Limerence is a state that has been reinforced many times by a series of habits and by neurochemistry. It’s a pretty similar case for romantic obsession and celebrity parasocial relationships/celeb worship.
Obsession, addiction (to specific feelings) and emotional unavailability are at the heart of all three of them.
People always think they can never get over their object of limerence or romantic obsession etc. That reality feels and seems impossible to them. Because – they think – how can they ever get over this amazing (they really aren’t) person?
You absolutely can. I’m living proof of it.
First, it helps to understand the habit cycle and the neurochemistry that enables the obsession. Once that is done, consider these strategies below.
The first set of strategies are what I call moving away short-term strategies or cues, because whenever they occur, they act as triggers to move away from thoughts of your romantic/limerent obsession. The key thing here is you want to prevent yourself from
- Falling down the rabbit’s hole of endless rumination of them
- Stepping near that rabbit hole in the first place.
The key to healing is to remove every single trace of your romantic/limerent object (RO/LO) in your life. No thinking. No scrolling.
These triggers can come in various forms – music, food, specific places, photos etc. My triggers previously would be specific songs and social media. I needed Instagram for my business but everything about him was just some taps away on my screen. It was too tempting and whenever I did not have the willpower – tired, stressed, bored etc – I was there tapping away and down a rabbit hole I would fall.
In order to remove the associations you have with food, music etc and your limerent object, you need to break those associations by extinguishing them – consuming them less is one – or replacing them with new associations. Go with someone else to those food places and create new memories. Music is abit tricky because it’s usually a surefire way to rumination whenever that particular piece comes on. If you are unable to curb your thoughts, it’s best to abstain and not listen to that piece at all in the meantime until you are healed.
I will delve more into social media usage below. But in the meantime, be aware of your environmental triggers – write them down and make a plan to avoid all of them for now. Whenever you feel fear or reluctance or anxiety build up around letting go of these activities, try this one tip.
Curious how limerent you are and on which part of the healing journey you are on?
Boredom is a very big emotional trigger. When you are bored, your thoughts wonder, you also end up engaging in mindless activities like scrolling through social media or the internet, where you could very easily end up passively consuming media related to them.
What helps to beat boredom is having a bucket list of things to engage in when it sets in. It could be a mix of activities that are longer, ie, exercising or going for a walk or it could be just small ones like decluttering a tiny corner of your room or reading 2 pages of a book. Or chatting to a friend.
Anything that improves your quality of life, gets you more engaged with your own life and rediscover your interests is always a million times more productive than sitting around fantasising about someone you aren’t in a relationship with.
This seems to be a tragic consequence of modern living, there seem to be so many more people these days who are feeling empty in their lives, who are confused and lost, with little sense of purpose and not really liking the life that they lead. Emptiness is a sign of something deeper – a lack of connection with yourself and your life, or the people in it and not really having a sense of purpose or direction (If you are struggling with this, I’d like to say I understand as many clients have come to me with this and I can help you).
Emptiness also very easily leads to boredom and individuals latching onto habits and behaviour that doesn’t serve them well. This involves addiction, mindless activities like surfing the internet/social media/Netflix all day long and not engaging with their lives or taking care of themselves. Emptiness and mindlessness can very easily lead you down the rabbit hole of fantasy and latching onto people and playing out scenarios in your head – out of loneliness. This is especially seen with people who are also not very engaged with people in their lives and feel lonely alot of the time but are not willing to engage with others in real life.
Emptiness in life feels low energy and dreadful, and one way out of it is to work out your purpose in life as well as a bucket list of things you’d like to do and start giving yourself permission to do them.
Whenever we are stressed what do we do? We attempt to distract ourselves, to escape reality. Fantasy is a nice place to be in, it feels safe and comfy, it makes us happy. So when we feel like reality is too much, we escape into that fantasy. Alot of the time, escapism is normal and it’s fun and it energises us for reality – that involves escaping into art: writing, a good fiction book, dramas, movies etc.
