Limerence can be understood as the feeling of first falling in love; the butterflies, the fantasies; the shared looks across crowded ballrooms usually seen in Romeo and Juliet. Or as one respondent calls it ‘uncommon potent eye contact’ .
The concept was pioneered by Tennov  to refer to a cognitive and emotional state of being emotionally attached to another person. Limerence is generally experienced involuntarily and has been described as a near-obsessive form of romantic love, featuring intrusive and obsessive thoughts .
Tennov’s work involved interviewing over 500 people on the topic of limerence. Limerent components involve: intrusive thinking about the limerent object (LO); acute longing for emotional reciprocation; fear of rejection, and; unsettling shyness in the LO’s presence .
Building on Tennov’s research, psychologists Wakin and Vo  are working toward categorising limerence as a mental illness , describing limerence as a necessarily negative, problematic and impairing state with clinical implications .
Willmott and Bentley  provide the most recent research into the lived-experience of limerence, linking key limerent themes to ‘an inclination to reintegrate unresolved past life(s) experiences and to progress to a state of greater authenticity’.
However, the current discourse does not reflect contemporary experiences of limerence and often reduces peoples lived-experiences to negative mental illness without further social context, which this series aims to provide.
On love and romance
All you need is love; but what exactly is it?
In the West, there are seven main types of love: romantic love; friendship and shared goodwill; parental love and an altruistic love for strangers, animals and nature; love of family and community; a playful and uncommitted love; a love out of duty, and; self-love .
Romantic love is a fluid social and cultural concept, and is widely under-defined, with most academics only able to agree that it is a human emotion . Aron et al.  suggest that romantic love is ‘a developed form of a mammalian drive to pursue preferred mates’. Novak writes that love is a longing, not for a relationship but what precedes it — romance isn’t about another person, but love itself .
It is the work of Tennov that this series wishes to build upon to argue that what precedes a relationship is limerence, and thus it is limerence that becomes the desired romantic element to love attachments. Limerence is a relationship with love itself, perpetuated by popular culture connotations of idealised romantic love.
The emotional phenomenon of romantic love is not separate from a sociological understanding, which adds a necessary political dimension. Goddens  writes that ‘love is actions that we show through a variety of ways so that other people feel freedom, democracy, tolerance, alive, adaptation, unity and happiness’. Further, love is not to be taken as a passive act that is simply just experienced. Love is reflexive, transformative and an ethical capacity crucial for justice work [10,11], as ‘justice is what love looks like in public’ .
To further understand love, romance and limerence the sociological imagination  must be used to understand the personal as political. Although love is an emotion felt internally, and is deeply personal, it has greater implications and external influences, which are only amplified by a globalised world.
Romantic love can be framed as a commodity, arguably a concept the populous are socialised to believe they need in order to be emotionally complete. Romantic love and limerence exist to serve the patriarchal capitalistic machine that continues to exert power over every aspect of personal life. Romantic love is intrinsically intertwined with personal identity and thus can dictate a variety of actions — from how people relate, to how people consume. Under capitalism, there is no such thing as a coincidence, this series seeks to explain a new limerent phenomenon, Idol Limerence, which — although felt as an intimate, personal emotion — is the direct result of parasocial relationship fostering as a means of marketing.
And poses the question; does that make the experience any less real?
Defining components of limerence
Tennov believes that limerence is a form of love, but that it differs from romantic love with the following key characteristics:
Acute longing for reciprocation
Fear of rejection
Unsettling shyness in the LO’s presence 
Further to this, limerence intensifies through adversity, obstacles, or distance, with the LO’s actions being viewed favourably by the limerent person with all negative aspects fading into the background . Intrusive thinking can involve a range of scenarios, played out as fantasies in the mind, though it must be noted that limerent fantasies are heavily rooted in reality, otherwise they are rendered unsatisfactory . As a result of this, all thoughts and events come back to the LO which begins to define all other experiences had by the limerent person .
