Emotional Addiction in Love: experimental research

A. F. Bondarenko, A. E. Levenetz Emotional Addiction
in Love: experimental research // Psychologie in
Osterreich. - 2000. – T. 20. – N 1. – S. 24-28

Emotional Addiction in Love: experimental research
Emotionale Abhangigkeiten in Sachen Liebe:eine experimentelle Studie

A. F. Bondarenko & A. E. Levenetz


Ergebnisse einer empirischen Studie liber dramatische Lie-beserfahrungen werden prasentiert. Durch die Faktoren-analyse konnten aus den Selbstdarstellungen von Frauen, die in emotional abhangigen Beziehungen waren, Wahrneh-mungsspezifika nachgewiesen werden. In der inhaltlichen Analyse wurden Algorythmen des adaptiven und des nicht adaptiven Verhaltenstyps wie auch spezielle psychologische Reaktionen einer Klarung zugefiihrt. Die Autor en ziehen die SchluBfolgerung, daB das Fehlen von effektiver Absicht, wie z. B. ,,ich kampfe" und vorwiegend angstliche Personlich-keiten Indikatoren sind, daB unangepaBtes Verhalten in den dramatischen Situationen auftritt. Darliber hinaus wird die Stabilitat dieses unangepaBten Verhaltens durch spezielle Abwehrmechanismen aufrechterhalten.


The article presents results of empiric study of behavior i traumatic love relationship. The factor-analysis method used in the study, made it possible to reconstruct perception peculiarities of women self-reports, who had been engage in the situation of the emotional dependency. Based on the content-analysis, algorhytms of adaptive and Desadaptive types of behavior as well as respondents distinctive psychological features are cleared up. The authors draw the conclusion that the lack of effective directive intentions like "I’ fighting" and clear "anxiety" personality profile are the indicators of desadaptive manner of behavior in the traumatic situation. Moreover, the stability of this desadaptive behavior is maintained by the specific defense mechanisms.


Irrespective of a great number of religious, philosophical, literary and psychological works with a main theme of "Love", this complex human experience has become the object of empirical investigation not so long ago, nearly in the 70-ies of the 20-th century, originating in the works of (Altaian I., Taylor D., 1973, Rubin Z. 1970, King C., Christensen A. 1983, Kelley N. 1983, Perlman D., Duck S., 1987) etc.

It won’t be a kind of exaggeration to consider the love problem a "late child" of a whole branch in social psycholo­gy termed, in distinction of interpersonal, i.e. social, as "per­sonal relations". Just in this general problematic area, tak­ing in personal contacts phenomenology, after the problems of attractiveness, interdependence, balance of power, per­sonal relation involvement and satisfaction, conflicts, self-discovering, reciprocity and sex or, as it is now accepted to say, gender differences, the problem of love takes the sepa­rate place as an independent theme ( Sears D. et. al. 1988, pp. 274-285).

However most well-known research studies, with a few ex­ceptions, contain empirical issues, if they do contain, in the form of trite questionnaires inevitably involving percentage (e.g. 50 % of the respondents spoke in favour of the following statement "I’ll do everything for the person I love", 30 % said "I don’t know", 20 % answered negatively). So it gives an im­pression that regardless the classical efforts (A. Adier, S. Freud, E. Fromm, F. Pearls, K. Homey, etc.) psychologists have been trying to improve existing classifications of love, going back to the well-known ancient Greek storge, agape, filia, eros, rather than empirically investigating the core of this complicated human soul movement - love.

Meanwhile this, undoubtedly most powerful both feeling and emotion, cannot be shamefully covered up with defini­tion only or careful referrals to S. Freud. The matter is that love experience characteristics such as many-sideness, poly-meaningfullness, depth, influence power and its quality are so specific by nature, that they may determine a person fate, develop or frustrate personality, form, adaptive or destruc­tive family life models, etc. Apparently, it was not a casual re­mark made by Georgian philosopher M. K. Mamardashvili in one of his monographs, "Who and What I’ll become, a lot in­side me and in my destiny will depend on that unique form, let us say, in which I have fallen in love for the first time, or have made the first experience in love" (M. K. 1984, c. 16).

In Russian psychology of the last decades, with the excep­tion of compilative works by I. S. Kon, one can observe a shameful tendency towards a complete avoiding of the term "love" reflecting obviously defensive, oppressed problems, but not problematic content (!), combined with euphemistic definition of the investigated subject like "emotional rela­tions", "ideal communication partner", "reflected subjectivity", etc. (H. B. 1993, c. 29, A. B. 1985, c. 18).

