Thursday, 24 March 2016

Laws of attraction. Do they exist?

       Just browsing through an online newspaper when this item caught my eye. 
       According to one psychologist, "There are no rules of attraction when it comes to meeting your mate."* 
       Which got me thinking. ARE there any rules when it comes to romance? Oh sure, we may draw up a checklist of our ideal soulmate but love rarely works in such a logical way. As any trained assassin will testify, the best time to strike a target is when they least expect it. So it is with those arbitrary arrows of love.
       Now I’m not talking about that lovely boy or girl next door, you understand – the person with whom you’d share your woes, fears and dreams. Nor am I referring to that remarkably good-looking, incredibly suitable, Mum-friendly match with his/her own car, house and a sense of humour. No. What I’M talking about is far more basic – that unadulterated (and usually mindless) thing called ‘chemistry’.
       How else can we explain why a stunning young woman falls in love with a seedy, unpleasant middle-aged man? What draws a well set up guy with matinee idol looks to a homespun girl with open pores?
       There are countless pundits and relationship experts who’ll offer their theories….many quite plausible and maybe even true. But one explanation which has always impressed me is in the book “Families and How to Survive Them” – a collaboration by comedian John Cleese and family therapist Robin Skynner.**
       I no longer have the book and my memory’s not so hot these days, so apologies if I misinterpret the authors’ findings, but here goes:
       From infancy we learn from our parents and other significant adults which emotions and subsequent behaviours are approved or not. On the positive side, if we’re caught lying or stealing perhaps, our parents’ negative reaction prevents us doing the same thing again. That’s discipline, teaching us the do’s and don’ts of everyday living. Which has to be good thing, right?
       Unfortunately, when emotions are involved, boundaries can get blurred. If, for example, a child cries during a sad film only to be told to ‘stop being a baby’, he or she may keep such future tears in check and the compassion which caused them may, in effect, be put ‘behind a screen.’ If he or she gets angry, even justifiably, and a parent shows disapproval for that anger, it gets put behind the screen. A child who is discouraged from displaying any ‘undesirable’ emotion puts it behind a screen. Likewise, unpleasant experiences of any kind – such as, accidents, bullying, domestic discord, separations – are suppressed and put behind a screen.
       So what does this ‘screen’ have to do with attraction? According to Cleese and Skynner, we each have an emotional sensor which comes into play whenever we meet someone new. Intuitively, we sense if a person has had similar experiences to ours, recognising a potential ‘soulmate’ even before we know them. Because, of course, those emotions are still there, just hidden behind a screen.
       For example: Charles and Penny met as teenagers and it was love at first sight. When Penny went to live with her mother on another continent, the feelings remained. Both Penny and Charles met other (very suitable) people, yet their feelings for each other remained, in fact grew even stronger! Several years later, Penny returned, married her first love and they’re still together 50 years later! Now that’s chemistry!
       What caused such a powerful bond? Although neither knew about it in their early years together, they later found that during infancy both their fathers were absent, serving in the forces. Both Charles and Penny felt resentment when their fathers’ returned, were unable to relate to them and believed the ‘interloper’ disapproved of them. There was also a natural jealousy in having to share their mothers’ attention. Could these emotions, which neither felt able to show, have been the cord which drew them so closely together?
       Maybe. Maybe not. It is just a theory after all. But, if it’s possible to explain love, romance, infatuation, attraction or whatever you want to call it, this fascinating book may well provide the answer! 


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