The logic of love and emotion

The feeling of love is an emotion.  It is not an obligation, it is not a responsibility, it is not a commitment. Based on the emotion of love, we may make a commitment or take on a responsibility or an obligation. But we can’t promise an emotion.

To understand love, we must understand the LOGIC OF EMOTION. Emotion has it’s own logic and it’s very simple.  It is the logic of Pleasure and Pain. We are drawn to what gives us pleasure and we would like to avoid what gives us pain.

What gives us pleasure or pain?  It is getting our needs met.  And the most primary needs are our biologically based needs: food, air, water, shelter.  And then there is a need that we as a culture have largely lost sight of and we call that need BONDING.  Bonding has two parts–EMOTIONAL OPENNESS AND PHYSICAL CLOSENESS.  One without the other doesn’t completely fill that need.  A platonic friendship can provide emotional closeness but not the physical.  Physical closeness without emotional openness is like hugging a tree or a stone – so we need both.

The emotional part of Bonding is about Confiding. Now the fulfillment of the need for Bonding easily, comfortably, gives rise to a feeling of PLEASURE – which gives rise to a DESIRE for the source of the pleasure – which gives rise to the FEELING OF LOVE.  We love the people we feel close to – who we can share our minds and hearts with, who we can fill our bonding needs with.  Some people bond with their pets – their dogs or pussycats.  They trust them more than they do people.

Why?  Because for many of us, the need for bonding or closeness to others gave rise to feelings of pain or the anticipation of pain – which felt like danger – and in a state of pain or danger – we tend to fight or run.  Now when we fight or run, the behavior we use we call the Stress Styles.  And in a state of stress, we can run like a rabbit, hide one’s head in the sand like an ostrich, freeze and go into a shell like a turtle or fight like a rattlesnake with control or like a tiger with violence.  Now, any and all of these styles will keep us on the pain side of the Ledger.

As adults, bonding is the only need we can’t meet for ourselves. We can dress ourselves, feed ourselves, earn money, we can even fill our sexual needs ourselves, but we can’t bond with ourselves!  So the inability to fill the need, the deprivation of bonding gives rise to a range of symptoms – of DIS-EASE, DIS-STRESS and DIS-TRUST.  On the PAIN side of the ledger, we find these symptoms:

  • Unhappiness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Rigidity Of Personality
  • Constriction, Isolation
  • Closed, Guarded, Wary
  • Anti-Social Behavior
  • Criminal Behavior
  • Addictions (Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling, Food, Work)

On the PLEASURE side of the ledger, where needs are filled easily, comfortably, we find signs of:

  • Happiness
  • Health, Energy
  • Well Being
  • Flexibility
  • Creativity
  • Open, Sharing Personality
  • Responsibility For Self
  • A Capacity For Intimacy

Now the Emotional part of Bonding is about Confiding – what is in our minds, our hearts and for many of us – we didn’t develop that.  Perhaps no one was interested, perhaps no one was there, perhaps we were humiliated and learned not to trust.  And yet emotional openness is what love is about.

As adults we need Bonding if we do not wish to develop symptoms of deprivation.  We may not be aware of this need.  Perhaps we’ve been deprived of it from infancy and become accustomed to the lack of it.  Our life experience may legislate against closeness or trust, either emotional or physical, as a threat to our very existence.  We may avoid closeness to avoid the pain of loss.  There are many possible reasons why we don’t fill this need.

As adults, we tend to expect our intimate relationships to fill this need.  Problems in these relationships create distance, which reduces the amount of emotional openness and touch, leading to symptoms of Bonding deprivation.  In our culture many of us confuse the need for Bonding with the need for sex – they are different.  They can be added to each other, like food can be added to water, but they are separate and distinct needs.

An intimate love relationship will be fulfilling to the extent that both partners get their needs met.  If needs are not met, symptoms of deprivation emerge which can destroy the relationship. In our experience, recognizing the need for bonding and learning how to be emotionally open and physically close to fill this need with each other is the single most important factor in improving a relationship.

~ Dr. Daniel Casriel

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