FROM THE EDITOR: CLEOPATRA VICTORIA, MFT
It's a curious culture in which one is alerted to upcoming holidays by the changing seasonal aisle in Walgreen's. If you've missed the pink foil-swathed chocolate roses and the wildly blooming fields of red cards, February embraces Valentine's Day, and love. It's relevant to speak of patient-analyst love — something different than just transference/ countertransference, or the clearly stickier-than-caramel erotic transference. Love for a patient enfolds empathy, interest, continuity, patience and self-restraint...no actual tarrying or marrying our decidedly delectable 4:00 patient... Some analysts feel that love for a patient is essential for the treatment to flourish. The patient may love the analyst too — for her attention, concern, dependability, insight, soothing, or charm. Like all affairs of the heart, patient-analyst love is mysterious.
Our thoughts may turn to romantic love in our private lives. Neuropsych shows us that, in love, our brains stir in the same areas that manifest hunger, thirst, and drug cravings. It's theorized that love is hard-wired to be addictive because, without it, humanity would die out. The coital cocktail of oxytocin, vasopressin, dopamine, and norepinephrine makes us feel good and enhances the connection to our lover. Oxytocin released during sex bonds us to our partner and vasopressin facilitates affiliation and pairbonding — well, at least in the male vole.
In Buddhism, kama is sensuous, sexual love and an obstacle to enlightenment, since it is selfish. During courtly times, romantic love was pursued outside of marriage, an institution preoccupied with ensuring that wealth stayed in the family. Of course, for Freud, every new love is a refinding of an old love. As a patient wearily informed me, "Everybody marries their parents."
In our circles, it's often murmured that great literature reveals the most about passion, so perhaps we should jilt the scholarly titans this month and turn to fiction for the last word on love. When the 19th-century French novelist Gustave Flaubert penned prose to his paramour, the poet Colet, he describes falling in love:
"What irresistible impulse drove me towards you?
For an instant I saw the abyss
I realized its depth
And then vertigo swept over me."
Cleopatra Victoria, MFT