Limerence is a state of sustained alertness where a huge amount of energy is spent in pursuit of a limerent goal. Of particular interest and relevance to this series is the concept of a ‘long LO fantasy’ which begins in the everyday world and climaxes with the attainment of the limerent goal. This is not a defining feature of limerence and can look different for each limerent person. Generally, LO fantasies occur in the instance of unrequited limerence, where vividly imagining reciprocation from the LO can bring transient relief .
Tennov found that limerence can physically be experienced as a sensation in the midpoint of the chest , not dissimilar to how some experience anxiety, or elation. General limerence lasts an average of 18 months, with unrequited limerence lasting decades. Worst case limerent scenarios result in the limerent person being a chronic underachiever, where limerence results in profoundly impacted personal relationships and ability to function as an active member of society.
Limerence: a necessarily negative state
On one end of the limerence, spectrum sits the work of Wakin and Vo  who have proposed the Wakin-Vo I.D.R model of limerence, and have sought to establish grounds for the scientific query of limerence. According to Wakin and Vo, limerence is an atypical form of love and is interrelated with obsessive-compulsive disorders and substance dependence .
The Wakin-Vo model, which is being validated as a means for clinical screening of limerence, frames limerence as consisting of three functional components:
1. Initiating force — pervasive longing for emotional reciprocation
2. Driving forces — intrusive and obsessive thinking, constant replaying and rehearsing, acute sensitivity to behavioural cues, strong tendency to over-interpret LO’s behaviors, strong fear of rejection by LO, situational barriers, and uncertainty.
3. Resultant factors — fluctuation in mood, feelings of ecstasy, feelings of depression, anxiety, cognitive coping strategies, shame/guilt, and impaired functioning 
Wakin and Vo believe that there has been a ‘multitude of misconceptions regarding the original concept of limerence’  in its interpretation across self-help books, addiction literature, popular magazines and internet sources. They identify the lack of a framework for understanding and identifying limerence in individuals, and as a result limerence is often misdiagnosed, or only partly-diagnosed as depression, generalised anxiety disorder, or OCD . From an incorrect diagnosis arises treatment for particular symptoms of limerence, rather than the root issue of limerence itself. The profile of the LO is still being examined to determine potential limerence triggers, but it is suggested that pre-disposers to limerence are akin to that of substance abuse, addiction and OCD .
The work of Wakin and Vo is vital for the understanding of limerence as a mental illness, which will result in better tools for working with limerent people. This article, however, will pose a critique of the dangerous reduction of a complex issue to a clinical mental illness that can lead to stalking, domestic violence, and crimes of passion .
Toward authenticity: the lived-experience of limerence
The most current research into limerence comes from Willmott and Bentley  who explored the lived-experience of limerence by collating written responses from six limerent people with a median age of 52.5. From this, a Limerence Trajectory has been proposed which ‘conceptualises the Limerent journey as relating to five super-ordinate themes or phases being: Ruminative Thinking, Free Floating Anxiety and Depression Temporarily Fixated, Disintegration of the Self, Reintegration of Past Life(s) Experiences and Toward Authenticity’ .
Though there is some overlap with the previous work of Wakin and Vo , Willmott and Bentley provide important insight into the lived-experience of limerence. Despite the number of respondents being small, the chosen method of receiving written responses resulted in a range of high-quality first-hand accounts which might have been entirely missed if another method was used. Willmott and Bentley noted that certain respondents opted to contribute in the form of letters and poetry , as a key theme of their findings was that the limerent journey was toward authenticity. This means that limerents have a strong desire to collate their journey into a coherent story , as ‘structured writing is potentially both in and of itself therapeutic’ .
Respondents each had their own unique limerence experiences, with three of particular interest to this article. Respondent 1 speaks of a journey toward self-actualisation, noting that limerence has lead to ‘a re-evaluation of my life’s purpose, an existential crisis of meaning which I’ve still yet to resolve’ . Further, respondent 2 differed from the rest of the group with their limerent fantasies being distinctly non-sexual , despite Tennov writing that “sexual attraction is an essential component of limerence […] the limerent [object] is a potential sex partner” . The most notable of the responses, and most relevant to this series, is the experience of respondent 6 who, at the time of the research, was in a limerent episode which was triggered without the physical presence of an LO . This limerent episode occurred through the use of online communication and appears to be the only reported instance of non-physical limerence to date.