As far as we know, it is Russian psychologist A. F. Bondarenko, who in his several works treats love as a peculiar personal experience; moreover, he does nor refer to the love-prototype (romantic, pragmatic, altruistic, etc.), but speaks about specific "relation-feeling" that manifests itself as trau­matic experience (Bondarenko A. F., 1997).

In accordance with well-known Sternbergs theory, the feeling of love, like Ogden’s meaningful triangle, includes three components: intimacy, passion and involvement; so traumatic love appears to be incomplete, injurious feeling, i.e. feeling-relation with one essential, meaningful compo­nent affected (Sears et. al. Op. cit. p. 282).

Thus the primary task of the given research was to conduct experimental study of traumatic experience in love, in particular those ones corresponding to the term "fatuous love", i.e. meaningless love accompanied by the feeling of emotional dependency, when preoccupation with uncon­trolled emotion toward the object of passion takes.

Procedure and Method

The experimental study consisted of two stages to meet the two-fold goal of research.

The first stage purpose consisted in the collection of self-reports as the material for a further psychosemantic analy­sis. The subject selection of this experimental stage was represented by 24 students-girls, 19 of Sociology and Psy­chology Faculty, Psychology Department in Kiev Shevchenko National University.

The second stage of the experimental study answered the purpose to gather the psychosemantic data and to compare them with psychometric subjects indexes for deducing behaviour structures in the situation of traumatic experiences. In the experiment participated 20 students from Kiev State Linguistic University (8 males, 12 females, experts).

Stimulation Technique

The subjects were proposed to write a self-report according to the instruction: "If you had ever traumatic experience in love sphere, please, describe it following the plan:

  1. What kind of your partner behaviour gave rise to your traumatic experience?
  2. If you have been involved in the situation of emotional de­pendency (addiction), what signs of this dependency could you name?
  3. Describe your most frequently recurring thoughts while being in that situation.
  4. Recollect your common patterns of behaviour in that sit­uation.

As an additional investigated parameter, subjects personal­ity profiles were made on the base of the 16PF Cattel’s ques­tionnaire.

To make the psycholinguistic analysis of self-reports on personal-traumatic experience 24 test excerpts were select­ed as an object of investigation. Each text excerpt contained -100 words, and what was important, those excerpts were taken from each self-report beginning form a balanced im­pression about respondents. Each text was assessed by a group of experts on 7-point scale (3,2,1,0,-1,-2,-3) and on 20 semantic differential scales of text measurement. Except the given 20 scales, 5 numerical parameters of the tex-statistics were used for the sake of analysis objectification: 1. the number of nouns; 2. the number of verbs; 3. the num­ber of adjectives; 4. the number of pronoun; 5. the number of adverbs.

So the original data base (matrix) included: 20 scales x 24 experts = 9600 estimates +120 objective parameters. The original matrix 24 x 25 was subjected to factor analy­sis .involving the principal components method and VARI-MAX criterion for the purpose of bringing out tendencies which would define basic stylistic properties of utterances and peculiarities of their perception. The factors with load­ing less than o,4, were not interpreted. The data were processed in the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS).

As an additional parameter of descriptive statistics in­dexes, gender differences were elucidated in the nature of evaluation procedure concerning love traumatic experi­ence.


The factor analysis method has allowed to single out the con­structs of consciousness in the light of which perception and assessment of emotionally rich texts of intimate-personal character is going on. Here we put semantic differential scales for the texts measurement indicating their factor load­ing. The mark of a factor loading shows factor pole which the considered scale parts belong to.

The factor-analysis method has determined 7 significant factors that explain 84,7 % data dispersion.

The first factor (informativity 33,4 %) is represented by the following scale:

11. Good ordering - chaotic -0,84
3. Laconic - verbose -0,82
8. Clear - vague -0,82
18. Intelligible - unintelligible -0,82
2. Meaningful - meaningless -0,77
1. Concrete - abstract -0,73
7. Natural - feigned -0,62

Figure I: Scale representing the first factor

Regarding the meaning of scales, which reflects subjective perception of corresponding characteristics pertaining to the emotionally rich texts, this factor indicates the tendency to­ward sense extraction and evaluation of this comprehension. This general factor is defined as "Comprehension".

