LOVE : one of the most used and misused words out there.
Because love without self-love ain’t love.
It’s called attachment, leads to codependency, love addiction and general unhappiness. Often when people fall in “love” (the falling is real, not the love) it’s because of how they feel in the presence of another: appreciated, soothed, special, beautiful, admired, seen. And we think that’s love. No, that’s using someone else to make yourself feel good. We all do it unconsciously of course, until the other, a perfectly imperfect human being, can no longer provide for all our (emotional) needs. And we get mad. Or we learn a big life lesson: we ourselves are the most reliable person to provide for those needs! With a therapist or two along the way, wise and trusted friends, healers, shamans or an entire community, we can navigate this inner child healing process, love and accept ourselves as we are, feel whole again. Because that’s what this is about.
Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships
Often we learn the hard way. Someone comes along that unlocks the door of our heart. We’re on cloud nine! So much so that we fail to recognize what’s really happening: through the mystery of chemistry and alchemy our human beloved has unlocked a “love potential” in us we never knew existed. It all happens so quickly, we assume the other is solely responsible for those warm, fuzzy feelings, not realizing that this love potential was always there, within our own heart. Only blocked. It is this error in perception that leads to our downfall into “love”, i.e. unhealthy attachment. Placing our emotional well-being into someone else’s hands is foolish at best, more often it’s an emotional roller-coaster. People are notoriously unreliable. Thinking another human being can fulfill our basic, yet vital, emotional needs is the greatest illusion of romantic love, expressed ad nauseam in countless popular songs throughout the ages.
True love sets us free, rather than binds us. True love we don’t “fall in”. True love lifts us up. It has been called many things. It’s the metta, or loving-kindness of Buddhism, the agape of the Greco-Christian tradition, the prema of Hinduism. In yogic philosophy love is another name for Universal Consciousness, Brahman, Source or Spirit. It is described as satchitananda: ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-blissful. Through this lens, love is understood to be a vibration, some say the highest. I would agree. It’s at the core, or coeur (heart, in french) of our existence. It connects us through time, space and beyond the physical dimension. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna (a representation of the divine) himself says “I am the Self, dwelling in the heart of all beings, and the beginning, the middle, and the end of all that lives as well.” (Chapter 10, verse 20.) In other words, God/Source/Your Higher Self (call it what you want) is love, is all. It is the perfect love that heals.
Healing Our Heart by Reconnecting to True Love
Sadly true love has been obscured in ourselves, not so much by the inevitable pain of being human, but by the armor we built around our heart to not feel that pain.
By locking our pain away we didn’t realize we were locking ourselves out of our own heart.
This leads to what John Welwood, psychotherapist and author of Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, calls “the mood of un-love, a deep-seated suspicion most of us harbor within ourselves that we cannot be loved, or that we are not truly lovable, just for who we are.” Often this mood of un-love has its roots in the first few years of our lives. We get most wounded when we are most powerless. But unless we can heal our wounded heart and reconnect to the perfect love embedded in it, human relationships, particularly romantic ones, are bound to disappoint. Or grow stale. Or implode. Or be short-lived. Or all of it. Expecting perfect love from imperfect human beings is a recipe for disaster, as I’m sure we’ve all experienced at least once! Paradoxically, it is when we expect the least that we get the most, in a different kind of way. To quote another passage from Welwood’s book:
As I’m wrapping up this piece, the word courage comes to mind. Interesting to notice it comes from the Old French corage, and the latin root cor, for “heart”. I think there’s a little hint for us there. It does take a lot of courage to drop our protective heart barriers. But it’s precisely in braving our fears and opening our heart, to ourselves, that we can access the love that heals all. The challenges of relationships can then be seen in a whole new light, through a whole (literally) new heart. Emotionally well-nourished and secure in ourselves, we finally feel loved, because we are. Lover or not. Happy Valentine’s Day.
(ps. This “healing of the heart journey” is not meant to be traveled alone. In fact reaching out for help is often part of the healing. If you’re not too sure where to go here are some suggestions. Somatic Experiencing is “a form of alternative therapy aimed at relieving the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental and physical trauma-related health problems”, Core Energetics is a body-oriented form of psychotherapy that “brings consciousness to how we block our life energy by perpetuating defensive patterns adapted in childhood which keep us disempowered.” Here’s a transformational counselor and intuitive, and here a medium and shaman; they both come highly recommended. As always use your intuition to guide you in choosing whom to work with.)