Romantic passion calls forth intensity, excitement, and focus of desire.
Intense emotions are generally fueled by psychological “complexes,” that is, heated reactions (positive or negative) to a person or situation reminiscent of a past experience that left a mark on the unconscious. A “complex” is a core pattern of emotions, perceptions, memories, and desires in the personal unconscious triggered by a common theme evoking past emotional experiences.
For instance, being in love with a smart and cold woman, who by coincidence is like your mother, may be driven by a projection of certain characteristics of your mother. Unconsciously, you hope to resolve your disappointment with that initial relationship by finally having someone similarly smart and cold be responsive and appreciative of you.
Does the fact that desire and even falling in love are possibly the result of a psychological complex taint their authenticity and beauty? Does one’s past experience of hope and disappointment with a similar type of person make a current love affair less authentic and meaningful?
Even if infatuation and love are complex-driven, they are no less real and important. The very fascination with the beloved reflects the entanglement of unconscious processes with falling in love. Falling in love involves projection, which is loaded with powerful affect.
Projection, however, is fraught with dangers. Consider the repeated disappointment a person will feel when the beloved becomes withholding or neglectful, just like his mother. What’s important in this case is that we don’t repeat our same ineffective ways of dealing with those who bring forth our complexes.
Emotionally-committed relationships are one of the best vehicles that can assist us in becoming aware of our unconscious and our complexes. They give us the opportunity NOT to repeat the past. But this takes awareness and effort.
Does passion driven by a complex fade when we become more integrated and whole? Does the fantasy of the “Magical Other” subside when we become more grounded and less neurotic? Perhaps.
If so, is it worth the cost?
We can hope for some progress toward wholeness, but few of us need to worry about losing our passion because we’ve become wholly-integrated and enlightened. So, we might as well enjoy the intensity of falling in love on our path to insight and understanding.
Even with great strides toward increased consciousness, the crazy feeling of infatuation might be replaced by the mindful intention to love — not a great cost after all for such a transformation.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD