Dec 1, 2011

The drug of love


So I've become rather frustrated as of late watching someone basically inflict harm upon themselves in a way that I have plenty of painful experience with in my own past. It's like watching a car crash from the sidelines. I was also reading THIS article tonight and it made me think of the dynamics of unrequited love. Why is this type of pursuit so addictive at times? There has to be something more to it, because the experience is downright painful. The basics of conditioning alone would suggest chasing those that reject you would create an unfavourable response that it would be assumed you'd later avoid, but it's so often not the case.

The article discusses statistics suggesting that spending a short period of time talking with a stranger is more favourable than expected, whereas spending the same amount of time talking to someone familiar to you is less favourable than expected, when tested. The underlying hypothesis is that our level of enjoyment positively correlates with our level of effort in the conversation.

That's pretty much what got me thinking - the pursuit of a dismissive yet attractive other would definitely cause a high level of effort during interaction from my personal perspective. And it doesn't stop there....further rejection would likely lead to increased desperation in cases where the value placed upon the other was high, which would then in turn build the level of effort, creating a loop of sorts where the behaviour finally settled into a habitual and damaging obsession. The feeling would be one of desperate pursuit of comfort followed by constant hurt from personal rejection, only leading to further fruitless pursuits.

I have definitely been there before. This to me appears to be the human body fucking itself over with a concoction of self-imposed hormones that serve no real purpose in modern society. Like the anxiety disorders I feel stem mostly from our now all-but-redundant fight-or-flight sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system response, it has become yet another first-world problem creating storm-in-a-teacup social disasters. I wonder if there should be a new illness term for such a thing, something more specific than, say reactive anxiety or post-traumatic stress? I wonder if such a thing has a medical name in other cultures? I think I remember reading about a Japanese definition that was vaguely similar in a textbook or something somewhere? I find the notion rather curious.

It's definitely a fairly universally experienced thing, it's not just me and those I see around me experiencing it - it's dotted throughout television, movies and music across this culture. It seems like a crucial thing to think about really, it probably permeates our culture on so many levels. The individual, whose risk of self harm likely increases and could be gripped with depression and anxiety; the target or victim, who may be pursued to a point of harm or distress; the greater social circle, dealing with sudden behavioural changes within itself as dynamics are adversely affected...perhaps even greater society if distress gives way to agression or suicide in more extreme cases.

I wonder about the best ways in which to break from such a thing. I would assume that a significant time of separation would be best going from social psychology textbooks detailing attraction, and I know other friends have tested such a thing with some success, as have I myself....but there are so many potential social connotations for a such an act - and how does it change the social group affected? Or the individual needing space? What judgments may be imposed? What outcomes could stem from those potential judgments? I suppose my way of dealing with such things is to diversify my interacions with people, but I tend to be extremely outgoing and even I am becoming more and more of an in-grouper. From a therapeutic angle, how could one aid in such a scenario?

Personally I'm at a point with this one where I don't want to interfere on many levels, but I'm also directly affected to a point of personal offense at times. It would be nice to speed up this process and move on to the more important things.

I feel I'll be cracking open my old textbooks soon to mull this one over further, it's just too much of a common social theme to be overlooked, it's so very untapped. Fascinating.