When we get involved in romantic love, we are like people watching a performance of a magic trick, or grand illusion

The magic of ‘love at first sight’, the exhilaration of ‘falling in love’ and the magnificence of ‘giving our hearts to one another’ exemplify romantic love. Of all the kinds of love we can experience, it is this heady, thrilling but typically short-lived and often tumultuous love that has been embedded in Western culture as a pinnacle of human fulfilment for hundreds of years.

Critics of the fantastical aspects of romantic love often attribute our all yearning, striving and obsessing with romantic love to relentless cultural indoctrination through centuries of it being a dominant, captivating and popular theme in song, poetry, literature and film. However, Aron Gersh, who is speaking at the upcoming SACAP Festival of Learning, a London-trained psychotherapist and author of Falling for Love takes a different view that points out the psychology of romantic love.

A magic trick, a grand illusion

“When we get involved in romantic love, we are like people watching a performance of a magic trick, or grand illusion.” Aron says, “Things appear to happen magically, because the real cause of what we see as happening is hidden somewhere, out of view.  If we could see the real hidden cause, the magic would disappear. The magic of romantic love is based, I suggest, on hidden psychodynamic processes in us”.

Magic gives way to reality

The beginning of a ‘true love’ romance is usually hailed as a wonderful event, especially for young people. But Aron points out that many of us who are older and more experienced expect the bubble to burst when the couple typically moves into a more troublesome phase of their relationship because magic has given way to reality. As the ever-surging divorce rates attest to, it’s not easy for couples and families to survive this. And there’s far from any guarantee that those couples who do manage keep the relationship together will go on to enjoy a happy ever after?

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Does this mean that we’d be better off avoiding romantic love in the first place?

“Definitely not!” Aron says emphatically. “We should not avoid it at all. From the perspective of the psychology of romantic love, it carries within it all the invaluable information about the gaps in our development towards maturity. It shows up our regressions, bringing them beautifully to light and enabling us to see them, if we will dare to look at them. We have the opportunity to take a mature approach to finding ourselves ‘in love’, that empowers us to evolve ourselves and gives us a better chance of actually experiencing a mature love relationship that is far more true and, far more fulfilling.”

Aron emphasises that it is not only important to recognise romantic love as a phase that almost never lasts, but to also acknowledge it as a regressive phenomenon that needs to be grown out of, and grown beyond. He explains that he uses the term ‘regressive’ to describe immature or undeveloped behaviours that are present in childhood which come to the fore when we ‘fall in love’.

Unconsciously, we express these regressive elements from our child to mother relationship to bind and connect us to our new lover. “It is about stuff we should/could/would develop beyond in an ideal world, but have not done so yet. So, a maturing process awaits us.” He explains.

For Aron, this has nothing to do with cynicism about love and everything to do with the exciting opportunity for us to grow and evolve as individuals, and in relationship to others:

“The suggestion is that there are a variety of fantasy elements active when we fall in love, and that it is worthwhile to be aware of them, thus of the potential illusions they create in us, so that we can move toward becoming less regressed, more mature and authentic lovers, loving each other as real persons, not the fantasies of perfection we create in our imaginations about our partners. This is inspiration to grow toward a truer, more authentic way of being in love.”

Don’t miss Aron Gersh’s presentation on Falling in Love at the upcoming SACAP Festival of Learning in Cape Town on 26 May 2017.