The passion paradigm




Love and hate are powerful feelings. They occupy opposite sides of the coin of emotion; however, I would contend that the latter term is more emotionally charged. Love can occupy a lengthy continuum from mild to meteoric, whilst hate has a narrower band. I’ve used the word ‘love’ to cover all manner of things, from my feelings towards ice cream, to the handful of people I have genuinely fallen in love with.

I accept that I have used the other term to articulate my loathing of, for example, certain foodstuffs, but in the final personal analysis I would cite a persuasive fact: since 1960 71% of popular songs have been about romance, whilst 57% have used the word ‘love in the lyrics. With such statistical scores, it makes sense to conclude that the two emotions should never occupy the same space. Like matter and anti-matter. Night and day. Hot and cold.

Yet, recently I acknowledged, for the first time in my life, that I both loved and hated someone at the same time. The who is unimportant, but the feeling of complete emotional disorientation caused by this juxtaposition needed repair, since – for a time at least ─ I felt on the precipice of a frightening and inexplicable dark void. 

There is a mass of evidence within the field of relationship psychology that supports, rather predictably, that relationships – especially with significant others – are complex, with both positive and negative feelings existing in distinct phases. Singer-songwriter superstar Adele’s prose provides ample contemporary evidence that the human heart and mind will regularly process love, heartbreak, and loss, usually at separate times. But these assumptions didn’t accurately reflect my  dilemma in experiencing these strong and conflicting emotions simultaneously.

This affected my daytime thinking and at night my mind refused to take a break. However much I tried to make sense of this emotional enigma, my thinking became locked in a repetitive cycle, reminiscent of the famous scene from the movie WarGames where a computer gets locked into an infinite game of noughts and crosses against itself. Am I unique? And did the problem really rest wholly with the other person? I needed answers. 

Somewhat surprisingly, and also reassuringly, according to ground-breaking research published in 2014, my thought patterns weren’t as absurd as I’d first imagined. Rather uniquely, Vivian Zayas and Yuichi Shoda introduced their study with reference to the following quote: 

“Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate.” Sigmund Freud quoted by Anna Freud (1939)

A curious way to commence a piece of academic investigation; yet this proposition held true following two imaginative physiological experiments, which concluded that relationships that are both intense and important to one’s own wellbeing can automatically facilitate the “coactivation” of positive and negative feelings. In other words, I wasn’t going crazy. 

Having satisfied myself that the significant other in this emotional equation is crucial to my positive mental health, I grasped another important concept: they probably feel the same way about me at times, so we are more similar than perhaps either of us think.

The next part of this journey is to mutually accept that, although the current situation is far from ideal, the mere fact that these flammable feelings exist is testimony to the fact that our relationship is vitally important to both of us. The mending process will only occur when we talk and heed the wise words of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: “Love and hatred are not blind, but are blinded by the fire they bear within themselves.”  

Dr Amie M. Gordon, a social-personality psychologist  from the University of California, San Francisco, provides a useful template of engagement that I have summarised as follows:

  1. Put yourself in the shoes of the other person. Empathy is crucial. Note to self – keep my thoughts to myself and ask questions instead. 
  2. Avoid the four horsemen of the apocalypse — criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling.
  3. Give them the benefit of the doubt in the belief that they are not being spiteful. Take some deep breaths!
  4. Focus on their positive traits. They have many. 
  5. Remember – we are on the same team, not opponents.
  6. Appreciate that this process isn’t going to be easy. Often the really important things in life aren’t. 
  7. If anger makes an entrance, positive self-talk is crucial. Don’t take your eye off the goal. 

Wish me luck! 

Ian Kirke

As a kid, and latterly a dad and police officer, I realised that I have an almost endless list of things I want to make sense of. I suspect I am not alone. Hopefully, as a law graduate and post-graduate criminologist, my life observations reflect a degree of authenticity and balance – but I’ll allow you to judge that for yourself. Synthesising humour, grief, horror and hedonism, I think I’m an all-rounder! I am also a frustrated speedway promoter, passionate Notts County fan and part-time philosopher.

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