The second factor (informativity 14,4 %) is represented by the following variables. This factor is defined as "attractiveness".

The third factor has collected the scales, referring to for­mal statistic signs of the text (the characteristic is ranged from the highest score to the lowest score). It is clear from the scales content, that this factor describes exceptionally lin­guistic text aspects. The given factor is defined as "Semantic richness of the text".

9 Interesting – boring - 0,82

6. Elegant – slovenly - 0,71

17. Good – bad - 0,68

5. Intimate – estranged - 0,63

14. Varied – monotonous -0,43

Figure 2: Scale representing the second factor (attractiveness)

22. The number of verbs -0,90

21. The number of nouns +0,89

23. The number of objectives +0,68

25. The number of adverbs -0,56

Figure 3: Scale representing the third factor (Semantic richness of the text)

The fourth factor (informativity 7,3 %) includes following scales. This factor appears to represent definition, reflecting dynamics of the text structure and it as defined as "Dynam­ics".

4. Energetic - quiet -0,75
19. Fast - slow -0,75
14. Varied - monotonous -0,73
16. Simple - complicated -0,54

Figure 4: Scale representing the fourth factor (Dynamics)

The fifth factor (informativity 6,7 %) is presented by the fol lowing scales. This factor was termed as "Affectivity".

15. Emotional - rational -0,86
10. Biased - unbiased -0,74
4. Energetic - quiet -0,44

Figure 5: Scale representing the fifth factor (Affectivity)

The sixth factor (informativity also 6,7 %) contains following variables. This factor is defined as " Concreteness".

24. The number of adverbs -0,89

1. Concrete – abstract -0,50

10. Biased – unbiased +0,49

23. The number of adjectives +0,46

Figure 6: Scale representing the sixth factor (Concreteness)

At last the seventh factor (informativity 4,2 %) is represe ed only by two scales. Regarding its sense, the factor can defined as "Uniqueness".

12. Characterising author - not characterising author -0,82

20. Suggestive - non-suggestive -0,42

Figure 7: Scale representing the seventh factor (Uniqueness)

As one can see, seven dimensions emerged from the data analysis, and these dimensions are explored.


Factor Interpretation

The first, basic factor, termed "Comprehension”, has comprised the subjective characteristics of perception, which are important in providing intelligible, worked up, well-consid­ered and clear properties of the presented problem. It is pos­sible that in the situation proposing a general grasp of the current of events, the expert first of all tries to understand what exactly has raised difficulties and to define the degree of problem comprehension displayed by the partner-subject.

The second factor - "Attractiveness" - reflects the degree a second participant (expert) is interested in solving of the given problem on the basis of personal co-ordinate system, personal moral values ("good - bad")

The third factor - "Semantic richness of the text" - repre­sents, possibly, a particular rendering language, narration of love-traumatic experiences, related, in the first place, to the behavioural, actional side of relations (the "number of verbs").

The fourth factor - "Dynamity" - describes the intensity of changes flow in the general picture of the problem.

The fifth factor - "Affectivity" - shows the degree of sub­jectivity, emotional of involvement and partiality in a ren­dering message.

The sixth factor - "Concreteness" - describes the "reality" of impression.

The seventh factor - "Uniqueness" - has absorbed the most important characteristics of subjective impression about the author’s personality, his personal specific style of writing. It is a common knowledge, you know, that the great­est attention is usually attracted to quite far from being or­dinary, a vivid and unique plot. From this the produced ef­fect comes out ("suggestive - non-suggestive").

Thus, the factors singled out as the analysis outcomes, help to reveal semantics, which people use as a guide in the evaluation process of emotionally rich personal texts with in­timate contents.

Gender differences displaying in the evaluation nature of intimate-personal texts

The comparing of average score of experts estimates has displayed the insignificant gender differences. The coefficient of similarity of personal structures based on the statis­tic value c<, amounts to 0,48 (similarity is significant at the 0,l % level). On the whole, the males tended to evaluate fe­male love-traumatic experience as more "concrete, laconic, varied" and less "though out, intelligible, ordered, natural, energetic, fast, emotional, good, simple, elegant, characterising the author and suggestive in distinction to females’ es­timates.

While the scales "interesting, biased, intimate, clear, pre­cise" have not revealed any gender differences.

