Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Limerence and I (Part 1 of...I really don't know)...

This bunny should start by stating openly that this is either the bravest or most stupid thing he has ever written. Guys and girls, we're about to go into quite a dark place, the type that would leave a Statist no option but to instruct you to "strap yourselves in".

For better or worse, I took to posting song lyrics on this site until the small amount of my back catalogue that was worth the time of day had been exhausted. One of the songs that I'm most proud of and holds most sentimental value to this bunny is a track called 'Rabbit in the Headlights' - yes, that's where the name of this site and the playful self-reference to 'this bunny' comes from.

'Rabbit in the Headlights' concerned what at the time was a current limerent episode. This bunny's public performance of the song at numerous venues was something that I'm convinced helped me out of the other side and if not to a healthy place, then certainly one that was 'less worse' than had previously been the case.

What is limerence? That's a valid question, since some of you might never have heard the word spoken before, or know necessarily what it refers to. It was first coined by a psychologist, Dorothy Tennov, who referred to Limerence as "an involuntary cognitive and emotional state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person".

This is the key aspect of limerence that distinguishes it from simply 'fancying' someone, having 'a bit of a thing for them' or genuine love. Limerence is 100% irrational and you have absolutely no choice whatsoever regarding the identity of your limerent object - neither does he or she, it should be said. Limerence is something that chooses all involved, without their prior knowledge or the opportunity to make an informed decision.

The involuntary and yet massively intense nature of Limerence means that the outcome is often a very clear cut one between reciprocation or prolonged torture, depending on how things pan out. This is the case until such time as the toxic and terminally damaging flame stops burning - some of us have the means, discipline and skill to avoid our Limerent Object (LO) like the plague for long enough to expunge the painful memories from our minds.

Others live too close to them, attend the same school or college, mix in a wide and inescapable circle that includes them, or work with them (yes, that's happened in two of my three limerent episodes). In those circumstances, Limerence is a living nightmare, punctuated by the occasional high when he or she smiles and acknowledges your existence, takes an interest in your sad and pathetic life, does or says something nice of which you are the recipient.

The means to think rationally are the first things that disappear, although you are not to know at the time. Your LO is immediately elevated to the status of god or goddess, deemed to be perfect in every way and absent of any flaws, even the ones you knew them to already have if you had been acquainted for a while beforehand. A creative mind will turn even the most glaringly obvious example of something you could not like in another individual into a positive. They occupy your mind, popping in and out at random intervals and totally without warning.

Lateral thinking goes straight out of the window, as a sort of deluded hypnosis takes over.

The symptoms of Limerence should have served as an indicator that what I was 'feeling' was somehow not right. I've listened to bucketloads of love songs on MTV, VH1, the radio, Top of the Pops or whatever (and happened to detest most of them). Having taken in many a tune that plays the role of someone expressing their warmth towards another, I can honestly say that nausea, vomiting, chest pains, loss of sleep (unless aided by heavy drinking) and situational depression were not subjects or themes that I remember making a regular appearance.

"Wild thing, you make my chest hurt, fucking hell I think I'm gonna puke" - now there's a song for you...

What I'm describing sounds not like an organic and healthy feeling of affection that you might have for another, but a psychological and emotional sickness. It took me far too long to realise this, but that is exactly what Limerence is, either a mental illness in itself or at least a clear-cut symptom of another one.

Like everyone else, this bunny has had periods of relative strength and weakness, times when there was little to worry about and all that mattered was the opportunities that lay ahead, and other spells punctuated by gloom, despondency, hopelessness and an overall view of the world that life is just so incredibly difficult. I've had three limerent episodes in what has been a relatively short existence, and all came in what could only be described as dark and unhappy times.

Your soulmate shouldn't make you turn to jelly, be overcome by an unhealthy and unnatural degree of reticence in their presence, nor should you be faced with the awful paradox of wanting to run into them on the one hand, but feeling like death on a stick every time that he or she is within 18 yards of you (hence the reference in the song).

