A MARRIAGE OF TRUE MINDS

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come:

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

This is a famous sonnet by Shakespeare. This comment is sparked by the general theme of love and by the word 'impediments'. In love let us not admit 'impediments'.

What is an impediment?

1 That which hinders or impedes; an obstruction. 2 an organic hindrance to easy speech; a stammer. 3 Law Anything that prevents the contraction of a valid marriage. -absolute impediment Law A condition which makes it impossible for a person to contract a valid marriage. - prohibitive impediment Law A condition under which person who have contracted marriage are subject to punishment of having done so. - relative impediment..

synonyms: bar, barrier, clog, difficulty, encumbrance, hindrance, obstacle, obstruction. Difficulty makes the undertaking not easy. That which rests upon one as a burden is an encumbrance. A hindrance(kindred with hind, behind) is anything that makes one come behind or short of his purpose. An impediment(literally, that which checks the foot) may be either what one finds in his way or what he carries with him;....... The tendency is to view an impediment as something constant or, at least for a time, continuous; as, an impediment to one's speech. A difficulty or a hindrance may be either within one or without; a speaker may find difficulty in expressing himself, or difficulty in holding the attention of retless children.

What is love?

Like the sonnet this is about love. I think the sonnet, as a whole, tells us something central and enduring about love. I will not claim to redefine love but to parse out something central to it. Shakespeare's sonnet captured, especially in the first line and a half, what will take me several pages to state and that is the basic psychology of love.

I will start by saying that he starts out being rhetorical by saying that love does not admit impediments. I believe the rest of the sonnet proves his real point. What is that? It is that love does admit to impediments. There would, in fact be nothing to love, without impediments. Is not the object of our desires a problem to be solved? Must I not win, sway, keep the attention of the other? Is it not very much work? What are we working on?

There are two great issues and they are 1) what is taking place within us when we love? And 2) if we have a clearer idea of what is taking place then might we be better able to address what a relationship is?

For help in both, but especially the first, I turn to the psychological work of Silvan S. Tomkins.

In order to get to see the sonnet, then, as a whole, I need to invite you to consider the thought of Tomkins. From there we might have a common language on which to base a discussion of love and impediments and from that what enduring love is no matter the type of relationship. Certainly a great task but I think with the help of the Bard and Tomkins I will have to say little.

A major premise is that feeling is innate. Tomkinss calls innate feeling 'affects'. So we are born with them. We do not learn them. They do not come from experience. They are distinct from one another. Any one can follow any other one. They are divided into Positive, Negative and Neutral

Positive Affects : Neutral Affect: Negative Affects:

Interest Surprise Anger

Joy Fear

Distress

Disgust

Dissmell

Shame

Why should we believe there are nine innate affects? The story goes that Silvan S. Tomkins was home with his son. He noted that a child could have facial expression that we as adults attribute emotions to. We say a child is angry, happy, hungry, agitated? He started to note, like Darwin did previously, that facial expression was reproducible. He later took many photographs of babies faces and found that there are only nine characteristic expressions on the face. This is a premise that I ask you just to accept at this point and see where it takes us.

So think about why the child can smile or be distressed or angry when he has so little experience and memory yet think about the very fact that these characteristic expressions will never be so distinct and clear as they are in infancy. The thought is that if we all smile in a characteristic way then the muscles must be connected to nerves and the nerves to some type of 'happy' center in the brain, so too for all the other 8 feelings.

So what does a babies face have to do with anything? My premise and Tomkins' is that it has everything to do with the entirety of our lives. If we are born with biological feeling. amd we are not born with any memories or 'thoughts' then: We feel before we think! We will then think about how we feel. It becomes vital, then, how others resonate with us. It can become bizarre. I 'feel' happy but mommy is angry every time I am happy. Does happy mean anger? If I am angry and mommy gets angry what does it mean? If I am distressed and mommy is happy what does it mean?

We start to have memories of these times. We start recognizing patterns. I feel this and mommy or daddy does that. As you can see we are quickly exposed to many combinations, from parents or others. It is indeed scarily arbitrary and accidental much of the time.

I believe that each significant memory then is associated with other memories. We begin to group 'scenes'. Scenes are either 'bad' or 'good'. All scenes are associated with what we where feeling at that time. If, then, this was downloaded from the internet we can remember a scene we will remember how we felt. We can usually all remember our first memory.

Was that a good scene? or was it a bad scene?

Did it go:

Good ----> Good?

Good ---> Bad?

Bad ---> Good?

Bad ----> Bad?

OR:

Good ----> Good?---> Good?

Good ---> Bad?----> Good?

Bad ---> Good?----> Bad?

Bad ----> Bad?----------Bad?

