate. We shall start with the contribution to the phenomenon of falling in love made by Freud’s psychodynamic theories, and then those made by Melanie Klein. I have selected only those elements of theory that I consider to be useful in our exploration of the theme. Freud, for example, wrote much on the topic, but there is much also that, in my and others’ opinion, has not stood the test of time. Those familiar with these accounts must forgive my brief outline.

 

Chapter Two: The relational psychologies discourse:The relational psychologies discourse: including the interpersonalincluding the interpersonal

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We may ask, if the story of falling in love can be bedevilled with intense negative fantasies and feelings, how is it that such negative dynamics are set up in the first place? The various relational psychologies address the problem of the limitations of an overly intrapsychic approach. There is a very real need for others, in babyhood, in childhood, as well as in later life. There are mature as well as infantile dependency needs, and the influence of others, including any siblings, other relatives, or other carers, and even peers, in early life, can be considerable. Jessica Benjamin gives an excellent critique of the limitations of psychoanalysis in so far as it deals only, or too one-sidedly, with the internal world of fantasy and not with relationships to the outer world (Benjamin, 1988). A balance between what may be termed the intrapsychic and the interpsychic, or interpersonal, dimensions needs to be maintained.

Klein, as we have seen, did at least acknowledge the influence of the environment on children but did not elaborate on what exactly those influences might be or how they might affect the child. Although Jung explicitly criticized the one-sidedness of Freud’s approach, and his own psychology was very much relational, he did not explore much to do with child development. Later practitioners, such as Bowlby, Ainsworth, Winnicott, Stern, and others used infant observation or formal research studies to discover how best to treat or prevent the ill effects of the environment on children. I will restrict my exploration to those particular influences that relate most directly to the experience of passionate love. Some of these seem to be so particularly relevant to the state of being in love that it will be worthwhile to begin with these.

 

Chapter Three:The scientific discourse: The scientific discourse

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We have explored narratives that help us understand why passionate love can provoke so many intense negative feelings and can reveal an underlying pathology that has its roots in childhood. Yet, we must ask ourselves why, then, do we fall in love? Why is passionate love so prevalent? Indeed, despite what may be thought to be the case, both anthropological and historical studies would seem to suggest that passionate love is and always has been an important, if not major, mode of pairing in society. More recent historical and anthropological research has corrected a bias that had deemed it to be exceptional. Further understanding is afforded us by the natural sciences, and especially by the emerging neurosciences. We shall, therefore, go on to explore what emerges from research in these various fields.

The contribution of social history

Careful study of primary sources, such as parish records, an understanding of the statistics, the context in which they are applied, and a greater interest in social history can provide us with a broader and more accurate picture of betrothal and marriage customs than previously. The social historian Pounds (1994) maintains that in traditional societies in Britain, for example, from the Iron Age to the industrial revolution, most marriages “arose from the mutual attraction of the two people”. The arranged marriage was more an affair of those with land or property to be divided. Due mainly to economic necessity, couples married much later than is generally supposed, a woman at around her early to mid twenties and a man at around 25–30. Therefore, in practice, it was betrothal that was the most important step in a marriage. Although couples did not live together after betrothal, again out of financial necessity, ‘at the popular level pre-nuptial intercourse was taken for granted’. Despite what the Church said, in practice, fertility was often tested out in this way before a marriage and, extrapolating from church records, we can deduce that many brides were pregnant at the time of their marriage. It is easy to see how the vast majority of people, agricultural workers without property, would seldom have much objection to their young people marrying as they fancied, and even in those instances where marriages were “arranged” by brokers or the families, this could be more a case of settling financial affairs between a man and a woman who had already chosen one another.

 

Chapter Four: The teleological discourse: The teleological discourse

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We have not yet addressed questions as to why falling in love seems to transport us into another dimension. Why can it evoke what seem to be our deepest or most spiritual longings? There exist other psychological narratives that do not define what we are only in terms of what has conditioned us, nor simply in terms of our social and genetic aims as adults, but which look to, or also look to, what we might become. Jung’s writings constitute some of the foremost contributions in this field, and his ideas are relevant to our theme. However, they also need to be recontextualized. Most valuable in this context is Jung’s description of a process that he termed “individuation”. Falling in love may be a means of individuating. By individuation, Jung did not mean the process of becoming an ego, as in Mahler and colleagues’ definition (Mahler, Pine, & Bergman, 1975) and I will begin with his definition.