When it starts to interfere with your life is when it starts to cross the line from normal coping behaviour to unhealthy habit. Think of those people who are constantly coping with their lives by drowning themselves in movies, TV and one mindless soap opera after another. Or people who are stressed and then whip out their phones to scroll through their instagram feeds. We all know someone like that. Some others cope by escaping into a fantasy land where only their RO/LO resides them and loves them and they imagine all these scenarios of how their lives together will play out. And down the rabbit hole one goes.
Stress is everywhere these days so it’s not productive to tell you to try your best to not feel stressed. The key is to know your stress triggers and have strategies in place to self-soothe. Strategies that don’t always involve escaping into a fantasy land with your RO/LO, as that only serves to reinforce and feed the habit cycle associated with limerence. It’s a path down to pain and madness.
Longer term strategies
Once you’ve got the triggers and cues down pat, it’s time to turn your attention to the longer-time strategies, the steps you can take to build a purposeful, engaged life that will see you live less in your fantasies and more in reality. It will make you feel alive.
Life purpose, goals
This is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing to work on for anybody existing on this planet, and even more so if you are constantly finding yourself in limerence for others or romantically obsessed with other people you can never have. Alot of people who come to me wanting to fight limerence and romantic obsession tend to be employed and live okay lives on the outside, but on the inside, many tell me they are bored, empty, they don’t feel fulfilled, they may be in relationships but don’t feel aligned with their partners, they feel their lives are worth nothing, they are afraid of growing old and they usually just live day to day not really engaging with themselves or the world out there.
So the most important you will start doing for yourself right now is to start crafting a life that you want to lead. Not the one society or conventional beliefs or “others” (aka your parents, teachers, peers, magazine articles etc) tell you that you should be living, the life that you want to lead.
This process doesn’t start overnight but as long as you are taking the first step, you are already on the path to success. Start out now by listing down things that you’ve always wanted to do. Don’t filter or let your idiotic inner critic talk you out of it. Just shut it up and list everything you want to do down, no matter how absurd it sounds.
Climb Mount Everest? Write it down. Become a fiction author? Write it down. Take up karate lessons at 45 years old? Write it down.
Then go item by item and do a quick search online – are there classes you see that interest you? Free demos? Social groups you can join? Articles with free ideas? What feels doable right now and would be something you don’t mind starting on? Then go out and do it!
When you start to build a life for yourself by getting curious about your needs, how you feel in the moment, your reactions to what is going on around you – you start to not only get more engaged about yourself, you start being led to people and activities and experiences that just make your life brighter. I’m speaking from experience, so do try it!
Building a social life
The second part of building a purposeful life is to look at the social connections that you have in your life right now.
Many people who suffer from limerence and romantic obsessions are very lonely people deep down, that crave connection and affection from others, but because of a myriad of reasons – they are unable to cross that bridge and properly connect with people.
Well it’s not too late at all. As part of building up your life, you will start building an amazing social life for yourself. I want to caveat here by saying that a social life means different things for different people. For some of us, it’s simply having 2 close friends to catch up with every other week. For others, it means going out on town and meeting someone new every week. So this is what you do:
- Reflect and examine deep down what you really define as a “meaningful” social life for yourself
- Examine the friendships and other personal relationships you have in your life right now. Are you engaging them in a way that you’d like? What is holding you back? Start taking steps to strengthen the relationships that you have always been longing to. Ask them out for coffee, send a text, meet up. Do something small but start doing it
- If you do not feel close to anyone in your life or are quite isolated, see if there is that one person whom you feel comfy with that you can start talking to a little more often
Not going down the social media slippery slope
I have ALOT of stuff to say about social media. On one hand, it has been one of the most interesting technological advances/discoveries in the recent decade, and if used in the “right” ways, they can really contribute to increasing the quality of our lives. I’ve found alot of great cafes, food places, hobbies, social groups and connected with so many like-minded people that wouldn’t have been possible without technology.