It may seem odd ,but, it seems, that as we clump scenes together we start associating sequences. We build memory and what does memory do? It gives us the ability, for one, to project into the future. I feel good now... what will I feel like in 15 minutes.. Tomorrow??

So we have: Biological centers in the brain that are the following:

Positive Affects : Neutral Affect: Negative Affects:

Interest Surprise Anger

Joy Fear

Distress

Disgust

Dissmell

Shame

These are stimulated in various ways. Intensity of the response varies. We can respond with various combinations, but each 'affect' or feeling is discreet. Any memory becomes attached to a feeling. Remembered feelings are always attached to a scene. Similar scenes clump together. We develop habitual ways of responding to these sets of scenes.

I am in a relationship. There is an object of my desire. But all is not always well with the world.

So think of one of the nine feelings.

Now think of the object of your desire doing something that is problematic. Which of the above would you feel? Now think what someone else would feel. Obviously your first impulse would be to say they feel the same as you. I ask people daily and I get all nine answers. Someone gets interested in the problem another says they would be angry. The right nine people in a room would have one of nine different expressions on their face. You are angry yet someone else is smiling and you are confused. You have to ask them why they are smiling but it seems that once you ask them and they tell you all becomes clear. You never know what a person is remembering or feeling until you ask. Of course the face tells you a lot but adults can be very good at masking the true expression so you really have to ask.

So this little exercise is to show the logical sequence of what I am getting at. It is NOT simple STIMULUS RESPONSE. Action by the desired object and response of maybe yelling at them. It is always, action by other then-------> one of the nine feelings, or combination there of, at various intensities and then I do something. The stimulus stimulates an 'ideo- affective' complex, which is simply to say that it recruits memory of like situations and what I am supposed to feel about them. Based on this I do something.

What do I do when I feel confused, especially confused with my lover or mate? When we look at the list of nine feelings we can see that there are only two 'positive' feelings with surprise being more a pivot point to any other feeling rather than really positive of negative. Of Interest and Joy, Interest is really our 'tool' for doing anything.

What is wrong with much of any relationships? Well, it seems to me what is wrong with much of life is that our INTEREST gets interrupted on all kinds of levels. I am talking to you and someone interrupt's me. I go home and find my wife in bed with someone. In each case I have been interested in something; talking to you and my wife. In each case my interest has been impeded. I feel what? I think I feel 'hurt'? 'Confused'? "I feel bad'? What do I do when I feel hurt, confused or bad? What do you do?

We think you can reduce our options to five ways of handling ANY moment and they are: I feel hurt and I:

1) Withdraw

2) I blame myself for the situation

3) I do something to cover up the hurt

4) I attack others

Or

5) I solve the problem:

I solve the problem (the problem of my hurt) by:

1) Defining it

2) Evaluating it

3) Moderating it

4) Controlling it

If I :

1) Withdraw

2) Blame myself for the situation

3) Do something to cover up the hurt

4) Attack others: I will feel worse and often worse means feeling guilty.

If I solve the problem of feeling hurt by:

1) Defining the hurt

2) Evaluating it

3) Moderating it

4) Controlling it

I then feel a sense of PRIDE and can continue on with my old interest or a new one.


  • A short viedo will download but might take a minute depending on your connection.

  • I hope by now some might see how all of our actions can fit into this system and it is then easy to see people as reacting in these ways in degrees of INTENSITY rather than people really being different or that there is some mysterious cause for their actions.

    With this under our belt we can turn to the poem with the hope for a clearer understanding of it.

    Let me not to the marriage of true minds

    In terms of the vocabulary and definitions now built up what might be the 'marriage of true minds'? Could we not say that they are minds that are, at base, Interested in each other? Interest in another? Such a statement that is taken so much for granted! Without interest we are nothing. I have come to think of Interest as our basic 'default' emotion. It seems it must be. Interest is the background to everything. There is some discussion about a state sans affect but it does not concern me here, as it would seem that self-preservation must demand a background of vigilance and thus interest.

    Fine and good, so why should we mind about others then? This is a great question and we certainly do not have all the answers but what we do know is fairly impressive. For one we know that we have a specialized system in our hardwiring, in our nervous system, for recognizing the human face. A baby scanning a room without a person is a much different room form one with a person in it. We are born, however it happens, with the ability to recognize others. What does the face have on it? It has expressions. There is also evidence, from working with stroke victims, that there are many gradations of recognizing differences in facial expressions. So for us to recognize another's interest in us is a very special thing. So special that I think it can never be forgotten. It after all happens so infrequently in our lives, that someone was truly interested in ME. Often we are fooled but I say that when we are fooled we simply have not known what true self interest is. That is to conclude that many many people have never really experienced true interest even from a parent. When true interest does happen, to any significant degree, it may even be hard to recognize for those that have never had it but I believe we are all capable of understanding it and resonating with another's interest in ourselves.