In the most frequently occurring utterances, typical for women’s self-reports on traumatic love experiences, seven principal nuclear predication were signed out:

’m scared

’m pain with /I’m suffering

live entirely for him

’m in doubt

’m fighting (I try to survive)

He is not the way I like 7. I’m quiet / calm

These predications assisted us in an attempt to construct the general scheme of a person’s reflection / self-consciousness processes and their peculiarities in the situation of love trau­matic experiences. By the final result, self-reports was sort­ed to the groups represented adaptive ofdesadaptive style of behaviour.

Adaptive style was treated as a way of actioning that fixed a person on a problem, in a behavioural sphere it looked like person’s involvement in an "indissoluble circle" of his re­peated behaviour patterns and structures.

The next step of data analysis was aimed to bring all self-reports to a system of the selected predications. Then fre­quently of occurrence of all the possible predication pairs was calculated, and on the basis of obtained results were was con­structed an algorhytm of self-awareness processes typical for adaptive and Desadaptive styles of behaviour.

Content analysis of frequency of occurrence of the ob­tained predication pairs can be tabulated as follows (Fig. 9):

The obtained data can be presented graphically in the fol­lowing way:

Desadaptive style

I’m suffering

I live entirely for him He is not the way I like
I’m in doubt  
I’m fighting  


Adaptive style

I’m suffering

I live entirely for him I’m fighting
I’m in doubt  
  I’m quiet

Figure 10: Disadaptive style and adaptive style

As you can see, the leitmotif, that is the nuclear predica­tion "I’m suffering", stands out in each move, in each change of the reflective processes. However, it is peculiar for ->

Disadaptive behaviour   Adaptive behaviour  

1. I’m suffering

I live entirely for him I’m fighting I’m in doubt He is not the way I like it I’m scared - 4,1 %

46% 16,6 %

4,1 %
29,1 %

I’m suffering

I live entirely for him I’m fighting I’m in doubt He is not the way I like it

42,8 %

35,7 %

14,2 %

7,1 %

2. I`m scared

I live entirely for him

100 %

I’m scared

(this predication is not occured)


3. I’m in doubt

I’m suffering I’m fighting I live entirely for him He is not the way I like



20% it


I’m in doubt

I’m suffering I’m fighting I live entirely for him He is not the way I like it





4. I live entirely for him

I’m suffering I’m fighting I’m in doubt He is not the way I like it I live entirely for him


% 19,2 %



3,8 %

I live entirely for him

I’m suffering I’m fighting I’m in doubt He is not the way I like it

42,8 %

14. %

28,5 %

14,2 %

5. He is not the way I like it

I live entirely for him I’m suffering I’m in doubt


33,3 %

55,5 %

11,1 %

He is not the way I like it

I live entirely for him I’m suffering

16,6 %

83,3 %

6. I’m fighting

I’m suffering He is not the way I like it I live entirely for him I’m scared

45,4 %


36.3 %


I’m figting

I’m suffering He is not the way I like it I’m in doubt I’m quiet

44,4 %

11,1 %

11,1 %

33,3 %

Figure 9: Disadaptive behaviour and adaptive behaviour

adaptive style of behaviour that a person having gone through the indicating state "I’m suffering" usually arrives at two next predications: "I live entirely for him" and "I’m fight­ing (I strive for survival)", which set then to calm and peace in self, whereas in desadaptive style of behaviour energy is dissipated for cultivation of the experience "He is not the way I like", that is usually accompanied by negative emotions and by the basic cycle chain of traumatic experiences originates just from this predication "I live entirely for him". A person really gets into indissoluble circle: on the one hand, she at­tempts to base her relations with partner, on the weighted cognitive decision ("I’m in doubt"), on the other hand, she tries to merge with other on the basis of utter emotional dis­solution in other’s personality ("I live entirely for him"). As well the predication "I’m scared" is occurred only in de­sadaptive style of experience, that is absolutely alien for adaptive style. On the whole, the predication "I’m fighting (I strike to survive)" is occurred here more rarely than in adap­tive style.

Defining psychological peculiarity of the subjects, who revealed adaptive or desadaptive behavior style

For this purpose the data of 15 PF Cattel’s questionnaire were used. The following divergences of mean values were deter­mined in the interpreted data:

Psychological portrait of the subject with desadaptive style of behaviour demonstrating (the characteristics are placed in the decrease differences order):

** F H L Q4*  
desadaptive 4 3 1,6 7,6
adaptive 6 8,7 4 4

* Note. The differences are statistically significant at p <0,05.

