Seeking our Imago: Does Infatuation Equal Chemistry?

Infatuation and chemistry equal romantic love. Have you ever been mesmerized by a man/woman standing next to you in line? Is it merely infatuation, a strong shot of chemistry, or budding love? Is Cupid being an impish child or bringing you true love forever?

Actually, infatuation and chemistry are essentially the same thing. And they are a very, very long way from real love.

Seeking our “Imago”

According to Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., in his book “Keeping the Love You Find”, chemistry or infatuation is actually an attraction to a person who combines:

  • The worst traits of our parents or childhood care takers to infatuate us;
  • The negative traits that infatuate us and we possess but deny in ourselves;
  • The traits that we find infatuating but have been repressed in us by our upbringing;
  • The infatuating traits that society denies our gender.

That person who infatuates us is, in fact, the last thing we consciously want.

Hendrix says we all seek our “Imago,” an unconscious image of the person our childhood programmed us to fall in love or become infatuated with. The Imago is like a homing device that drives us to repeat ourselves, choosing over and over the facsimiles of our caretakers’ worst traits.

When we find ourselves saying, “You’re just like my father (mother),” this person who infatuates us is our Imago match.

For example, a man who is seeking a submissive woman, just like the one that married good ol’ Dad, is attracted to a woman at a party. Infatuation strikes!

Why do we seek our Imago?

He is unconsciously attracted to the way the woman demurely lowers her eyes when she is speaking; the way she is so agreeable.

He begins a conversation and infatuation strikes them both.

She is unconsciously attracted to his power stance and his take-charge air of authority. In short, he reminds her of her father, a no-nonsense, ruler-of-the-realm. You know, the one she could never please.

He protectively puts his arm around her; she nestles his head on his shoulder. Together they contemplate true love and happiness forever. Love? No, chemistry and infatuation!

We also seek an Imago who possesses traits of our “Denied Self.”

These are negative traits from our parents that we cannot bear to recognize in our own behavior.

Hendrix states, “The anger that is so unsettling in your partner was unconsciously chosen by you not only because it reminds you of your mother, but to substitute for the anger you cannot admit to in yourself. Your perception of that anger is at least in part a projection onto your partner of your own inadmissible anger.”

By choosing a partner with the traits we deny in ourselves such as compassion or aggression, we can be a whole person without having to take responsibility for aspects of ourselves that make us uncomfortable. We seek in another person those traits that have been buried and repressed in ourselves.

Romantic love or infatuation is really the “king of self-love.”

Infatuation stems from a desire for self-gratification, not love. Part of what we fall in love with is our lost or buried self.

In short, romantic infatuation is an illusion of being in love with another person. In reality, we are in love with our missing selves. We are seeking fulfillment of our expectations by what our mate/lover can give us through association.

We unconsciously want our parents back. We then strive to get the desired results we missed as children and make whole our lost or denied selves.

In other words, chemistry is quite insulting.

Other psychologists have added that at least part of infatuation is buried memories of the first times we had actual contact of a sexual nature, even a quick fondle behind the barn.

We all recall our first dance. As women, we remember the way his hair was combed back from his forehead and the way he held us kind-of close. As men, we remember the way she smiled so sweetly and how she felt in our arms. Long after names are forgotten, those memories become part of “chemistry” or infatuation.

Psychologists have said for years that behavior that is learned can be unlearned. However, most psychologists agree that the illusions that cause us to become infatuated are quite powerful and would not be easy to relearn.

Even if chemistry is actually insulting, it certainly feels good, and is probably in our life to stay! We’re in love with infatuation!


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