    Shakespeare, then, is talking about a moment in time in which a marriage of mutual Interest took place. It does not matter what happens after, as far as retaining that moment of marriage, because that moment can never be forgotten. It, itself can be an impediment. Lost love is then always a potential impediment and a great one. We should think, then, very hard before we leave anyone that has been very interested in us. Why are we leaving? Does it really have anything to do with them or is it something form the past, something hidden, that keeps impeding us that keeps us from sustaining a 'marriage of true minds'? Relationships mature or they end in shame.

    We, at some level, are searching for something similar to those first moments of connection with or mother and father. The resonance of my Interested face with another Interested face is, literally, unforgetable.

    Admit impediments.

    Interested minds, then, do not want impediments to their mutual interest but here in lies a problem, as he seems to say that love is when there is no impediment but the body of the work is nevertheless his sustaining Interest and love through thick and thin. So what is love? For him it is Interest without impediment but on the other hand it seems to be able to endure impediments galore.. Is 'true' love, 'real' love, 'ideal' love then a state of bliss? It seems as if Tomkins is right, that this can never happen and to even dream of it is an error as why? As it cannot come to pass, if it cannot come to pass then it will confuse and shame us and make us more confused than we probably already are if we pursue a state of bliss. Why does Tomkins think bliss is not possible? I simply refer to the fact that Interst has to be impeded that is the way the world is.

    Love is not love

    Which alters when it alteration finds,

    So again, although the marriage of two minds does not admit to impediments love does. Is the marriage of two minds love or is that state different from love? My love , my Interest? Does not alter although you do.

    . Nor does it bend

    ........ with the remover to remove:

    Because you WTIHDRAW due to shame. I do not have to. No I need to understand the problem.

    O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

    But what the mark? Might the mark be the 'true mind' I was originally interested in? What might that be?

    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

    I do not Withdraw, I do not Blame myself, I do not Avoid the problem nor do I Attack.

    It is the star to every wandering bark,

    Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

    While you are doing what you are doing you can always count on me as a beacon of Interest. The original meaning of 'Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken seems to be that in navigational terms I navigate by stars whose height above the horizon is know but not their 'worth'. Let us say that likewise I know what I had in a friend, lover, parent in terms of interest but its true worth is never known.

    Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

    Within his bending sickle's compass come:

    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

    I see this as expressing the simple fact that once memory of another's Interest is with us it may fade but it never goes away. We are stuck with those we get involved with. Once we make the decision to mutualizing interest then, again, there is no turning back. The relationship will end in mature interest or shame. Bearing it out to the edge of doom is no worse and probably 'better' then leaving?

    If this be error and upon me proved,

    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

    True love endures all.

    We seem, if Affect Theory is right, to be searching for an idea, for an analog to the good times we had at the time of birth and through early infancy. We are searching for that resonance with the scenes we remember form our mother and father. We want to recapture them. We want to recapture the marriage of true minds we had, if only for a moment, with our parents. This is such a universal need and desire it is, in great part, what 'love' is about. We are set up , the way we are, to search out something , someone, 'like' what we experienced at first. So we have 'love at first sight'. Indeed some cultures are so fearful of this that they arrange marriages. Form all indications this works just as well as any other type. It may, indeed, work better on average as one is forced to work more with what is in the hear and now rather than start with an ideal, a memory of something long past.

    If love is not a wish for conformation of early scenes then it is, and I believe, this is what sonnet is about and that is, it is then interest in the here and now in the actual person and not some dreamed of heaven now lost, even if the partner is lost in such thoughts. That is part of the brilliance of the poem. He understands the difference between now and then he understands that LOVE to be love has to deal with THIS and not THAT. It cannot deal with a dreamed of heaven or hell. Life is not perfect and This Is This and not something else. It is "I understand that there was a marriage of true minds and the most judicious thing is to stay with that". Oh yes there is a contradiction because that marriage of true minds does not now exist and so am I not chasing a dream, something now gone? A problem? I think maybe not. I do not want to lose my point that is quite simply that once *I* have experienced intense interest form another, especially in the adult context of a marriage or friendship it can only end in two ways: it can 1) end only in the sense of not continuing in its initial form but mature and change in character or 2) end in shame. Even if it ends in shame it never really ends as the memory of the marriage of true minds will always endure.

    All of this then leads to, maybe, what a relationship should be.? I turn, then, to the best guide I have come across for any relationship and that is a set of rules developed from Tomkins primarily by Vick kelly.

    Intimacy, as Vick Kelly, has shown us is mutualization of negative affect or feeling by minimizing it. I have begun to say it this way.

