Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Counselling and the emotion of love - Part 3

Love as a contact emotion
Love is considered one of the contact emotions with the other one being anger but it works in the opposite way. These two emotions are often, although not always, associated with contact between at least two people. Feelings like sadness and scare are not so much related to human contact.
One can feel scared about jumping off a high ledge into water, or one can feel sad about the death of one’s dog. These do not involve any interaction between two people like anger and love can. Obviously love is all about two people reacting to each other and it is an emotion that often results in two people feeling a psychological connection and indeed often spending time physically together. Anger is also about human contact where two people hit up against each other in some way. When two people are angry at each other they are in psychological contact which is also the same for love.


Love and attachment
Love and attachment are inextricably linked psychological processes. They result from each other and result in the development of each other. Love causes an increase in attachment and attachment can result in an increase in feelings of love. 
Attachment here is referring to human attachment as was originally described by John Bowlby. In the therapeutic relationship, attachment is seen to develop between client and therapist in the positive transference stage (and break down in the negative transference stage). The same applies for relationships in the non therapeutic setting. When a couple meet in a romantic sense they may develop feelings of love for each other, especially in the honeymoon stage of a relationship. When this happens the psychological attachment between them grows quickly, which can then lead to a deeper sense of love and so forth. By the end of the honeymoon period usually quite a deep level of psychological attachment has been established. This is under normal circumstances but does not happen so much with particular personalty types most notably the antisocial and the narcissistic.
The key feature of an attachment is the desire to maintain proximity. Once an attachment has been formed both parties will have a strong desire to maintain geographical proximity to the other. Also the degree of grief reaction to the loss of the ability to maintain proximity can also show the extent of the attachment. The deeper the grief at the loss of the other (through death or divorce) the stronger the attachment is/was.

Person alone

From this one can deduce that should a person have difficulty with the experience of love then their attachments will be weaker than one would normally expect. This relates back to the personality types of antisocial and narcissistic who do have difficulty with the feeling of love towards another. 
However it is not only limited to them. For example I talked in a previous post about that person who has difficulty letting go of their Adult thinking and Parent controls. They also will have more trouble with the feeling of love and thus the attachment process. This typically occurs more in males than in females. Then there is the person who has suffered a broken heart in the past and all the pain that can go along with that, and they may develop some level of commitment phobia. The past experience of loss frightens them because it was so painful and hence the Free Child will naturally be more hesitant to let love feelings develop again because it knows that results in attachment and therefore one is again vulnerable to the pain of a broken heart.
There has also been an evolutionary argument put forward for this relationship between love and attachment. In cave man days when a woman got pregnant she was putting herself in a life threatening situation for herself and the child, more so than she is in this day and age of westernized societies. 

tree people

The child (and woman) has a much better chance of surviving pregnancy, birth and the post pregnancy period if there are others around to help her. To assist her with obtaining food, warding of mammoths and sabre tooth tigers and looking after the child in general. If some kind of affectionate love feelings develop in the man to the woman then he will develop a form of attachment to her. If that happens then he will have a desire to maintain proximity to the mother (and child) and hence the child has a better chance of survival. It is harder for the male to simply get up and move away from the woman. Hence the process of 
love > attachment > desire to maintain proximity 
can be seen to have a direct evolutionary advantage. Whether all this is true or not is another matter but it is an interesting hypothesis.
Therapeutic model for working with love 
1. Assess how the client understands love  - Adult or Child
2.Can client master the process of falling in love. Are they able to decommission the Parent and Adult ego states and let the Free Child be uncontrolled.
3.Those who have difficulty experiencing love may be stroked deprived as they lack the human contact that it provides. This may be reduced by having more human contact through anger.
4.The ability of the client to form an attachment can be seen as related to their ability to experience love towards another. This can identify some of those who have attachment formation difficulties.


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