How To “Mindfully” Approach Romantic Relationships – Love as a Bandage
Images like the one above provide us with a somewhat erotic and yet sentimental depiction of love and romance that represents a fairly ubiquitous concept of what most of us have been taught to dream of having someday – a blissful relationship with someone we can grow old with. These are natural inclinations and aspirations of the human heart. After all, who doesn’t love the mouthwatering experience of two entangled bodies rolling around in bed sheets and the invigorating and highly addictive “biochemical experience” of falling in LOVE?
Those who know me know that I routinely describe the experience of “falling in love” as a socially acceptable form of insanity, or more specifically – Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; and it is, in virtually every way you look at it. But this obsession was bore out in our early childhood.
Research psychologists and clinical-behavioral therapists routinely reflect upon and write abstracts about the disparity that exists between our human logic and emotions. The two are completely incongruent, never occupying the same space in our mind at the same time. That gap is never more painfully obvious than when we “fall in love.” It’s soooooo delicious and yet bordering on delerium in every way.
We obsess over this person we recently met and have fallen for. We can’t wait to see them again, laugh with them, kiss them, have sex with them. They’re the first person we want to receive a text message from every morning and the last voice we want to hear before falling asleep. We love knowing someone is “pining” for us and misses us as much as we miss them. No distance or time that separates us can keep us apart. We will go to extraordinary lengths to be in their presence. We lose sleep, staying up all night just to talk to or be with them. We have boundless energy, we forget to eat, forget to drink, we forget our “to-do” lists entirely. Our priorities are reshuffled and everything in our list of priorities is now secondary to time spent with our lover. We’ve literally flown the coup!
When we fall “in” love” we tend to fall “out” of our mind and trip all over ourselves to be with our romantic partner! We can barely recognize the person we were before meeting this person that we feel now “completes us.” Indulging in this “biochemical romance” we’re having with another person, we try to maintain the ecstasy of it all indefinitely through role playing, and modeling the behavior of our parents, friends, and the expressions of romantic love as depicted in the movies. Along with modeling all these behaviors comes the whole host of behaviors and feelings that are attached to the underbelly of romantic love and come to the surface when relationships end: feelings of hate, jealousy, abandonment, rejection, grieving, depression, anxiety, and fear. But who has time to worry about these when we’re so “in love” right now?
Convinced we’ve found “THE ONE” – that someone that feeds our ego and validates us – our search is over; we’re ALL IN!!! We see ourselves with this person for the rest of our life. Talks of marriage, children, having a family, and growing old together are commonplace and the planning begins. As a result, without even noticing, we tether ourselves to this person that we describe as our “soul mate” to anyone who will listen, and import our entire sense of self-worth from them. Our lives are now inextricably intertwined with this other person and become utterly defined by this relationship . . . until they don’t. This is why so many lovers become enemies after a break up. With the fantasy we created in our head now collapsing in around us, we’re annihilated and reduced to nothing. It’s tragic that we invest so much of our well-being and self-worth into the completely unpredictable choices of others, and yet lovers do it all the time.
If there is one constant in life it’s that life is permanently impermanent. EVERYTHING is in transition, EVERYTHING changes, and yet, when it comes to our emotions, we expect them to remain the same, to the extent that we demand “commitment” from those we have fallen in love with. But commitment has nothing to do with LOVE. It’s based in fear and is designed to create continuity, predictability, and security for us, but is built on a very poor foundation.
This is why most relationships are actually a tragedy in the making and are doomed before they ever really have a chance. This is because our star-crossed lovers are approaching their relationship from the wrong premise – a foundation that doesn’t exist within either one of them.
When our love has an address, it’s not LOVE, it’s role playing. Though this is what society has adopted as “love,” it’s conditional and it’s nothing more than codependency. It’s two people exploiting one another to create all the desirable feelings associated with being “in love” within them, though they can’t see it until the relationship ends.
True LOVE is not addressed to someone or something, anymore than the sun intends for all of its light to only reach the Earth and no where else. In other words, LOVE is simply a radiating outward of the appreciation, honor, and respect we have for ourselves and share with others. It’s something we simply are.
LOVE SEEKS NOTHING!!! It only wants for others what they want for themselves, whether it continues to include us or not.
For most of us, when we say the words “I Love You” we’re really saying, “I love the way you make me feel.” In other words, we’re simply acknowledging the quality of our own emotions in response to another person.
At this point, our ego, which always needs validation, applies a story to these feelings; one that needs to feel “set apart,” unique, or special in the eyes of someone else. As lovers, just as when we were children, our two individuals appease one another (positive reinforcement) and indulge in one another, never realizing that the only relationship they’re ever having is the relationship they’re having with themselves, within themselves.
Again, ALL of these feelings we cannot help but indulge in are the product of the internal narrative we’ve created within ourselves about our lover. In other words, our lover is not creating any feelings within us. It is us, the storyteller in our head, that is creating all of our feelings, no one else. Our thoughts create beliefs – about ourselves, others, and every experience we are having. We weave these beliefs together into a story, a novella, an internal narrative we’re having within ourselves, and that story or narrative creates ALL the feelings we’re feeling in any given moment.
If we pay attention to the stories we create in our head, they are always commensurate with the beliefs we hold about ourselves. What we see in our lives depends largely on what we’re looking for. In other words, we create these stories and then look for “evidence” to support them.
