Love Junkies and Other Addicts

Next month, there’s a new movie coming out with Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal called “Love and Other Drugs,” so I thought I’d take this opportunity to discuss the ways that romantic love can function as an intoxicant and how serial romance relates to other forms of addiction.

In an earlier post about different forms of love, I described one version where loving a person springs from the way he or she makes you feel and involves little concern for the other. What the “lover” wants is the heady feeling of intoxication, that blissful state where you feel as if life has become a sort of heaven on earth and all your troubles have disappeared.  Falling in love means living happily ever after.  Hollywood, that relentless pusher, pedals this drug in one romantic comedy after another.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to stay high forever.  As we come down, we begin to realize that the person we love isn’t so perfect after all.  Even worse, we find that we still hate our job, we still don’t make enough money, and nothing about reality and its frustrations has changed.  Obviously, we made a mistake in our choice of love object … time to move on. Lather, rinse and repeat.

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Celebrities — Why We Love and Hate Them

Whenever I’m in line at the grocery store, like everyone else I scan the tabloid headlines.  It always amazes me that so many people are fascinated by the soap opera lives of celebrities. Why, after all, does the wedding of someone we don’t even know hold such interest?  Why do we care about Brad and Angelina’s latest tiff when we’ve never met them?

I’ve noticed there’s a cycle to the stories.  First, you have the article about how Celebrity A has been spotted on dates with Celebrity B.  Then there’s the one confirming they’re an item, followed in due course by the big splashy cover story about their wedding.  Next you have rumors that there are signs of trouble in the relationship.  “Close personal friends” begin to hint at insensitivity and heartache at home, followed by reports that the couple has separated.  To complete the cycle, the tabloids run a story that details their messy divorce, full of bitterness and recriminations, with angst-ridden faces on the cover.  Of course there are many different versions of the cycle; if you’re Brangelina, you can spin out variations for years.  But in general, the cycle runs from idealizing someone’s life, followed by doubts about its goodness and concluding with its demise.

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Hatred in Politics

In an earlier post on love and hatred, I briefly discussed how religion and politics often provide us with sanctioned outlets for our hatred, reflecting the processes of splitting and projection.  The current election cycle is a perfect example.  While Fox News and the Tea Party movement dominate televised discourse with their hateful attacks, in private liberals are often just as hateful.  I’ve had friends shout me down for saying I could empathize with parents of underage daughters who felt they had a right to know if she were having an abortion.  Within certain circles, to suggest that there might be reasonable limits to abortion-on-demand is to question the Faith and to arouse hatred.  I’ve known Democrats who wouldn’t even consider dating a Republican.

Given the enormous challenges we face, the political arena is a place where we ought to be having reasoned discourse about what’s best for our country; doing so depends upon the ability to think in the presence of intense emotion, a very difficult thing to do.  Intense emotion is the enemy of thought, whether it’s a sentimental glow that blinds us to harsh reality, or hatred that makes us unable to see the other side of an issue.  Many of the conservative voices in our country today are fanning the flames of hatred in order to squelch any realistic debate about the direction of our country and the sacrifices we’ll all have to make.  For many of them, their sole aim is to win.

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