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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Real Romance Is Temporary Insanity

"Falling in Love" as Temporary Insanity (James Leonard Park)
"Romantic love is an altered state of consciousness.
We seem possessed by an alien force taking over our hearts.
Everything seems wonderful
especially the object of our love.

"Our 'spontaneous' love-reactions pull us together
into a whirlpool of hopeless, uncontrollable, overwhelming passion.
'Falling in love' is like surfing on an ocean wave
sliding down a surging force beyond our control.

"Romantic love is blind because we are really responding
to our own internal fantasies, well-prepared by the romantic tradition.
For years, we have been yearning for our Dream Lover.
And when a close approximation appears,
we project all our pent-up fantasies upon that unsuspecting victim.

"These experiences are really being in love with love.
Such 'love' is entirely an emotion, taking place inside our own skins.
Perhaps we remain basically closed persons,
intensely enjoying our own private, internal feelings,
using others as props or supporting characters in our grand love stories."

James Park is an existential philosopher and author of New Ways of Loving: How Authenticity Transforms Relationships

James Park believes that we should transcend our romantic delusions and fantasy feelings and build our loving relationships on reality. According to Parks, romantic love is one of the most pervasive myths of Western culture. He claims romance is a cultural invention, not a natural phenomenon. And, we have been so deeply indoctrinated into the romantic mythology that we have no awareness of the process of emotional programming that created our romantic responses.

Park says popular culture provides the main ways we learn how to "fall in love." Movies, television, popular songs, novels, & magazines all train our feelings into the wonderful delusion of romance.

To support his theory, Park looks at the evolution of romantic love. Romantic feelings arose from a cultural creation invented some 800 years ago when French troubadours refined and spread the emotional game of love. Romance spread quickly to become the passion of the masses.

Parks acknowledges that before the Middle Ages, some people probably experienced exaggerated, fantasy feelings close to what we now call "romantic love." But he claims such accidental eruptions of "personal, deluded feelings" did not become widespread until the age of the traveling troubadour. 

The French troubadours were roving entertainers who put on plays, recited poetry, & sang the popular songs of the day. Their audiences especially liked romantic stories and songs about courtly love. Most were metaphysical, intellectual, and formulaic.  The tradition they started has continued into the popular culture of today.

Then, could it be that romance, an ideal instilled in us early in childhood, is not a realistic expectation in a long relationship? In other words, romance, as Parks explains, is more of a "temporary insanity" than a true natural phenomenon. As we fall in love, does this "insanity" enter our conditioned hearts with a temporary irresistible passion?

After all, during the initial stages of a romantic relationship, often more emphasis is placed on emotions -- especially those of love, intimacy, compassion, appreciation and affinity -- rather than on physical intimacy. Then, within an established relationship, romantic love may be defined as a freeing or optimizing of intimacy in a particularly luxurious manner (or the opposite as in the "natural"), or perhaps in greater spirituality, irony, or even peril to the relationship.

We know that in some other cultures, marriages are created for more practical reasons. If there is to be any affection in these marriages, it might develop later. Could romantic love and marriage actually be incompatible? Statistics show that projected fantasies seldom survive years of living together.

Should Love American Style say "to hell with romance then"? Probably not. Given our custom of structuring and building positivity in fantasy, that would both be impractical and cruelly utilitarian. Besides, romantic love can be an enjoyable and harmless emotional game. But, the question remains: "Should we construct our very lives around this artificial feeling?"

If romance is a cultural tradition handed down from the Middle Ages, a perpetuated romantic mythology has shaped our deepest emotional/psychological structure. Like love-starved androids, we have been programmed to respond to any romantic stimulus. Is is rather ironic that as diverse as we are, we all pursue the same dream of romantic love. And, most certainly, almost all of us try to have the romantic emotions we believe are real.

