Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 20 September 2015


Depth of Feeling

I uncovered a feeling inside
and gave it a name – Love
and somehow it came to be.

Try to efface it
and you'll find, behind the mask,
pheromonal and naked,
a deeper expression
and another name...

(For F.)

2 February 1984 

masksLove has, for a long time, been my whipping boy. It’s a word I loathe. I have no problems with the emotion—I’ve felt in many times and in many ways—but that’s really the problem. The Greeks are supposed to have a word for everything. In the case of love most of us know four: agápe (love of humanity), éros (erotic love although, oddly enough, the term incorporates Platonic love), philia (shared experience, or brotherly love) and storgē (love of family). There’s a fifth, epithumia, the Greek word for strong desire, which can have either a positive or negative connotation; the positive connotation is usually translated ‘strong desire’ while the negative connotation is usually translated ‘lust’. There’s also philautia, self-love or self-respect. Again it comes in two flavours: the unhealthy variety is associated with narcissism—you became self-obsessed and focused on personal fame and fortune—whereas the healthier version enhances your wider capacity to love.

In 1973 John Alan Lee identified six basic love styles—also known as “colours” of love—that people use in their interpersonal relationships. According to Wikipedia:

Eros – is a passionate physical and emotional love of wanting to satisfy, create sexual contentment, security and aesthetic enjoyment for each other, it also includes creating sexual security for the other by striving to forsake options of sharing one's intimate and sexual self with outsiders.

Ludus – This style is used by those who see love as a desiring to want to have fun with each other, to do activities indoor and outdoor, tease indulge and play harmless pranks on each other. The acquisition of love and attention itself may be part of the game.

Storge – This style of love grows slowly out of friendship and is based more on similar interests and a commitment to one another rather than on passion.

Pragma – This love style is based on the perceptions of practicality. People who prefer this style approach their relationship in a "business-like" fashion and look for partners with whom they can share common goals.

Mania – This style usually flows out of a desire to hold one's partner in high esteem and wanting to love and be loved in this way seeing specialness in the interaction.

Agape – In this style of love one derives one's definition of love in being altruistic towards one's partner and feeling love in the acts of doing so. The person is willing to endure difficulty that arises from the partner's circumstance. It is based on an unbreakable commitment and an unconditional, selfless love.

Where does puppy love fit into all this? Maybe limerence, a term coined by the psychologist Dorothy Tennov and defined as a state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person typically including compulsive thoughts and fantasies and a desire to form or maintain a relationship and have one's feelings reciprocated.

In my poem I don’t name the name. To this day I couldn’t tell you how I loved F. It wasn’t a simple love. I was attached to her. I still am. Which brings us neatly to attachment theory. And that opens up a whole other can of worms. In my first novel, Living with the Truth, Truth explains to Jonathan how he’s loved:

        Truth touched his fingertips together one at a time before answering: “Well, falling in love is easy. It takes no effort at all. You’ve done that.”
         “I feel a ‘but’ coming.”
         “But... true love, which is what you’re on about, is volitional, not emotional.”
         “I don’t get you.” This was going to be difficult.
         “Love—even the word—is a soft cushion to rest your feelings on, fancy wrapping paper, sugar coated good ol’ fashioned desire half the time; lust made respectable. You see there’s real love and there’s cathexis.”
         “Which is...?”
         “Well it’s love, too, but it’s more a what-can-you-do-for-me kind of love rather than a what-can-I-do-for you sort.” [Cathexis is the investment of emotional significance in an activity.]
         “You’re telling me I’ve never known real love?”
         “I’m telling you you’ve never known real love.”

Did I really love F.? I wrote the above a few months after we’d separated. How applicable to me that is I honestly couldn’t say. It’s all foggy now.


Kass said...

Jim, you're right, I do find this interesting. Sometimes, the word (or words) get in the way or inaccurately redefine the 'undefinable' (trite word concerning love). Do we hate it because of the sound? The rock or country star pronunciation, LuhhhVE? Remember Woody Allen's circumnavigation of actually saying it in Annie Hall? "Love is, is too weak a word for what I feel - I lurve you, you know, I loave you, I luff you, two F's, yes I have to invent, of course I - I do, don't you think I do?"

As for the volitional aspect of love, M. Scott Peck dealt with this in a trendy book, The Road Less Traveled in the seventies, saying, "For children love is a feeling; for adults, it is a decision." I remember everyone quoting this and assuming it was the latest, greatest insight.

It's interesting that you find (or found) pheromonal expressions deeper. Does being ruled by our chemicals create a deeper attachment or maybe one with more of an obsessive, compulsive quality considering how deeply sexual hormones seem to embed in the limbic area of our brains?

Jim Murdoch said...

I was fascinated by the notion of pheromones when I learned about them, Kass, but the older I’ve got the more I’ve begun to suspect that a great many of the so-called decisions we make have very little to do with us. Free will is illusory. The best illustration is the old joke that men think with their dicks. Which we do. It’s pathetic but it’s true. When I was with F. at the start I could hardly hear myself think for Wee Jimmy and his urges. It took years before I could stand back and honestly say how I felt about her. The novelty had to wear off and that took years. When I talk about depth in this poem I’m not talking about it in a good way. Deep is dark. Lust is selfish and, for a long time, I would have to say I was in lust with F. I deluded myself it was love but love had little to do with it.

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