The 'reciprocation or bust' nature of Limerence, and the fact that by definition it makes you a victim of a situation over which you have no control, means that there will always be an unpleasant, destructive and narcissistic element to it.

Nothing that puts you in such a terrible place can ever be positive, and how on earth could anything constructive come as a result? Of course this bunny can see all of that now, or, in the words of Morrissey, observe that "I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible". It should be stressed again that a limerent loses this capcity to think laterally, rationally and come to informed conclusions.

This is what marks it out from genuine love, affection, or even the phenomenon of the 'teenage crush' that an isolated negative experience can still snap someone out of.

On reflection, I would have to admit that Limerence has caused me enormous problems, hit my quality of life extremely hard for prolonged periods and defined the perception I have on the whole 'love angle' - that is why I would categorically refuse to offer advice on the subject to anyone (to paraphrase another song, this time by 'Potheads will Perish' - "you ask me for advice, but I know nothing about love").

I won't go into specific detail on my limerent episodes, since there was another human being involved who had no influence over the situation either. An extensive post-mortem of what was a pretty grim experience for all concerned would not be fair on anyone and I'd like to think (or delude myself) that there are lots of people out there reading this. All I will say is that when I walked down that corridor at school, aged 14, and felt 20 million volts race through me, delivering a sickening pain to my insides, it changed my life and take on it for the next 15 years.

The problem I had was that, having previously been interested in nothing more exciting than sport and books, I had absolutely no mode of comparison, nothing against which I could measure whether what I was feeling was abnormal, unhealthy or a cause for concern. Nor was there a sensitive enough adult in my life who I could perhaps have talked to - maybe we would have got to the bottom of it and maybe not.

That isn't a cue to get the violin out, merely a statement of fact - what I'm getting at is, not knowing what Limerence was, let alone that this was the force that had taken over my body and mind, I genuinely believed that this was what 'fancying someone' entailed. That might be stupid on reflection, but as stated previously, I had no prior experience to compare it with and nobody to explain that what I 'felt' for this girl who I had not chosen (nor had she chosen to be my LO, that is worth repeating again) was not love, affection or even that most base of instincts, 'lust', but Limerence.

I remember looking at other people, who were in relationships and concluding that they had either overcome such terror to get where they were, or gone down the 'safe' route of getting involved with one of their friends and 'ducking' what I saw as 'the real thing'. For those who had conquered the demons that had rendered me a fucked up mess, I felt ten parts admiration and ten parts jealousy. Those who had 'copped out' and slept with their mates were regarded with utter contempt.

Never a nice place to be in, it must be said...

I also remember women I got on famously with, could talk with for hours and stuck me as exactly the type I wanted to be around all of the time. However, since none of them rendered me a shaking, spluttering emotional car crash, prone to ill health and bouts of self-destruction as a coping mechanism, then I rationalised that I didn't 'fancy' any of them.  Tragic, but I'll forgive anyone who finds it amusing since to someone who has no idea what I'm talking about, this must strike you as bizarre in the extreme.

In short, I have never 'fancied', let alone loved a member of the opposite sex since I had no idea how to. I merely became situationally depressed and mentally unwell a few times - that, after all, is what Limerence is, a form of mental illness. Part of my uncertainty over whether or not to post on this topic stemmed from that very real problem, the crass insensitivity that large swathes of the population still have towards issues of mental health.

Maybe someone is reading this while experiencing a limerent episode of their own - it is said to impact some 5% of the population after all. I can offer no advice as such as all of my own encounters of this kind ended negatively. All I would suggest is that if you have a friend who you would trust with your life and you think that what you are experiencing is unusual or unhealthy, then talk to them about it. A friend who turns their back on you when you most need them is not really your friend.

If you can avoid your LO without making a life-altering decision, then go for it and stay strong.

Other than that, this bunny just hopes you can come through it and land safely on the other side, Anyone brave enough to share their stories here will be treated in a sensitive way by someone who has been there, that's a promise.