Individuation

Individuation is the term used “to denote the process by which a person becomes a psychological ‘individual’, that is, a separate, indivisible unity or ‘whole’” (Jung, 1959a, par. 490). It is that process within the human being that causes them to become what they uniquely have the potential to be. Individuation is not individualism: the latter is reactive, asserting one’s differences against that of the community; the former is driven by inner forces: the call to become who one is, which can have the consequence of taking one away from the herd, the merely collective existence. However, presumably precisely because it is indeed an instinct, Jung asserts that individuation does not take us away from the experience of being a human being among other human beings: ultimately, it leads a person to become more of a human being, a full member of the human race. Individuation, thus, always has two main aspects: “in the first place it is an internal and subjective process of integration, and in the second it is an equally indispensible process of objective relationship” (1954b, par. 448). Jung relates this second aspect to the “kinship libido” which is connected to an “endoga-mous instinct”. The term “endogamy”, in anthropology, means marrying within (the consanguineous marriage), and, thus, denotes the tendency to relate to kindred spirits. Psychologically speaking, endogamy is the union of divided components of the personality; in other words, the cohering of a fragmented self into the one self. Its opposite is “exogamy”, meaning marrying outside (non-consanguineous marriage), which Jung uses to denote the tendency to relate to strangers. Psychologically speaking, it is the tendency to fragment the self. Both in society and within the psyche, endogamy and exogamy are two opposing tendencies each indispensable and each needing to be in tension with the other in order to limit the each one’s extent. This is the tension between a tendency to come together and to fly apart. An analogy in physics is with centripetal and centrifugal forces. In his book, The Psychology of the Transference (1954b, par. 445) Jung writes,

 

Chapter Five: The religious discourse: The religious discourse

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I am going to explore five particular accounts of Eros that could be grouped together under what might broadly be termed the religious narrative in order to see what each adds to our understanding of passionate love. The first account is in C. S. Lewis’s work, The Four Loves (1960); the second in mythology, using two tales, Tristan and Iseult and Eros and Psyche, and last, the account given by two religious teachers, the Sufi poet, Rumi, and a Hindu Vedic scholar, Shastri.

Although our subject is falling in love, I will not explore that aspect of mystical love that is specifically a “falling in love” with the Divine. In religious traditions, such a form of love is directed at a transcendent (rather than immanent) God; in other words, the “Other” in this version is a transcendent being. Whether, in Hinduism, it is expressed in the love poems of Meera, who sings to a divine Krishna, or those of John of the Cross, who bases his love songs on the biblical Song of Songs, the loved one is a non-incarnate aspect of God who, if anything, is seen as a lover or husband who wishes the beloved to have no other loves. The Jungian analyst, Dourley (1987) has written with much insight as to how the split between the divine and the human can be healed through the journey within the psyche. By contrast we will explore certain accounts within the above religious traditions which explicitly refer to passionate love between two people. We can see that much of the writing about Eros, as it is termed drawing on classical Greek tradition, adopts a polarized idea of love as being essentially either “selfish” or “unselfish”. In this polarization we can detect the struggle between the rebellious id and an overly developed super ego, both continually at war with each other. When this is too polarized duty and desire are experienced as worlds apart. This split can be mirrored in an individual who makes a corresponding split between love for another human being and love for the divine.

 

Chapter Six: Various dualisms and their synthesis: Various dualisms and their synthesis

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Do not confuse resignation with surrender, There is a world of difference between the two: When you resign yourself you leave Your roaring, passionate self Shut up inside your house; Surrender is that passion

The multi-valency of passionate love

What we have seen from our exploration of the different narratives about passionate love is that many elements make up the phenomenon as a whole. Thus, it is a mistake to concentrate on only one or two narratives. Indeed, many of the dangers inherent in the experience may well stem from adopting too narrow an approach. This narrowness of approach can be destructive, whether it is in the lovers themselves, in the psychotherapist that either one (or both) of them might consult, or in the writings they may turn to. Winnicott reminded people that play, while first explored in depth psychology in relation to its role in therapeutic cure, is, none the less, a phenomenon in its own right and an important part of the life of the individual (and, we might add, of society). In a like manner, we need to remind ourselves that passionate love, while explored, as we have seen, in depth psychology first of all as “neurotic transference” and then as a therapeutic tool, is also a phenomenon in its own right and an important part of the life of the individual and of society. Falling in love, like making love, is very close to play.

 

Chapter Seven: Holistic love:Holistic love: what difference does all of this make?what difference does all of this make?

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“This moment this love comes to rest in me, many beings in one being. In one wheat-grain a thousand sheaf stacks. Inside the needle’s eye, a turning night of stars”

(Rumi, 1995)

Before we take up the theme of what difference a holistic picture of passionate love makes, I would first like to revisit two themes in the light of this new picture.

Transitional space revisited

This, then, is the place to return to Winnicott’s idea of transitional space and see its relevance in the world of adult love. Winnicott describes how, for the baby, the first “not-me” possession occupies a space that is between the outer world of objects and the inner, psychic world; between the self and the not-self; between self and other. I would like to suggest that in falling in love we can be transported once again, but this time in full maturity, to this realm. Lovers know that they inhabit this transitional space, that it belongs to them, and that they also create it from their own love-filled imaginings. In one of the most well-known love songs, one that has endured for over half a century, “Somewhere” from the musical West Side Story (Sondheim, 1956), a girl sings of a place where lovers can be at peace together.

 

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