Attraction in Love and Work? Try magnets.


“ ‘Like a river flows

   Surely to the sea

   Darling, so it goes

   Some things were meant to be.

– Elvis Presley, Can’t Help Falling In Love

….The love Elvis sings about is an overwhelming force, motivating him to defy the counsel of ‘wise men’ and ‘rush in’. Recent empirical work…suggests that conceiving of love as a physical force may actually affect the experience of love….The current studies thus examine whether exposure to a physical force (magnetism) influences the experience of love (i.e. relationship satisfaction, commitment, intimacy and attraction).” *

And, by golly, it does. First, we will talk a little bit about the study. Then we can talk about how this can matter for you – not just in love – but in love and work too. So for this study conducted at Texas A&M, participants reported to be in romantic relationships were told they would each take a physical “mental break” and then fill out a variety of questionnaires, with items like “I feel a great deal of sexual desire for my partner” or “I can only share my deepest thoughts and feelings with my partner.” During the so-called “mental break,” before the questionnaires, each participant would bring two blocks together repeatedly for one minute. For one-third of participants, the magnets attracted each other; for another third, the magnets repelled; and, for a final third, the blocks were not magnets, just blocks. From this and a second study (using only attracting and repelling blocks), the researchers found that the participants using attracting magnets reported “greater satisfaction, intimacy, attraction, and commitment.”*

It is unclear to the authors exactly why this is so. Based on a concept called metaphoric transfer, they suggest it could be: 1) that the conceptual similarity of magnetic and romantic attraction simply brought the romantic attraction more to mind; or 2) that the physical force of the magnets actually enhanced the romantic attraction to one’s partner. Right now what we know is that playing with attracting magnets increased romantic attraction among participants in this study, and here is why we care.

Time after time, I hear from clients** either that they are worried about going forward with someone lacking that irresistible magnetic force. I love him/her, but I’m not in love with him/her. I hear this from people trying to decide whether to get married to this great guy/gal, and from people who are already way down that road and just not feeling it anymore, not so sure they ever did. And, I hear it from people about their work too, just not doing it for them anymore – bringing to mind a classic Harvard Business Review article on “Hot Groups.” Sometimes people on a project, committee, or in a start-up together are so consumed by each other and what they share that it feels just as exhilarating as falling in love. Quite possibly it is mixed with the same exhilarating catecholamine hormones as the ones Helen Fisher talks about in her book on the nature and chemistry of romantic love.

Novelty is the spice of life they say (releases one of the wonderful happy hormones, dopamine), but it’s just not that practical to keep switching out partners or jobs every time the exhilaration hormones give way to something more stable. That’s what adventure vacations are for but you can’t just get up and go on one of those any old time either. So what can you do? Well, you can play with magnets, which for all we know could enhance attraction in general, maybe even to love of work too? Someone should study that, although one has to wonder if attraction magnets would over time lose their power to transfer or stimulate attraction, when the activity is no longer as novel as it once was. Then what?

Then try grafting. Psychologists are starting to talk about grafting to mean that instead of trying to force out an unwelcome feeling (let’s say boredom), we let it come and at the same time couple it with something better. So, unless of course you have good reason to leave the situation, how about conjuring up an image of the kind of attraction you once felt or would want to feel and grafting it onto the blahs when they arrive. Neurologists tell us that neurons that fire together wire together; so go ahead and graft the wished for feelings of attraction on top of the same ole same ole feelings there. Try this, practice this, let the blah feeling come, and keep it there long enough to graft something you find attractive to it. Get into it. Do it again and again. Repetition is key. Practice, practice, practice, and see what happens.

To work on this or something else, would love to hear from you:

Email:  Madelaine Weiss

* Christy AG, Hirsch KA, Schlegel RJ (2016) Animal Magnetism: Metaphoric Cues Alter Perceptions of Romantic Partners and Relationships. PLoS ONE 11(5): e0155943. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0155943

**Examples and illustrations are fictional composites inspired by but not depicting nor referring to any actual specific person in my practice or life experience.

Copyright © 2017. Madelaine Claire Weiss. All rights reserved.






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