The Positive Psychology of Relationships (Of All Kinds)
In this podcast episode, we explore love through the lens of positive psychology, discussing concepts like passion vs obsession, and understanding limerence
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The Positive Psychology of Relationships
The field of positive psychology has been gaining more attention in recent years. Despite what may first come to mind when hearing that term, it's not about "thinking good thoughts." Rather, an approach that's rooted in positive psychology is not about denying what's difficult in life, but knowing how to navigate through it from a strengths-based perspective.
The science of happiness has its fair share of complexities! In this podcast episode, Lumia co-founders John Kim and Noelle Cordeaux explore what positive psychology can teach us about love and relationships.
Passion vs. Obsession
In the simplest terms, passion is holding. It's holding someone close, holding tight to a memory and its lessons, and holding space for yourself or for someone else.
Obsession, on the other hand, feels more like grabbing.
In relationships, the holding is what makes people feel safe. It’s what makes them feel welcomed and loved. Grabbing is what makes people run. It’s what makes them feel suffocated and unsafe.
Passion is something open that can be shared, while obsession is closed and makes things very narrow.
Limerence is a term that may not be familiar to many of us. Or at least, not in the context of love and relationships. But limerence is something we all experience. It’s the period of time when people first get together or fall in love.
Limerence is also the experience of a relationship resurgence, or where you fall in love all over again with the same person.
Generally, limerence spans an 18-24-month period. This is the goopy love state where you think the other person is The One.
There is science behind this thing called limerence. When we’re in this stage of falling in love our serotonin drops, which increases our capacity for risk-taking behavior. It's what fuels that “crazy in love” sensation. During this period, it may feel like the other person put the moon in the sky just for you. You might find yourself willing to do things for the other person that would otherwise be out of character, to leap before you look.
Sometimes, those thoughts and feelings are on target and can guide you in the right direction. Most of the time, however, it’s just brain chemistry... in other words: limerence!
How Positive Psychology Leads To A Better Life
We all want to be happy and successful. We all want to love and be loved, and to form strong and positive relationships with other people. So how can positive psychology help with that?
The field of positive psychology was catalyzed by Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, who believed there was something important missing from the field of psychiatry. The concept of “flourishing” has been the subject of philosophical thought for thousands of years, but only emerged as the subject of serious scientific inquiry in the 1990’s.
At the time, psychiatry was predominantly focused on mental suffering, and ways of easing emotional pain in life. Seligman asserted that pain isn’t the whole story of the human experience. He championed the idea that the brighter side of life was also worthy of serious study!
The work of Dr. Martin Seligman and his colleagues sought to discover how people achieve and sustain positive states of mind, which eventually became an entire field of study. We’re talking now about the good stuff: joy, love, gratitude, laughter, achievement and contentment (among others).
Today, positive psychology offers us a scientific approach for understanding human potential, along with a set of research-based interventions and practices for achieving it.
Practicing Positive Psychology
It starts by simply bringing a semblance of awareness to what's going on!
Notice how you may have been conditioned to understand love and relationships - both romantic and platonic - by society, media, family or community influences. Your own definitions are likely to change, particularly as you grow older or the vision for your life shifts and evolves.
Be a student of love, and get curious. The most useful tool for navigating love is self awareness. Look back on your life and your relationships to understand the way you love. Define what works and is healthy for you. It’s okay to not know about love, to not have answers. And it’s most definitely okay if it’s not a linear progression!
For more insights and strategies, check out our blog The Powerful Science of Positive Psychology and the podcast series The Science of Love and Sh*t.
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