This bunny is much stronger now and has escaped from the headlights - worry not...

Apologies if this was heavy going for any of you - take care and I'll catch you soon.


  1. Never heard of the word, but it makes me think of a certain non-relationship which I had - interestingly around the Sarah Cracknell / Bill Hicks time of my life.

    It's hard to draw a clear line between reason and madness, at least when you're walking close to it. That's the problem with madness - it makes perfect sense at the time. Maybe that's what madness is in part; the absence of doubt. That is why, for instance in the case in point, I could take data which pointed to the complete opposite conclusion, and rearrange it as evidence to support the unquestioned given. I remember my fury, that the object of my heart's desire dared defy the very universe to thwart a clear case of destiny.

    We learn by our follies, hopefully, though must still perhaps lament the waste of time, effort and opportunities foregone.

  2. Hi TT - obviously I can't say for certain whether or not your episode was a limerent one, but it shares some of the common ground.

    Interesting what you say about data - this is how conspiracy theorists work, reaching a desired conclusion and then manipulating the size, shape and scope of the facts to suit.

    What you're talking about no doubt robbed you of a chunk of what is after all a fairly short existence. That's why I believe that talking about these topics is so important.

    Thanks for posting - sharing that kind of story and being honest about it takes balls.


  3. Very interesting Daz; it sounds like something I could have had, perhaps only in milder form though; or maybe I am kidding myself. Unrequited love is a painful thing-it's nothing like what we see in Hollywood movies or nice stories or telly dramas, where the two enemies eventually get it together and live happily ever after.

    It's brave of you to talk about something that is probably more common than we realise. I struggled with issues like this at times, being at times a shy and serious person. But I won't steal your thunder-the topic is deserving of more study and to see someone else's experiences too.

    I have had a number of occasions involving members of the opposite sex where I felt awful, realising that I couldn't do anything about overpowering feelings-feelings purely of what I couldn't really say. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Hi TC - so grateful for your response...

    The risk of someone in my position, who accepts what was wrong with them and wants to raise awareness of it, is that we end up becoming preachers.

    Remember how it became all the rage a few years ago to admit you were an alcoholic if you drank a bit more than doctor said you should?

    Hopefully I've laid out the signs and symptoms fairly well - I had to be brutally honest with myself in order to do this and go quite near the knuckle.

    Only you know whether something you experienced fits that pattern or not. If you wanna talk about it, I'm listening...

    Like yourself, I'm an intense and serious person who had underlying fragilities. I'm certain this makes someone much more susceptible to a 'limerent outbreak' than most. It just doesn't happen to happy, balanced, confident people which is why I made my observation about mental illness.

    I genuinely believe there is a very real connection.

    No thunder stolen at all - it's an invitation to share experiences and I'm glad you felt sufficiently 'amongst friends' to offer something.

    Nothing that makes you feel so lonely, desparate and inadequate can possibly be a good thing in your life, or bring about something that is positive and lasts the course.

    I agree with you that while the accepted/researched figure is circa 5%, the reality is gonna be higher than that. It's a bloody difficult thing to confront, admit to or understand.

    Thanks again,


  5. My thought is that the object for such utter devotion needs to be more than flesh and blood.
    I think perhaps that is the reasonable, realistic and fulfilling way to deal with such experience.
    Personally I would never turn my back on the experience of such true passion, but I would, indeed, try to be very discerning with it.
    It is both valid and potentially disastrous.
    Yet utterly wonderful in the right place.

  6. I had never heard of limerence and I have not had any experiences like that. I also have no medical knowledge at all so I suppose I am as qualified as most people to comment.

    First of all it seems very distressing. Whenever we have overwhelming feelings that we are unable to control it is bound to be upsetting. For any degree of contentment it is essential to have a belief that you have some degree of freedom in deciding what you do and how you relate to other people.