But. Social media has a very dark side as well and it’s no surprise that the rise of it has contributed to so many issues with people, particularly the youth these days. Body dysmorphia, increased levels of damaged self-esteem and self-worth, people chasing the fame/high-status lifestyle, an entire population of humans no longer being able to focus on much for long periods of time, superficial connections and the list goes on.
I honestly feel that the bad stuff about social media overrides the good stuff and many of us have
For limerents or people who get romantic obsessions easily, social media is a deep dark abyss with a one-way tunnel straight to obsession hell with no exits anywhere in this dingy tunnel and with the devil himself waiting on the other end.
It is the number one source of temptation that can be so incredibly difficult to break out of, because social media companies design these platforms with the sole person of keeping you constantly on it, by making use of gambling and addiction reinforcement tactics so that they can make more money off of you. In the process, your entire brain chemistry and pathways are completely altered and you are no longer the same person. It keeps you in this unconscious behavioural loop of wanting more and more content without ever really knowing why as the dopamine reward centres in your brain are on constant activation. It’s like being on a perpetual sugar high. Imagine that – you lose money, your precious time – hours that make up your life, your brain cells – literally, your emotions to these big corporations that know all these but willingly put millions of people through it, just for their own monetary gain.
Just let all of that sink in for abit.
For limerents and people who are inclined to romantic obsessions, it is a constant 24 hour tap where you can store folders of pictures and videos of your RO/LO, where you are able to dig infor on (aka stalk) the person across various profiles. All these things are so accessible and easily available and can be done in complete secrecy of your phone/laptop where no one else can see.
Previously, when we wanted information about someone, we either asked through the grapevine or we had to know them and talk to them to get infor. But now we don’t – there is a whole bunch of stuff about anyone out there and it can very easily lead limerents to believe that they know alot about their RO/LO (this is the case for many celeb worshippers) than truly is the case.
It’s a recipe ripe for disaster and pain. It traps you in this cycle of social media madness where you are on a constant dopamine high from the parasocial contact with your RO/LO.
How to beat it? If you are a moderator and think you can handle the consequences, go for it. But in this case, I recommend abstaining completely. Take it from someone (yes, me) who used to cyberstalk my RO/LOs and if it were a celeb in that case, I’d have folders of them saved on Pinterest boards and Instagram that I’d easily open and spend hours daydreaming whilst trying to get work done.
Everything was just a click or a tap away, far too dangerous as anytime my willpower was down or I was bored, there I would find myself down a rabbit’s hole staring at pictures and feeling the emotional highs and lows for hours after. Was all that worth it? No. No, none of it was worth it.
The other problem is the algorithms. You know how it all works, you’d easily be recommended stuff about your LO/RO that can start you spiralling again. So you need to reprogram it. I spent close to 2 weeks searching up different things on YouTube/Instagram before it started weeding out content concerning my RO/LO. And even then I’d still see the odd random photo – in those cases you need to exercise extreme willpower (I suggest doing these things when you aren’t tired/emotionally affected by something else in your life), and just click a “do not recommend” or “not interested” or straight up block the channel.
Yes all these sounds drastic and may be bringing up alot of defenses, fear and anxiety. But if you really want to stop being limerent or romantically obsessed with someone – you’ve got to really start doing things differently. Start building a life for yourself – a life you want and abstain from potentially unhealthy behaviour.
You’ve got this!
I know it sounds hard, but it can be done. It really can. I’m walking, living proof of it. Completely limerent-free, super engaged with my own life and friends and I’ve discovered a whole new me by letting go of romantic obsession. If I can do it, you can too.
If you find yourself still struggling with limerent or you find yourself set back by your actions, do know that help, support, guidance, a listening ear etc is here. Click on the picture below for a private coaching session – I will get you out of your limerence cycle – or DM me on instagram (@abstractedcollective) for more.
A better life awaits you. You just need to take that first step!