At the very beginning of love there is infatuation and obsession.
We tend to think that this is strictly the result of sexual desire.
And, right from the beginning, there is also emotional yearning.
Indeed, as psychologist Paul Eastwick of the University of Texas, Austin, observes,
passion is best defined as a combination of sexual connection and attachment longing.
A budding relationship is fraught with tension and anxiety.
We whisper to ourselves, "Does this person want me? Am I going to be rejected?"
The longing and apprehension push us to take risks, to reach out and move closer.
Our anxiety is soothed as we get positive responses form this person and gradually he or she becomes what John Bowlby, attachment theorist, called "irreplacable."
The process of feeling anxious and vulnerable and finding that another can and will respond is the basic building block of love.
In movies, protagonists often dislike each other at first sight, but once they slay a few dragons together and discover solace and protection in each other, they realize that they are in love.
Psychologist Lan Beckes of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, has found that, indeed, any kind of treat automatically turns on the attachment system. This calls up our need for comfort and making others who are potential sources of this comfort more attractive.
Beckes assessed 49 students on their level of attachment security and then asked them to view on a computer screen brief clips of four smiling faces of men and women that were paired with subliminally flashed pictures of either neutral objects like a rolling pin, or disturbing images such as a striking snake. Then students were instructed to press a key if the letter that flashed on the screen made up a word.
Researchers found that the students were much more likely to recognize attachment-associated words, such as nurture, comfort, and trust just after they saw the snake image. In addition, those who were assessed as insecure attachment styles were better at identifying
such words as rejection and vulnerable.
Students also rated the picture of faces as more attractive, warm, and likable after the scary images.
Anxiety and threat automatically call up the need for comfort and prime us to find security in another.
If someone is there at a vulnerable moment, we begin to bond,
and every risk we face together thereafter strengthens the sense of connection.
Sue Johson ~ Love Sense