    Humans are incredibly complex. We have lots of things going on in our brains and nervous systems at the same time and we are only conscious of some of them. I may be wrong, but my suspicion is that the average general practitioner knows about as much about psychological conditions as a bicycle repair person would have in tuning a formula one car. The specialists may have a little more insight because they encounter the conditions more frequently, but that doesn't mean that they know how best an individual should deal with their fixation or its underlying cause.

    No doubt there are genetic, bio-chemical, environmental and other factors present in the occurrence of limerence and these factors will manifest in different ways and proportions for each sufferer. Apart from such things as medication, counselling and support networks which may or may not exist for this condition, it seems to me that there must be a lot of scope for trying to recover some degree of control in the ways that Daz has described.

    Not everybody has the writing and musical talent that Daz has got so they will need to find other routes to achieve some catharsis, but the experience of 'Rabbit in the Headlights' providing at least some part of the way through a limerent episode seems to me to be very important.

    Acts of will can counter bio-chemical drives. On a much more trivial level, I know that if I am consumed by overly disturbing testosterone driven lust in a place where wrist therapy would be inappropriate, the unwanted urge can be largely defused by composing a piece of poetry in my mind or entering into animated philosophical or political discussion.

    What I am getting at is that having a condition which might cause you to behave in damaging or destructive ways is terrible, but being aware of the negative consequences of the condition and having knowledge that artistic expression has provided some relief in the past provides hope and a degree of control. Good or poor health is never just mental or physical. It is a combination of many things. If I am feeling a bit down or negative my gout and arthritis are a big problem, but if I get my arse into gear and motivate myself, the pains recede a lot.

    Your self awareness and deep analytical understanding of your condition means that you are well placed to manage it Daz. Thanks for making me aware of something I knew nothing about. I wish you well in controlling this nasty condition in the future and I am sure you have helped others sharing your frank insights on this blog.

  7. Hi Mal - I'm too pissed to say much, but thanks for your thoughtful reply.

    See you tomorrow,


    1. This subject is worthy of more discussion and even a book or two.

    2. Daz - nice writing, thanks for having the courage to blog about this condition - it needs more air time.

      Malpoet wrote "the average general practitioner knows about as much about psychological conditions as a bicycle repair person would have in tuning a formula one car. The specialists may have a little more insight because they encounter the conditions more frequently, but that doesn't mean that they know how best an individual should deal with their fixation or its underlying cause."

      As an ex GP and psychotherapist in training and a limerent sufferer I can attest to the fact that GPs know didly squat about these matters and sadly too few therapists and counsellors are aware, just labelling it as infatuation or a touch of erotic transference. Its way more troubling than that IMHO.

    3. Thanks. I seem to remember needing a lie down after writing this.

      Unless I'm mistaken, limerence isn't actually acknowledged as a mainstream health concern? Happy to be corrected on this, believe me...

      I appreciate the dangers that would come with this, namely that I could have legitimately taken two periods of six months each off work with the condition, as could anybody with a legitimate medical complaint. If your LO works with you, does he/she then get in trouble for making their colleague ill?!! I'm being playful, but hope you get my point...

      It's bloody difficult, but ultimately I think we do people a great disservice by pretending that these issues do not exist. Once we acknowledge limerence as a genuine health problem, then research can be done regarding potential sources and (if possible) cures.

      Malpoet is absolutely right that symptom relief can be achieved by means other than medication. Doing something useful, achieving things and the sense of purpose that provides can help enormously with many conditions, and I'd include limerence in that based on personal experience.

      I think there is a general scepticism along the lines of "so you've got a thing for someone who doesn't feel the same way - get over it". Part of it is ignorance of the condition itself, the other more worrying aspect seems to be what my doctor calls 'bullseye syndrome', where everyone thinks they have a simple piece of advice that will solve someone else's rather complicated problem.

      There are a lot of people who want to be tough with everybody else until something bad happens to them...

    4. You nailed it with "that is exactly what Limerence is, either a mental illness in itself or at least a clear-cut symptom of another one"

      Something is definitely not right.