Novelist Monique Roffey interrogates the western obsession with instant attraction – and wonders whether it may not be all it’s cracked up to be
Coup de foudre. In France, that’s how we say love at first sight. Translated literally, though, it means “thunderbolt”, or “lightening strike”. Good grief. Love doesn’t get more dramatic than that.
A coup de foudre is the apex love experience in romantic western myth; it’s when Eros marks you out, takes aim, draws back his bow and lets his arrow fly. Thunk. You are struck. In the heart. A much idealised experience – why, I’m not sure, because this one single love event can’t be love at all. It’s something else, I believe, an inner psychological phenomenon. Jung says it’s when the anima or animus complex is triggered, suddenly and mysteriously, and then – shazam – you see yourself in the opposite gender. A divine narcissism. Some kind of flag is raised and some inner part of the self recognises the signal, as though a flare is shot up … into the universe: you’ve sighted “another” as a romantic ideal. That’s the version I most buy. It is when you recognise your chosen beloved, your “soul mate”. You think you’ve met “the one” … but is “the one” you’ve met really some complex mix of yourself in opposite and those who cared for you as a child, or didn’t? Is our beloved what psychologists call the imago, ie, an image of the first ever one who loved us (or not): our mother or father?