[The following passage from The Enemies of Love by Dom Aelred Watkin, 1958, is linked to La Bruyère’s aphorism, “Sudden love takes the longest time to be cured.” Of course not all sudden love is unrequited, but the chances are good that it will be. Watkin analyses the pathology of certain kinds of unrequited love, and in light of his analysis it is clear why such sudden love is not easy to cure.]
Unrequited love is especially open to the intoxication and the despair of false romance, for there has never been the give and take of actual contact. Thus, those who yearn for love’s return are almost bound to view what might have been theirs through golden mists and to idealize the loved one beyond what in fact could ever be. The heart is pining for love, and has convinced itself that the person upon whom it has fixed its gaze is the only one in the world who can provide the satisfaction for which it craves.
Moreover, a frequent cause for such hopeless loving is the faculty which some persons have for falling in love with the idea of love. They long for love and, consciously or unconsciously, they are looking round all the time for someone to fall in love with. Sooner or later they fix upon that someone and he or she becomes the object of their longing; once established as the object, imperceptibly this individual is transfigured in the eyes of the lover and with each transfiguration becomes more an object of desire. Thus a vicious circle is created: the outpouring of love has idealized its object, as its object becomes progressively more desirable love is poured out the more, and this, in turn, feeds the idealization. Quite often the situation is aggravated by the fact that the lover has chosen as the object of his or her longing someone who is, either by circumstances or temperament, entirely incapable of returning the love that is poured out. Almost grotesque situations are therefore created; grotesque, this is, to the external observer, but tragic for the lover.
It is often the custom to laugh at those caught in the toils of such a love, particularly if they are young; but to do so shows a strange absence both of imagination and of sympathy. Anyone who has had to deal with persons so afflicted must long to help them in this time of need. Indeed, case are not infrequent when persons are so tortured that they can neither eat nor sleep, and it is almost cruel merely to urge such a one to “pull himself (or herself) together” or to make him or her the object of some condescending joke. It is noticeable that the mockery which often seems to greet love’s torments comes, not infrequently, from those who have in the past themselves been unhappy and unsuccessful in love and who are now attempting to convince themselves that love is a very humdrum business after all.
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