Was thinking about how I want to believe that limerence is something somehow to be celebrated as well as feared. Even though it’s dangerous and futile (I’m mainly talking about unrequited and/or inappropriate limerence), it’s the one craving that makes one full of life and bliss (and pain and sorrow).
Anyway, then my thoughts took a different turn: it occurred to me that okay, yes, it’s a biology-based craving (i.e., it originates in brain chemistry) like the others: hunger, thirst, sex-drive (though those are theoretically at least constant, daily). BUT this biological craving is one that usually – because usually it’s often unrequited – is resisted. It’s wrestled to the ground by one’s conscious or “higher” mind. Well, it’s wrestled day by day, not perhaps to the ground, but so that it can’t hurt anyone. It’s resisted, it’s endured, it’s refused, but it is most definitely experienced. It’s a daily constant nagging, like hunger and thirst, but unlike those things, you can survive without satiating it. (Actually, you’ll do much better in life — morally and personally — not fulfilling it.)
So, yeah, it’s a mere biological (though intensely emotional) craving. But it’s different because it’s the only craving that we regularly – for a good stretch of time! — resist and deny and live with and endure.
So should unrequited or inappropriate limerence ever be celebrated? The deeply-deeply-alive feeling one gets from it makes one want to celebrate it, but then again, that wish is only another symptom of limerence. Maybe we should celebrate the struggle against it while it’s endured? If you’re stuck in a bad case of limerence, you might as well encourage yourself by celebrating your struggle against it! Not much else to celebrate!
Also makes me think about C.S. Lewis and the “men without chests” thing, where chests represent our human ability to control our emotions/cravings and intellect/reason so that the soul, the chest rules the human person, not our cravings and not our cold reason either.
Now I just wonder if all this resisting, enduring, and refusing (of limerence or some other craving or emotion) will actually strengthen or build up my “chest” muscles?
Addendum July 18, 2007: Got a Teaching Company catalog today in the mail and was tempted to buy the set of lectures entitled “Biology and Human Behavior: The Neurological Origins of Individuality.” It sounds fascinating in general, but especially since it goes into the frontal cortex and its role in helping us regulate our emotions, helping us “do the harder thing, whether it is concentrating on an welcome task, keeping anger under control, or telling a white lie about a spouse’s new haircut.”
What the hec — I’ll go ahead and post their blurb here:
As you work through this thought-provoking and engaging material, you will learn much about your own behavior, not to mention that of others. One particularly intriguing region of the brain relating to behavior is the frontal cortex, which plays a central role in decision-making, gratification postponement, and other important functions. The frontal cortex is the part of the brain that “makes you do the harder thing,” whether it is concentrating on an unwelcome task, keeping anger under control, or telling a white lie about a spouse’s new haircut. Consider these cases:
- What happens when there is essentially no frontal cortex?: Railroad worker Phineas Gage suffered a massive frontal cortical lesion in a serious accident in the 1840s. Overnight, he changed from a sober, conscientious worker to a profane, aggressive, socially inappropriate man who could never regularly work again. The loss of his frontal cortex meant he lost his emotional regulation; he had no means to do the “harder thing.”
- What happens when the frontal cortex is “offline”?: During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the frontal cortex goes offline, which explains why dreams are often wild and unrepressed—why dreams are dreamlike. People don’t dream about balancing a checkbook. They dream about dancing in musicals or floating in the air.
- What happens when the frontal cortex is immature?: One of the great myths is that the brain is completely wired up and matured at a very early stage. However, the frontal cortex is not fully functional until an individual is about a quarter-century old—a fact that explains a lot of fraternity behavior, notes Professor Sapolsky. With this in mind, it’s worth asking if a 16-year-old violent criminal is not, by definition, organically impaired in frontal cortical function.
Fascinating. I wonder if using the frontal cortex actually strengthens the frontal cortex, the same way our “chests” are weakened, according to Lewis, if we do not use them. And I wonder if a connection, a correlation could be made with the “spirit” / “flesh” struggle Paul talks about in Romans 7 & 8.