The Anatomy of a Crush

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This month I’m writing about crushes. We’re talking about romantic crushes, not identity crushes based on admiration, or celebrity crushes based on a persona, or a role, someone has played.

I am a guy who is very susceptible to crushes. I crush hard, and fast. The latest one has been hanging on for six months. Let’s call him Ben. When I first met Ben he was just another cute straight guy. As I saw more of him he grew on me. I noticed he was on my mind a lot. I wondered what it would be like to kiss him. I had a crush.

For the most part crushes are harmless. But, what are they? What’s the difference between a crush and the intense feelings we experience at the beginning of a relationship?

The hallmark of the crush is projection. We create an idealized image of someone, then develop feelings for the person in our imagination. These projections often have little to do with the real person. We fall for our own idea.

As the intensity of my latest crush eased I had an interesting experience. I hadn’t seen Ben in a few weeks. In that time I built an ideal picture of him in my head that wasn’t accurate. A lot of the personality traits I imagined weren’t fitting either. I had feelings for someone, but it wasn’t him.

As a crush subsides it leaves room for a relationship with the actual person. The only thing you can do in the mean time is allow your feelings to be. Just remember they aren’t really about him.

A crush is pure brain chemistry “We activate dopamine, which ignites bliss-craving; oxytocin which triggers bonding; cortisol, which manifests in stress and anxiety; and adrenaline.” It’s a potent cocktail that sends your emotions soaring.

The same chemical soup gets stirred up in a new relationship. The difference is that in the case of New Relationship Energy, the feelings are about an actual person. Some of the idealization still goes on but the physical connection, the kisses, the sex, are all real.

The key to managing a crush is recognizing that the feelings are good, but that they come from inside. What you experience is based on a deep biological drive for pleasure. Resisting such a powerful drive is pointless. Far better to go for the ride recognizing that your on it.

Crushes tend to end suddenly. Sometimes with a great deal of pain. You can only sustain that level of intensity for so long. But, the crash has no more to do with the object of your attention than the crush did. Get some exercise. Talk to friend. Get yourself stable before you see him again.

Are crushes a problem? Usually not. Unless your crush is starting to veer towards obsession, or the feelings are getting negative or unmanageable, it will probably fade in a few months. If it feels overwhelming seek some advice from a counselor or therapist. If it seems balanced then ride it out and, by all means, enjoy the ride.

References :

Eva Hallstrom-Conkright, LCSW

Kathryn Cassibry