    In the best of situations I am suppose to: express negative affect.

    How do I do this?

    With much practice. I think we can script the feeling in such a way to simply put everything in terms of oneself.

    I go home and say Hi Honey!

    She says: Go to Hell!

    I feel hurt, confused, shame.

    What do I do? I do not think yelling back is going to maximize positive affect or minimize negative.

    If I leave the house, if I say immediately to myself: My goodness what did I do now?, or go pour a double Scotch or yell back nothing has been accomplished except helping maximize negative affect.

    I might also know that at this point, having been with her for 10 years, that nothing much can be done at this point.

    I might however stand my ground and say boy you know that hurts! I might continue to say it. I might say boy am I angry. I do not say I am angry at you. Or you hurt me. I just say I am hurt. In this way I am expressing negative affect AND I should be creating interest in my partner. She might say why are you hurt? Or think why is he angry? Indeed a veritable conversation might break out.

    I first get interested in my own reaction and think about my immediate feeling and my experiences with this person. In other words, I instead of withdrawing, I distance myself and define the situation. Instead of a1ttacking myself I evaluate myself and the situation. Instead of avoiding by drinking or other avoidance , simply going away from the pain, I might indeed leave and have a drink and dinner , not to avoid but to manage or moderate the situation. Now finally I need not attack to get back at her but now I am in control of the situation and myself as much as I can be. I go home and now, vis-a-vi my experience with her, she will now talk to me. Now if she doesn't I have to get interested in the problem all over again. I see it simply as being able to shift interest. She is my wife mad or happy. I walk in and I want a pleasant evening with her, it ain't goin' happen unless I shift my interest to her affective state. Note again that I was interested in her when I came home and I still am interested in her. This is the quickest way to get back to both people being interested in each other so that they may maximize positive affect. Now the only reason I am going to do this and suffer through it is that tomorrow when I tell her to go to hell she will show the same interest.

    Through such a process we turn bad scenes back in the good ones we so much want. We do this:

    By Maximizing positive feelings of Interest and Joy

    By Minimizing negative feelings of Anger, Fear, Distress, Disgust, Dissmell and Shame.

    We achieve these by maximally expressing negative affect.

    We minimize the negative and maximize the positive by mutualizing the expression of both.

    It is easy to see how maximizing positive affect comes form mutualizing it, sharing each others expression of positive affect. It is harder to understand negative affect. It is simply that if I get to express my anger and fear then I need the next day to be willing and able to absorb your anger and fear. If we both are able to do this then we actually minimize the feeling of and the expression of negative affect. If I know I can yell and scream I probably won't do it so much!

    Finally do I not, again, have a contradiction. Is Shakespeare talking of such a couple? How can he be?

    ..................Love is not love

    Which alters when it alteration finds,

    Or bends with the remover to remove:

    O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

    It is the star to every wandering bark

    Is he not simply a sucker, a poor fool in love with one that will never love him? Ah but it is not that there was never love as there was a "marriage of true minds". Again that marriage can never be forgotten by either. As I said earlier:

    Shakespeare, then, is talking about a moment in time in which a marriage of mutual Interest took place. It does not matter what happens after as for as retaining that moment of marriage because that moment can never be forgotten. It, itself can be an impediment. Lost love is then always a potential impediment and a great one. We should think, then, very hard before we leave anyone that has been very interested in us. Why are we leaving? Does it really have anything to do with them or is it something form the past, something hidden, that keeps impeding us that keeps us from sustaining a 'marriage of true minds'? Relationships mature or they end in shame.

    Love is not perfect. I offer only a way we might think about where we are right now in any relationship and how we might look to ways not to end them but to mature them.

    It is neither better to 'Suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" nor "..by opposing end them." There is a middle ground. It is to learn and care about our own memories, to recognize their power. To recognize that the poem applies also to the relationship with ourselves and our relationships that we have already lost. We have an entire life simply within our memory, an entire affective life. Within pure memory we can either maximize joy or suffer the punishment of negative feelings. In both cases we can then bring them into the present.

    By saying "Let me not... admit impediments" he is saying that although he cannot control the world he is never the less a man that has reason and can control his own memory and maximize the memory of the marriage in its best sense albeit he cannot control her.

    He also foreshadows Tomkins by some 400 years in the first 11 words where in brilliantly summarizes all meaningful human interaction by capturing the essence of Shame and Interest.

    Brian Lynch

    MUSINGS

    Doing Nothing Is Doing Something (short)
    A Child Learns (short)
    How Dumbo Lost Weight and Found Happiness (short)
    It's The Little Things (short)
    On Death And Dying
    On Losing Weight
    Sex Is a Joke You Don't Get (short)
    A Letter To A Friend(short)


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