We have a very empowering, self-aggrandizing narrative or storyline at the beginning of a relationship, and a very disheartening, diminutive, and self-deprecating storyline when one ends. But in either scenario, it’s our internal dialogue we’re having with ourselves, that is creating our feelings. NOT our lover!!!
Lacking this self-awareness, we look out side ourselves for people we can glob onto. This “Crazy lil’ Thing Called Love” is highly addictive, and like any other drug, when we indulge in it, we dangle ourselves precariously between bliss and annihilation, because the love for ourselves is now tethered to someone that at any moment can walk out of our lives and unfortunately take our sense of self-worth with them. We’ve unwittingly reduce that person down to our “drug of choice” and will subsequently experience withdraw symptoms in their absence.
Robert Palmer, in the most apropos way, described this obsession in his song ADDICTED TO LOVE. In the off chance you’re one of the few people on earth that are not familiar with the mega-hit, you can click here to watch the music video. Something tells me the lyrical content will resonate with you. Click here: https://youtu.be/XcATvu5f9vE
What so many call love, is a complicated interplay between a panacea of hormones, biochemistry, neural peptides, emotions, impressions and nuances we’ve been encoded with since early childhood, that all contribute to how we experience another person we are romantically involved with.
As eluded to in my previous article, for a lot of us, our concept of love and romance as adults was more than likely first conceptualized by Walt Disney at a very young age.
We learn about love – or at least the socially agreed upon version of love – by emulating those who modeled love for us, which was hopefully demonstrated by our parents or care-givers. Regrettably, there are so many who have never had unconditional love modeled for them, so love is learned contextually through trial and error, listening to countless love songs, and by what we see portrayed on television and at the movies. What most of us have come to think of as “love” is really lust, codependency, and if we’re being honest, “emotional bartering.”
That requires a little explaining . . .
The Wounded Child
In early childhood we learn primarily, through positive and negative reinforcement, how to get want we want, which is primarily love, affection, and security. Love, which is the essence of what we are, often becomes a foreign concept to us, because before we can apply any cognitive reasoning to our emotions, we learn very early on, that life is a series of exchanges and compromises. Love is something we receive (positive reinforcement) by pleasing others and something we’re deprived of if we don’t (negative reinforcement). So, love and acceptance becomes an exchange, something we hope to get from others by appeasing them . . . we learn love is conditional.
When parents berate their children, few realize that the child doesn’t stop loving them as parents. The child whose sense of self-worth is defined by the acceptance or the lack thereof that they receive from their parents, stops loving themselves. This is devastating to the emotionally inexperienced child that is trying to navigate their way through childhood, manage complex emotions that are completely foreign to them, and figure out what the rules are in this thing called “LIFE.” In yelling and chastising our children we undermine any sense of security they have in being themselves and erode away at their trust in others. Lacking the ability to love themselves, the child begins, what for most becomes an endless journey, to try and please others in an attempt to receive love and a sense of self-worth from others.
Realizing parents and others can be irrational and unpredictable, this is where the evolution of our ego and personality begins . . .
Our ego is an illusion, a mask, a persona that evolves over the course of a lifetime by comparing ourselves to everyone we’ve ever met. We grow into this mask we wear over our consciousness, the essence of what we are. Though we generally think of “ego” as a bad thing, it’s not. Our ego developed as a product of evolution. It’s a psychological coping mechanism designed to protect us in response to events that as a child scared us.
Our personality is a sophisticated construct and extension of the ego unconsciously developed during our formative years as a child, not only through a series of “wins” we experienced in having our needs met, but also as a way of avoiding and insulating ourselves from painful experiences. Our personality and ego are intimately intertwined.
The mind compartmentalizes and catalogs all of our childhood experiences for life, as either pleasant or painful and in doing so, it employs strategies to help us create a gap between the emotional aspect of our being (our vulnerable inner child) and those painful experiences that were overwhelming, intolerable, or traumatic.
These painful experiences are internalized by the child as “there’s something wrong with me,” but in wearing our brave face out into the world we bury this pain, these beliefs, and insecurities beneath the veil of our persona or personality. These traumatic experiences and the reactions of the people involved in them, say nothing about us and who we are, though they are processed that way. These experiences leave an indelible mark on us in the form of an internal narrative we create about them, which is usually very self-deprecating and filled with limiting beliefs we have about ourselves. Sub-consciously this creates unhealthy, negative patterns of behaviors that are reactive in nature and work against us as we grow into adulthood.
During our childhood feeling loved, seen, heard, understood, and accepted is paramount to our development. If we are deprived of this, “finding” love and acceptance outside ourselves (since we can’t find it within) becomes our highest aspiration in life.
This is where our endless search to find acceptance in the eyes of a lover begins, but sadly, this misguided pursuit is rooted in fear, NOT love. The search for love, happiness, joy and relevancy have all become external pursuits for the masses.
This is a pervasive societal problem where people conflate love and romance, when in fact, romance is based in lust and is a marketing tactic that serves as a divisive prelude to sex. LUST is a product of the body, LOVE arises out of our consciousness. But, people aren’t even aware of their consciousness as separate from their biological drives, so conflating lust and love just goes on and on and on – lust is taken for love.
Lust and romance really has nothing to do with actually loving another person. It’s simply an ego trip!!!
. . . More to come
Love and Light to you in your continued Journey of Self-Discovery!