The importance of Willmott and Bentley’s research comes from the addition of toward authenticity in their Limerence Trajectory . Limerence can be viewed, and experienced, as the opportunity to allow more authentic parts of one’s (often repressed) personality greater access to conscious living . Through the limerent experience comes greater reflection through rumination and analysis of factors which lead to the limerent episode.
A limited view, for now
At this point, it is important to note the limitations of the current research into limerence. Due to the nature of limerence being deeply personal, full of shame and guilt, it has been hard to firstly locate people experiencing limerence, and second, get them to participate in qualitative research. Due to this, it becomes hard to gauge how common limerence is, as for the time being it has been limited to a small corner of the internet. It must also be said that the median age of respondents being 52.5 means that these forums in which they were found are not populated by young people. Young people, who would arguably, have a very different experience of limerence. Especially due to the rise in technology and its effects on how society and in particular, young people, communicate and relate.
In the words of Willmott and Bentley, there has been a limited commentary on the topic , and the existing work has a small reach both academically and in the public sphere. Perhaps this in part due to the highly clinical, psychological nature of Wakin and Vo’s  paper, which leaves no room for positive limerence experiences. Nor does their work frame limerence as part of a larger socio-cultural-political issue, a highly problematic way to discuss a ‘necessarily negative’ cognitive disorder as it leaves those experiencing limerence with no ability to work with their own condition. Further, the serious negative connotations surrounding limerence can result in the disempowerment of experiencers, which leads to a smaller pool of respondents, and human beings feeling lost amongst a sea of clinical jargon.
The biggest issue of all, however, comes from the wording of limerent object which perpetuates the objectification of the individual on the receiving end of limerence. This article would like to propose that instead of the use of limerent object, those writing about limerence should work toward the use of limerent focus, moving away from objectification and toward a better understanding of the limerence experience. As when limerence is framed as a transformative, highly motivational force, it need not always apply to a single human being. Rather, a limerent focus can be any source of inspiration ruminatively analysed and, often obsessively, revisited by the person experiencing limerence. From this point, we may begin to better envisage limerence as more than a mental illness, and often times a highly common emotional and cognitive state of active manifestation, motivation, inspiration and transformation. For with empowerment comes healing and the potential end of limerence as a necessarily negative state.
Click here for the next part in this series: Persona as Face — Persona as Fantasy
About this series: An Introduction to Idol Limerence and BTS
Limerence is a cognitive and emotional state of loving adoration toward another person . Limerence is experienced as intrusive, invasive and all-consuming [1,2,3]. Some have described it as a necessarily negative state , and others have described it as transformative . It is argued that limerence is inherently romantic and that romance is being in love with love itself . Therefore, it is limerence that precedes a relationship, and the desired element of romance perpetuated by mass-culture since the release of the first novel .
The novel and the concept of the modern constructed biography  provides an important sociological perspective to further understanding limerence as more than personal, as it’s highly political . Persona as a social mask is rooted in fantasy , as is limerence, both of which create the other in negative and positive ways. Persona is an important element to understanding both limerence, and the idol.
K-pop (Korean Pop) idols, and in particular BTS (K-pop Group), not only represent all that is potentially wrong with capitalism, but hold immense social and cultural power which can be used to positively shape society. Parasocial relationships are intentionally, and otherwise, fostered in fans of K-Pop which result in one-sided true-love relationships with idols. Parasocial relationships can also be understood as idol limerence.
Idol limerence results in an all-powerful fan base, as shown with examples of BTS’s ARMY, which drives the immense success of its idols. BTS, in particular, are in a unique position, under the leadership of Kim Namjoon, to be revolutionaries. However, idols are not immune to capitalism and are both powerful and powerless at the same time.
Fans of BTS regularly share their lived-experience of limerence online through personal essays, artwork, fan fiction and the asking of questions on forums. By using their work and questions we can start to match their experiences to the key components of limerence as outlined by Tennov , Wakin and Vo  and Willmott and Bentley . Through this, it can be shown how fans are already working through their own experiences toward a state of Insperence, where the negative feelings of limerence are transformed, as are those experiencing it.
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