Sexual attraction is notorious for obliterating common sense and intuition in the most sensible people.
Why? Lust is a symptom of infatuation, where we are intensely turned on by someone and idealize him or her without seeing the real person. It usually takes off fast and burns out quickly. Lust is an altered state of consciousness programmed by the primal urge to procreate.
Studies report that the brain in this phase is much like a brain on drugs. MRI scans illustrate that the same area lights up when an addict gets a fix of cocaine as when a person is experiencing lust. Our brains are playing tricks on us that override logic. We get a huge surge of dopamine which activates the pleasure centers in the brain.
To sustain this high, we may go to unhealthy extremes to keep the person in our lives. Wrongly, we may interpret the dopamine surge as “I found my soul mate.”
One patient insightfully revealed about a pattern she wants to break, “I have become attached to inconsistent men when lust is the main ingredient.” However, dopamine requires novelty. It typically wears off when we get used to each other. At that point, infatuation either ends or evolves into a real relationship based on love, passion, and reality or perhaps simply a nice friendship.
In the beginning of a relationship, when sex hormones are raging, lust is fueled by projection and idealized infatuation—we see what we want to see, we make someone into what we imagine them to be. We exaggerate their virtues and downplay their flaws rather than scrutinizing whether the person is actually available. There’s nothing wrong with the lust of infatuation—it can be beautiful and fun as long as we recognize it for what it is.
If we want a soul mate—not simply a hot affair—we would do well to memorize the difference between lust and love.
Pure lust is based on physical attraction, dopamine intoxication, and fantasy. It often dissipates when the “real person” surfaces. It is conditional, triggered, for instance, by a person’s appearance or status in the world.
In contrast, true love requires time to get to know each other, though we can feel lust during this important phase, too. We fall in love with someone’s soul along with their body. True love is based on bonding, respect, and commitment. Infatuations are easily replaceable; true love isn’t.
Here are signs to differentiate lust from love so we don’t blindly give our hearts to unavailable people.
Signs of lust:
>> The main focus is on a person’s looks and body.
>> We are primarily interested in sex.
>> We would rather keep the relationship on a fantasy level, not discuss real feelings.
>> We want to leave soon after sex rather than cuddling or eating breakfast together.
>> Our gut may say, “Danger. Getting involved doesn’t feel safe.”
>> We are lovers, but not true friends.
Signs of love:
>> We want to spend quality time together other than sex.
>> We get lost in conversations and forget about the hours passing.
>> Our gut is comfortable, relaxed, affirming “Go for it. Good things are ahead.”
>> We want to honestly listen to each other’s feelings, make each other happy.
>> He or she motivates us to be a better person.
>> We want to be involved in each other’s lives.
Soul connections don’t happen every day. When we find one, be grateful. They are gifts. Accept them graciously. The love we’ve been wishing for is here.
If we’re distressed that we haven’t found a soul mate yet, ask for patience and clarity. Keep surrendering the ego and expanding the heart. Keep looking into each other’s eyes and don’t stop, even during turmoil.
Let soul relationships teach us about trust and faith and the ecstasy of love.
These are the true secrets of the universe.
The above is adapted from The Ecstasy of Surrender: 12 Surprising Ways Letting Go Can Empower Your Life Harmony Books, 2014 by Judith Orloff, MD.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Guenevere Neufeld / Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Pixoto / Christina Nguyen