Additional Information on Chapter 3, page 29

Psychologist Robert Sternberg defines infatuation as passion without intimacy or commitment. Obsessive infatuation may be directed toward just about anyone-a character in a novel, a movie star, an entertainer, someone who is unavailable. If someone enjoys the feeling of the fantasy and is unconcerned with any grounding in reality, fine. It is a form of mental (and at times physical) masturbation, and, if you accept it for what it is and don’t demand more of it, The fantasy may be harmless enough. When, however, infatuation leads to relationship, every type of destructive bias is ready to spring. It is the most blinding of emotions, and, in the absence of friendship and commitment eventually causes far more torment than pleasure. Romeo and Juliet provide the ultimate example. I read through the play recently (never had before) and discovered that Romeo and Juliet’s passion for each other was based on exactly one day of interaction and they ended up killing themselves over it! It is likely that Romeo had serious anger-resolution issues; perhaps Juliet was a jealous co-dependent; perhaps they were entirely incompatible. Their final act, I modestly suggest, illustrates self-destructive behavior at its most extreme. So infatuation provides all the intensity of emotion, all the saccharine-sweet pleasure, but operates like the sirens of Homer’s Odyssey. Who often entice foolish sailors to their destruction.

Just because feelings are intensely emotional doesn’t mean that they are right. Let’s look at some examples: In the context of eyewitness testimonies, researchers compare the testimonies of witnesses with actual filmed accounts of the events they are attempting to describe. They find that those who express great certainty and emotional conviction about the accuracy of their perception, are no more likely to be correct than one who is very tentative in their opinion. I frequently ask my students: “When a speaker presents a position with great skill and intensity of emotion, is that perspective any more likely to be correct than someone who presents a position ineffectively and without emotion?” The simple answer “of course not” can be accepted by most. Hitler, Mussolini, Jim Jones, David Koresh all spoke with riveting effectiveness, but their messages led to destruction. Despite this simple knowledge, how many people are sucked in by an emotional presentation; whether the presenter is trying to sell them a car, convert them to their particular religious persuasion, or to assure them of their undying love? The simple reality is that, intense emotion is a deceiver and in the case of marriage often leads to 50yrs of quiet desperation.

Thumbnail Summation

What is it? Intense feelings of love directed toward another person that are not reciprocated

Who is the object of someone’s infatuation? Just about anyone is a possible target: a person you know, a person you don’t know, married or unmarried, available or unavailable, a public figure such as a music star, an actor, or an athlete. Infatuation may even go so far as to devote affection toward a fictional character in a book or someone who has already died.

Pitfalls of infatuation:

  • Huge expenditure of emotion and thought that is pretty much wasted
  • Disruption of productive life patterns
  • The intensity of emotion blinds one to objective reality
  • If acted upon infatuation can get one into a great deal of difficulty including (among others): an embarrassing rejection of your overtures, inappropriate or ill advised relationships, improper sexual contact, the destruction of existing relationships (when involved with someone who is married, for instance)
  • The negative emotions associated with infatuation typically overwhelm any positive emotions or actual benefit

Who is a likely victim? Victims are typically young people, people lacking a valid life perspective, people who are severely needy, people who have a high need for affection, people who do not weigh the consequences of their actions (by feeding and nurturing the infatuation), and many others.

Why does it occur? The need for human contact, human relationship, and human intimacy is built into us and is intense. In the absence of appropriate objects of affection (ones that can reciprocate) the easy route is to develop a mental/emotional obsession.

How do you overcome it?

  1. Get into a real relationship: Infatuation is based on a valid human need, so if one’s infatuation is feeding a need for romantic relationship then the answer is to get into a relationship with an appropriate person that can fulfill these needs in the context of reality.
  2. Don’t nurture it: develop alternative focuses. When infatuation grips you, choose to shift your attention elsewhere. If infatuation is not nurtured, in time, it will die a natural death.


  • Infatuation is passionate love without friendship or commitment (Robert Sternberg)
  • Foolish and usually extravagant passion or love or admiration (Wordnet)
  • Puppy love: temporary love of an adolescent (Wordnet)
  • An object of extravagant short-lived passion (Wordnet)
  • Infatuation is the state of being completely carried away by unreasoning passion or love; addictive love. Infatuation usually occurs at the beginning of a relationship. It is characterized by urgency, intensity, sexual desire, and or anxiety, in which there is an extreme absorption in another. (Wikipedia)
  • The act of infatuating; the state of being infatuated; folly; that which infatuates; An unreasoning love or attraction (Wiktionary)

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