You cannot promise everlasting love

“No one can promise another person an emotion. ‘I will love you forever.’ If we could do that there would be no unhappy marriages or unhappy human relationships of any kind.”

I want to tell you something very important about emotions. Emotions are not logical. Not logical, that is, when judged by the logic of intellect. Emotions do not know from right or wrong. Emotions do not know from good or bad. Emotions do not know from ethical and moral or unethical and immoral. Emotions do not know from time, place, person, or situation. These are valid systems of intellect but not for emotions.

Freud saw that emotions do not know from one person to another. He saw we transferred our feelings and emotionally laden thoughts (attitudes) from one person to another. He labeled the phenomena and called it the transference reaction. Indeed, it is a major and valid tool of analysis, and it should be understood by every person, no less every psychotherapist.

No one can promise another person an emotion. “I will love you forever.” If we could do that there would be no unhappy marriages or unhappy human relationships of any kind. We can promise each other a behavior. “I promise to meet you or call you tomorrow at six o’clock.” We can keep that promise because we are in control of our behavior unless it is emotionally connected. “I promise to tell you what I am thinking.” We can keep that promise unless it is emotionally connected. When we break our promises, it is because it is emotionally connected. When pain of a situation becomes greater than the pleasure of the situation, we will tend to break our promises. If you find you keep making and keeping promises you made that are painful, you have to ask yourself for what other reason are you doing that. We cannot promise anyone a future feeling. We can say, “I love you and feel love for you at this moment.” We can say, “I know intellectually that I loved you and expect that I will love you in the future, but I do not feel love for you at this moment.”

Love is a feeling.

We also use the word love to describe an attitude of work, relationship, or life in general.  We have to understand what we are talking about and what they are talking about. Amazingly everyone has a slightly different concept of what the word love means. If you, as a verbal expression of your overwhelming feelings, tell your partner, “I love you.” That means one thing. If your partner says without feeling, “I love you too,” and then with more feeling says, “What do we have for dinner,” that means something else.

I will never forget one thing from a visit to the Chicago World’s Fair when I was nine years old. We took my brother to the University of Michigan via Chicago and spent some days at the fair. I remember listening to an artificial voice machine that said “I love you,” in nine different ways. I love you! I love you? I love YOU. I LOVE you. I LOVE YOU. I love You? I remember it helped me resolve a problem of communication between a couple 40 years later. She said, “How can you do this to me? Only two days ago you told me you love me.” He: “I never told you I love you.” She: “How can you lie like that, you said very clearly, “I love you.” He: “I never said that. When you asked me I said, ‘I love you?'”

We have to learn to communicate, that is to speak and to listen, not only with verbal “symbols” which we call words, but with the emotional “signals,” and physical “signs.” More about symbols, signals, and signs later.

Words are cheap. Words can lie. But an emotion is a feeling and it does not know about lies or truth, just pleasure and pain. Emotions, unfortunately for many, do you not know about the world of reality. We sometimes will love things that will end up killing us or making our lives miserable; or hate things that would not only be good for us, but might save our lives.

The five basic emotions are pain, pleasure, fear, anger, and love.

Love, especially, is a word that should be more defined to say the least. Every person has a different concept of what love is. Ask yourself and your friends.

To me, love is a great pleasure.

Written by Daniel Casriel, MD

Daniel Harold Casriel, M.D., born in New York City on March 1, 1924, was an American psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and writer. He was a past president of the American Society of Psychoanalytic Physicians. He founded the Daytop treatment centers. Casriel died on June 7, 1983 at the age of 59 from a form of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). After graduation from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine at age twenty-five, Casriel began his residency at the Kingsbridge Veterans' Administration Hospital. Less than a year into his residency, he was drafted and sent to Okinawa where he served as an Army psychiatrist. Beyond shaping the field of addictions treatment and psychotherapy, Casriel profoundly influenced the launch of relationship education. His intensive couples workshops for Lori Heyman Gordon's Family Relations Institute in Northern Virginia provided the framework for what emerged into the range of PAIRS' relationship education seminars and trainings that have touched millions of lives. Casriel popularized the theory that the "emotion of love" comes from the anticipation of pleasure. Based on Casriel's theory, "bonding," which he defined as "the unique combination of emotional openness and physical closeness with another human being," is central to sustaining healthy, intimate relationships. Casriel taught that symptoms of bonding deprivation include: "illness, fatigue, depression, rigidity, constriction, isolation, and the range of anti-social behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse, gambling and sex addictions." Casriel considered bonding a biologically-based need similar to the need for food, water, air, and shelter, yet unique as the only biological need people cannot meet for themselves.

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