What is a “Fan”?
A “fan” is someone who sees something in someone else that they admire and to which they are overwhelmingly drawn.
They see the object of their admiration as someone who is above the rest of us.
The word “fan” comes from the word “fanatic”, which means a person who expresses “extreme zeal, piety, etc.; goes beyond what is reasonable; zealot” (according to yourdictionary.com)
What is a zealot?
Being a zealot “implies extreme or excessive devotion to a cause and vehement activity in its support” (again, from yourdictionary.com).
What is the Difference Between Being a “Fan” (i.e. Zealot) and Being “In Love”?
According to freedictionary.com being “in love” means “deeply or passionately enamored”.
So what does “enamored” mean?
Freedictionary.com says it’s “foolish or unreasoning fondness”. Hmm, sounds a lot like “excessive devotion” doesn’t it? In fact, one of the words used to describe “devotion” is “zeal”!
One of the things I’ve learned about “fans” from clients who are public figures is that “fans” cannot see the object of their zeal as human beings. Fans tend to project attributes to the object of their zeal that are super human. They expect the object of their zeal to be perfect and incapable of anything less than kind, loving, mature, and “godlike” behavior.
So if being a fan is identical to being “in love”, what does that say about the “in love” state?
When we are “in love” we are really incapable of seeing the object of our “excessive devotion” as anything less than perfect. We attribute them with “godlike” qualities, just like a fan does. We expect them to be everything we need them to be.
We expect them to live up to our every expectation and display superhuman qualities. We blind ourselves to their imperfections or we dismiss them as unimportant. Our tendency is to see the object of our “excessive devotion” with eyes that filter out their flaws.
Have you ever known someone who was “in love” with someone that you could clearly see was bad news? Their “excessive devotion” prevented them from being able to clearly see the other person.
What then is the impact this has on our “relationship” with the object of our “excessive devotion”?…
Being “In Love” is Not the Same as Being in a Relationship
In fact, as with a fan, when you are “in love” there is not really a relationship yet! There is potential for a relationship, but being “in love” is not yet a relationship.
In my experience, being “in love” is a kind of hypnotic state. We transfix our attention on someone so wholeheartedly that we hypnotize ourselves into seeing what we want to see in the other person. That doesn’t mean that this other person doesn’t really have many great traits, but it does mean that we can only see what we want to see in this state.
And it feels really good to be the object of this kind of adoration. Ask any rock or movie star, they love the zeal of their fans. It’s what motivates them even through periods of slumps in their careers.
The feeling of being adored is addictive. We love that feeling and want to keep it. Often this is why people rush to get married before the “in love” state wanes. It’s an altered state that feels exciting; the zeal feels wonderful.
Being “In Love” is Not the Same as Being Intimate
But being in the “in love” state is not the same thing as intimacy. Intimacy literally means: “in to me see”. Being “in love” requires not really seeing the other person, but instead seeing what you want to see, in the same way a fan sees the object of their zeal.
Intimacy is a process that takes time and courage.
It takes letting down walls and revealing both appealing truths about oneself and the unappealing ones. And more importantly it requires a willingness to see the other’s true self.
When we are “in love” we avoid seeing what we don’t want to see. In intimacy we strive to know more about our partner, we risk that we will see things we don’t like. With intimacy we allow our partner to be flawed, and still loveable. With intimacy we allow ourselves to be seen, trusting that we are loveable even with all our foibles.
The “in love” “fan” state cannot tolerate this kind of reality. “Excessive devotion” cannot exist when our vision is no longer clouded with illusions.
In order to become intimate we have to become disillusioned. We have to lose the illusions we maintain in order to be “in love”.
Then we can experience intimacy and a deeper, inclusive kind of love that allows our partner (and ourselves) to be imperfect.