A Psychoanalytic Take on Valentine's Day: Love, Loss, and Self-Reflection
Valentine's Day can trigger a host of complicated emotions, especially for those struggling in relationships
Psychotherapist Simina Simion explores love from a psychoanalytic position
Valentine's Day is celebrated as a time of love and connection, and can be criticised as being superficial and commercial, often depicted in shades of red and pink, adorned with hearts and roses. However, the emotions it stirs go far beneath the surface, touching deeper psychological themes that resonate with everyone, whether we are in a relationship or not.
According to Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, love is a multifaceted force deeply rooted in the unconscious mind. Freud's exploration into the nature of love reveals how our earliest attachments and hidden desires shape the way we love as adults (Freud, 1905/1953). He suggested that these unconscious elements influence our choices in love, from whom we are attracted to how we express our affection.
Learning to love: The role of early relationships
Our journey to love begins in the cradle. Freud posited that our earliest relationships with parents and caregivers lay the groundwork for a "love map" that guides us throughout life (Freud, 1905/1953). This phenomenon, known as transference, implies that in seeking love in adulthood, we are often in search of something familiar, a reflection of the love we first experienced. It's a common observation that people tend to choose partners who bear resemblances to their parents, indicating the profound impact of our first attachments on our choices of love objects in later life.
As we navigate the seas of love, understanding this pattern can help us to appreciate the origins of our deepest affections and the unconscious criteria that draw us to our partners.
The dance of love and ambivalence
Freud unveiled a truth about love that might seem paradoxical at first glance: all love relationships harbour ambivalent feelings (Freud, 1912/1955). While we consciously cherish and adore our partners, parents, or children with what appears to be undiluted affection, beneath the surface, in the realm of the unconscious, exists a complex mixture of emotions. Alongside love, there are undercurrents of negative, even hostile feelings.
Freud's recognition of this duality within love relationships reveals that experiencing mixed emotions towards loved ones is a natural part of the human condition, not a sign of a flawed relationship. On Valentine's Day, as we celebrate love, acknowledging this complexity can deepen our understanding of the relationships we cherish.
The union of souls: Internalisation and love
Freud's concept of internalisation reveals the depth of our connections in love (Freud, 1921/1955). He observed that the traits, beliefs, and emotions of those we love become an integral part of our own psyche. This process underlines the profound sense of unity and identification we feel with our loved ones, to the extent that we often think of them as extensions of ourselves, our "better halves."
On Valentine's Day, when we celebrate the bonds of love, it's a moment to reflect on how those we love shape who we are, influencing our thoughts, feelings, and perspectives on the world.
The other side of the coin
However, the emphasis on romantic love and companionship during Valentine's Day can also bring to light feelings of loneliness, loss, and longing. For some, this day serves as a poignant reminder of what might be missing or what has been lost. The societal focus on romantic partnerships can amplify feelings of isolation for those who are single, grieving, or facing challenges in their relationships.
It's important to recognise and validate these emotions. They are a natural response to the circumstances and experiences unique to each individual's life journey. Acknowledging these feelings is the first step towards understanding and coping with them in a healthy way. It's a moment to reflect on our emotional needs, to seek support, and to find comfort in the knowledge that it's okay to feel a range of emotions on Valentine's Day.
Making Valentine's Day your own
Ultimately, how we choose to observe Valentine's Day is deeply personal. Whether it's a day of romantic celebration, a time for cherishing friends and family, or a moment for self-reflection and care, what matters most is that it aligns with our own needs and desires. Making Valentine's Day our own means embracing it in a way that feels authentic and meaningful, free from societal expectations or pressures.
For some, this might mean gathering with friends for a "Galentine's" celebration, focusing on the joys of friendship. For others, it might be a day of solitude and self-care, a time to recharge and reflect. And for many, it's an opportunity to express love and appreciation for the special people in their lives, in whatever form that takes.
As we celebrate this day, let's remember that love, in its essence, is about connection, compassion, and understanding. It's about recognising the value of our relationships, caring for ourselves and others, and finding joy in the bonds that connect us.
In embracing the full spectrum of emotions that Valentine's Day can evoke, we open ourselves to a richer, more nuanced understanding of love. We learn to appreciate the beauty of connection, the strength found in solitude, and the power of compassion. This Valentine's Day, let's celebrate love in all its diversity, making it a day of genuine connection, personal reflection, and heartfelt celebration.
It’s clear that navigating the terrain of love can be both rewarding and challenging. In the spirit of Valentine's Day and with a deep understanding of the intricate dynamics of love, I am delighted to extend a special offer to those who wish to explore the depths of their relationships through psychotherapy.
For a limited time, I am offering the opportunity to engage in relationship-focused psychotherapy at a special rate of only £40 per session, allowing individuals to book six sessions at this low rate. This offer is designed to support individuals in exploring and enhancing their relationships, providing a pathway to deeper connection, and understanding.
Freud, S. (1905/1953). Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality. In J. Strachey (Ed. & Trans.), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 7, pp. 125-243). London: Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1905)
Freud, S. (1912/1955). On the Universal Tendency to Debasement in the Sphere of Love. In J. Strachey (Ed. & Trans.), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 11). London: Hogarth Press.
Freud, S. (1921/1955). Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. In J. Strachey (Ed. & Trans.), The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud (Vol. 18). London: Hogarth Press.