** The other 16 PF factors have not revealed any significant differences.

Figure 11: Divergenes of mean values

1. H - "timidity-boldness". A person is not sure of oneself/ one’s might, reserved, timid, shy. This person prefers one - two people to a large company. He is distinguished for a heightened sensibility to threat.

2. Q4 - "relaxation - tenseness". A person is tensed, frus­trated, highly strung; the excitement and disturbance characteristics of him. Frustration is the result of a height­ened motivation in this case. The active dissatisfaction of aspirations / intentions is typical for him.

3. L - "trustfullness - suspiciousness". A person takes on trust, without proofs, business propositions, promises, as­surances in friendly feelings. Such a person usually takes the part of a driven, submits to someone’s demands, does­n’t speak out his special thoughts, he is patient.

4. «restraint - expressiveness". A person is sad, disposed to have the blues, looks in future with commotions, regrets the past. He/she is anxious, concentrated on problems and difficulties, is absorbed in affairs and, perhaps, in his/her own unsatisfied desires. A person is passive, reacts tc events indifferently, prefers to do nothing, does not shovs any initiative.

We want to point to the fact that personality structure analy sis of those manifesting desadaptive style of behaviour, con firms K. Homey’s thesis that the "basic anxiety" is the basi if need for love, and this type of behaviour may be interpret ed as an attempt to defend oneself against anxiety, again’ anything that may threaten safety of one’s own existence.

Lack of pronounced tendency "I’m fighting (I strive to sui vive)" in desadaptive style of behaviour a specific subject psychological portrait determine also the way of getting 01 the establish situation. A respondent expressing his though and describing his experiences in a traumatic situation oft( employs defences such as supplanting, discredit, self-decetion in order to push aside realising the possibility of choice as well as the activity of self-consciousness. Emotional ai cognitive spheres of the personality are directed to preserve the former "self-image".


Within the limits of available to us psychological tools we hi made an attempt to consider the problem of psychological diction on the basis of love-traumatic experiences. Omit1 details we’ll emphasise the main issues, in our opinion what have been studied. Lack of personality nucleus - s ness - or its disregard forces a person to be under the in ence of external circumstances (encouraging loss of per 4 al integrity) and makes him / her vulnerable to manipulal giving the way to psychological dependency formation.

We hope that the considered behaviour styles, personal characteristics as well as obtained data concerning percep­tion peculiarities of women’s intimate - personal experience will contribute both to a ,,pure" academic science and, pos­sibly, to psychological practice area - equally satisfying pro­fessional needs of specialists and need of their clients.

Experimental research devoted to the phenomenon of emo­tional addiction in love has allowed to bring out the number of peculiarities in various aspects of personality functioning: on meaningful, installation and characterologic levels.

First of all we want to emphasise the significant differ­ences in adaptive and desadaptive styles of women’s behaviour being involved in a psychoemotional situation.

Desadaptive behaviour, related to a well-known phenom­enon of fixation, is characterised by the excessive emotional identification (merger) with the other personality, fear to stay again tete-a-tete with the initial ..basic anxiety" (that under­mines one of the most fundamental personal needs - safety) and by difficulty to make a reasonable choice in a traumatic situation. In its turn, this difficulty of a reasonable choice may be reflected by personal characteristics, among which the fol­lowing factors, considering their values on 16 PF Cattel’s questionnaire, are predominant: H (diffidence, timidity); F (excessive prudence and pessimism), L (groundless trustful-ness and denial to analyse situation), Q4 (superfluous tense-ness, disposition to disturbance).

Apart from mentioned peculiarities, desadaptive style of behaviour is characterised by lack ofactional installation (I’m fighting, strive to survive") which forms the specific condi­tions for self-consciousness that prevent from active reflec­tion, aimed at working out of constructive patterns of the per­sonal behaviour.

A separate task for further investigation consists in a be­haviour study, in particular male’s behaviour, provoking the above-mentioned state of emotional dependency.


bondarenko A.F. Love trauma Psychotherapy Using EMDR: Analysis of Three Cases // EMDRIA Newsletter, January, 1997, pp. 13-14. sears D. et. al. Social Psychology. - New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1988.

A. F. Bondarenko, A. E. Levenetz
Inter-university Centre of Counceling.
Kiev State Linguistic University, Kiev, Ukraine.


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