Tag Archives: psychoanalysis

Isn’t It Romantic?

16 Jan

CF3611My father-in-law is a psychoanalyst. He’s a highly educated, brilliant man, holding both a Ph.D. and an M.D. He’s been practicing in his field for over 30 years, has written countless papers, as well as a couple of books. He can spend, literally, an entire day in deep discussion about the differences between embarrassment and shame, or about the debilitating effects society suffers from shyness. But what he really loves talking about, what truly gets his imaginative and creative juices flowing, is romance.

Now, to be fair, the way he thinks about romance isn’t necessarily the same way as how many of us think of it. Traditional romantic associations – roses, chocolates, bubble baths, quiet dinners for two – aren’t at all what he’s interested in. Instead what he wants to talk about is how those things make us feel. Why they arouse such emotions. If a cute guy brings you flowers, do you blush? Are you flattered? Aroused? Excited? Happy? Is the surfacing of those emotions the essence of romance? In other words, what exactly is romantic?

Once when I was visiting my in-laws, my father-in-law plopped down in front of me (I could already sense he was in for a long spell) because he wanted to have a discussion about romance. He’d been thinking about it a lot and was wondering why I felt certain things are romantic. Poverty, for example. Say, what? Poverty? Indeed, poverty has often been portrayed in a romantic way. The picture I chose for this post I felt was a perfect example of his point. It’s by an artist named Thomas Kennington and is called The Pinch of Poverty. But it certainly has a romantic element to it. The sweet face of the litle girl, the shine of the rainy sidewalk, the loving way the mother cradles her baby. But the artist is portraying poverty for gosh sakes. Why would anyone call that romantic? And if they do, why?

Exploring what is or isn’t romantic doesn’t have to delve into non-traditional territory. Let’s take candles, for example. The lights are low, and candles glow. Romantic, right? But, as my father-in-law would kindly, yet persistently probe, why? Why are candles romantic? Is it just that the dim lighting flatters our physical features? I would venture to say no. The emergence of romantic feelings aren’t caused soley by vanity.

The definition of the word romantic includes the following;

1. of, pertaining to, or of the nature of romance; characteristic or suggestive of the world of romance: a romantic adventure.
2. fanciful; impractical; unrealistic: romantic ideas.
3. imbued with or dominated by idealism, a desire for adventure, chivalry, etc.
4. characterized by a preoccupation with love or by the idealizing of love or one’s beloved.
5. displaying or expressing love or strong affection.
Those are a whole lotta definitions that haven’t really helped me reach any conclusions. However, I give credit to Papu (as we affectionately call him) for making me think about romance in new and different ways. Feelings, emotions – and the reasons behind them – play an important role as I outline a story. And when I’m writing, I keep Papu’s questions in mind as I take myself, and my characters, on their romantic journey.
Happy Hump Day, everyone!
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