Poets have always seen romantic love as a form of madness.
Beginning with Freud, therapists have pronounced romantic love the goal of psychosexual development. They have extolled it and declared that we should all aspire toward it. Being in love has come to be considered the ultimate in mental health.
And yet, ask yourself this question: what are the four most frightening words you can hear from a woman?
I would suggest these: “But I’m in love.”
Researchers in the Netherlands and Maryland have recently discovered that the poets have a better grasp on the truth. They have demonstrated that true love compromises cognitive functioning.
Of course, it all depends on how much you value cognitive functioning.
For the record, the study looked at people who had just fallen in love, who were still in the first few months, the honeymoon stage of a relationship.
The Huffington Post reports the results without too much commentary, and that feels about right to me.
[Researcher] Steenbergen analyzed how 43 participants in new relationships (meaning less than six months) performed specific tasks, including separating relevant and irrelevant information. His results indicated that "high levels of passionate love of individuals in the early stage of a romantic relationship are associated with reduced cognitive control." In other words, participants were so consumed by thoughts of their beloved, their ability to concentrate and perform the tasks was diminished.
Steenbergen says the phenomenon may be attributed to how the brain allocates its limited resources. "It could be that the obsessive nature of passionate love imposes important constraints on performing well in tasks that require self-control." Meaning, if your brain is on overdrive thinking about love, it's less able to focus on other things.
Passionate love is obsessive and consuming. While it might not make you clinically insane, it will certainly preoccupy your mind and distract you from your job.
Perhaps that’s why great lovers never have great careers.