Don't take me wrong: I think everybody should feel the romantic high of being head-over-heels in love. That feeling is wonderful... as long as it lasts. Parks is not chiding the hopeless romantics. Rather, he is issuing them a warning: "Watch the fine line between fantasy and reality." He wants people to establish loving relationships on real information and genuine commitment.

This advice seems very logical and not too romantic. However, if you think about it, it is very "loving" counsel for those who have been pierced by Cupid's arrow.

Perhaps, those whose who bear the duty of advising youth in matters of love and marriage might consider speaking of lasting love as it differs from romance. It is well understood that parents do not spend sufficient time discussing relationships with their children, and part of this is due to the societal belief in the power of romance to overcome any obstacle. How many times do we hear, "Well, if you kids really love each other, that emotion will get you through"?

For those of you who have romanced and lost, does that ring as good advice? We know that so much dopamine, testosterone, androstenedione, oestrogen, progesterone, and other hot chemicals flow through the body of a victim of romance that the "love junkie" can hardly walk a straight line or speak an intelligent sentence. The passionate lovers are so addicted to each other that romantic enchantment rules their minds and their anatomies. Maybe... just maybe, a little "truth slap" to open their dizzy heads to sensibility might pay huge dividends in the future.

As much as I would like to believe these feelings last forever, I don't. OK, you romantics, blast me with stories of 80 year marriages and infinite passion. I am sure there are some fantastical exceptions to reality.

So here is my take. Be romantic; be foolish; be happy; be "in love" whatever that means in the sense of a relationship. But, DON'T be so quick to think that ROMANCE is always going to help -- to pay the bills, feel the children, settle the inevitable spousal arguments, overcome problems with in-laws and family, increase status, decrease other unhealthy desires, change personalities, and prevent divorce. Have you every heard the old line that "statistics don't lie"?

Many professionals warn that divorce is not an answer to marriage difficulties, but here are some recent (2011) statistics:

(a) The divorce rate in America for first marriage is between 45% to 50%. (Dr. John M. Gottman says half of these divorces occur within the first seven years.)

(b) The divorce rate in America for second marriages is between 60% to 67%.

(c) The divorce rate in America for third marriages is between 70% to 73%.

(d) 80% of marriages don't survive through times of trauma.

( Jennifer Baker, "Divorce Statistics," Forest Institute of Professional Psychology, Springfield. Divorcestatistics)

Couples divorce at lower thresholds of unhappiness now than in the past, researchers have found, and it may be that many of them are bailing out too quickly. In a study conducted over many years, Waite found that nearly three-fifths of married men and women who said in the 1980s that they were unhappy said 10 years later that they were “very happy” or “quite happy.”

Unhappily married people “don’t seem to stay locked together in an angry hell,” write Waite and her co-researcher Maggie Gallagher. “We’re losing many marriages that could and should be saved.” (Andrew Herrmann, "Why Marriage is Good for You," Chicago Sun Times, June 8, 2003)

Most, if not all, relationships have some good points and are probably not totally loveless. Love is a choice and can grow through choosing to love through the “loveless” times. Richard Sroczynski reminds us that “loss of romance” is not synonymous with being “loveless.”

Romance by Claude McKay

To clasp you now and feel your head close-pressed,
Scented and warm against my beating breast;

To whisper soft and quivering your name,
And drink the passion burning in your frame;

To lie at full length, taut, with cheek to cheek,
And tease your mouth with kisses till you speak

Love words, mad words, dream words, sweet senseless words,
Melodious like notes of mating birds;

To hear you ask if I shall love always,
And myself answer: Till the end of days;

To feel your easeful sigh of happiness
When on your trembling lips I murmur: Yes;

It is so sweet. We know it is not true.
What matters it? The night must shed her dew.

We know it is not true, but it is sweet --
The poem with this music is complete.

"Love is an unconditional commitment
to an imperfect person."
- Selwyn Hughes

Read the entire James Leonard Park Link:

Read the entire "Marriage Missions" Link:

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