Saturday, December 17, 2016

Love, mental illness, and blind loyalty


If you’ve been in love, you’ve been mentally ill.

To avoid any quarrel, let’s agree that this statement is an exaggeration.

Dr. Frank Tallis wrote that the behavior of most lovers can qualify for the diagnoses of obsessional illness, depression or manic depression. In the book Love Sick : Love as a Mental Illness,  he noted that some common symptoms of love  like preoccupation with a loved person, tearfulness, and euphoria can be checked against the diagnostic criteria for mental illness.

In the Wall Street Journal website, Tara Parker-Pope published the article entitled Is It Love or Mental Illness ? They’re Closer Than You Think.  She reported about a brain study in which “love-struck participants showed a drop in serotonin levels similar to those with obsessive-compulsive problems.”

We may not agree that we had once acted like a lunatic. However, we may concur with neuroscience professor David J. Linden who said in the book The Compass of Pleasure that love can affect the judgment center of the brain. He observed that people in love see their adored ones as better, smarter and more good-looking than everybody else.

In many movies, I hear the leading man tell the love interest she’s “the most beautiful woman in the world” even though it's obvious to us that she's not even the most beautiful in the room. I have also been told once that I have “a face only a mother can love.“

Love that overpowers judgment can lead to blind loyalty.

Sometimes, we defend our favorite personalities, brand or organization with the same zeal, or even more fervor, as when we stand up for our partner or children. Many have the tendency to tune out to criticisms about their champion. When an expose comes up, we are quick to debunk it as a fabrication.

It is interesting how even intelligent  and usually credible people become selective of what they will believe in. Or speak about. Some of those who are loyal to death may be aware of the truth but would not change course. They would stay to protect their hero, or their own interests.

Bill George, in the famous book True North, narrated the true story of David Gergen, one of Richard Nixon’s speechwriters. Gergen grew up with strong values. When the Watergate scandal broke out, he chose to stay even after many among the White House staff have already quit. He admitted “My resignation would have made a public statement about my lack of belief in President Nixon’s integrity. So, I stayed and kept hoping against hope he was innocent.”

Even when he was finally convinced of Nixon’s guilt, he confessed he couldn’t leave lest he be seen as “a rat leaving the sinking ship.” He regretted that experience.

Blind loyalty can ruin a company. In related articles in this blog, I have written about how the devil’s advocate, a concept invented in Vatican, can protect an office from the dangers of groupthink.

Without advocating wrongdoing, I would like to suggest the use of love to keep an entrenched position in the hearts of people.

Today, it is not enough for a brand or a person to just be known, admired, preferred. You have to be loved.  Without love, one bad social media post can tear you down. When you are loved, people can be more forgiving. They can stay much longer before the scale tips.

At the beginning of this millennium, Saatchi & Saatchi Chairman Kevin Roberts proposed the concept of Lovemarks. He described “lovemarks” as the future beyond brands. It is about people having a strong emotional attachment to products, companies or people.

Citing examples like Harry Potter, Swiss Army, Harley Davidson, Coke, Apple, Nike and the like, he defined lovemarks as “brands that people talk about. These are brands that people will stay up all night for. These are brands that would cause riots if they were taken off the market. These are the brands which create a kind of madness –the madness we call Love.”

But marketeers and PR experts know that for a brand or a person to be loved, they must be authentic. They must be truly good inside, genuinely caring about other people’s welfare. 

In the book The Attention Economy, Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck advised that the “best way to get more attention is to give more attention.”

I would say the best way to get more love is to give more love.

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