Falling in love

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Albert Schröder - Musikalische Unterhaltung (circa 1885).

In romantic relationships, falling in love is the concept of moving from a feeling of neutrality towards a person to one of love.


The use of the term "fall" comes from a common metaphor that equates becoming in love with the act of falling. The metaphor emphasis that the process is in some way uncontrollable and risky - as in the phrases "to fall ill" or "to fall into a trap" - and that it leaves the lover in a state of vulnerability.[citation needed]

It may also reflect the importance of the lower brain centers in the process,[1] which can lead the rational, accounting brain to conclude (in John Cleese's words) that "this falling in love routine is very bizarre....It borders on the occult".[2]

Factors: mental and chemical[edit]


"Factors known to contribute strongly to falling in love include proximity, similarity, reciprocity, and physical attractiveness",[3] while at the same time, the process involves a re-activation of old childhood patterns of attachment.[4] Deep-set psychological parallels between two people may also underpin their pairing-bonding,[5] which can thus border on mere narcissistic identification".[6]

Jungians view the process of falling in love as one of projecting the anima or animus onto the other person, with all the potential for misunderstanding that can involve.[7]


Two chemical reactions associated with falling in love are increases in oxytocin and vasopressin;[8] and Elisabeth Young-Bruehl has suggested that "when we fall in love we are falling into a stream of naturally occurring amphetamines running through the emotional centres of our very own brains".[9] With regard to sociobiology, it is stressed that mate selection cannot be left to the head alone[10] and must require complex neurochemical support.[11]

Critics of such Neo-Darwinism point out that over-simplistic physical arguments obscure the way sexual passion often leads not to secure attachment but to attachments thwarted, as well as the sheer frightening difficulties of all falling in love.[12]

Biologist Jeremy Griffith suggests that people fall in love in order to abandon themselves to the dream of an ideal state (being one free of the human condition).[citation needed]


Stendhal charted the timing of falling in love in terms of what he called crystallization - a first period of crystallization (of some six weeks)[13] which often involves obsessive brooding and the idealisation of the other via a coating of desire;[14] a period of doubt; and then a final crystallization of love.[15]

Empirical studies suggest that men fall in love earlier than women and women are quicker to fall out of love than men.[16]

Spiritual value[edit]

While some consider falling in love to be the nearest approach to a spiritual experience possible for the non-religious,[17] others say its loss of ego boundaries is merely a temporary phenomenon which has little to do with, or may even block, spiritual development.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape Trilogy p. 387
  2. ^ R. Skinner/J. Cleese, Families and how to survive them (1994) p. 13
  3. ^ R. Crooks/K. Baur, Our Sexuality (2010) p. 223
  4. ^ Robert M. Gordon, An Expert Looks at Love, Intimacy and Personal Growth (2008) p. xiv-v
  5. ^ Robin Skynner/John Cleese, Families and how to survive them (London 1994) p. 14
  6. ^ Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, Where Do We Fall When We Fall in Love? (2003) p. 20
  7. ^ Carl Jung, Man and his Symbols (1964) p. 191
  8. ^ S. Kuchinskas, The Chemistry of Connection (2009) p. 88-9
  9. ^ Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, Where Do We Fall When We Fall in Love? (2003) p. 20
  10. ^ Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (London 1996) p. 4
  11. ^ R. Crooks/K. Baur, Our Sexuality (2010) p. 186
  12. ^ Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, Where Do We Fall When We Fall in Love? (2003) p. 5
  13. ^ Eric Berne, Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy (1961) p. 245
  14. ^ R. J. Sternberg/K. Weiss, A New Psychology of Love (2013) p. 125-8
  15. ^ I. A. Mabergoj, Reality and Truth in Literature (2013) p. 174
  16. ^ E. R. Smith/D. M. Mackie, Social Psychology (2007) p. 420
  17. ^ J. Bailey/J. V. Bailey, Slowing Down to the Speed of Love (2004) p. 50
  18. ^ M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled (London 1990) p. 94-5

Further reading[edit]