By: Raun K. Kaufman
Why does love feel so complicated and fraught with challenge? The answer can be boiled down to 2 words: Love MYTHconceptions. We are taught many ideas about what love is and how it works. The problem: these paradigms kill love. Almost everything we are taught about love is not really about love. In reality we are taught to all about neediness, fear, self-judgment, self-denial, and victim-hood, and then we are taught to call these things love.
We can distill these beliefs and perspectives about love into 5 main love paradigms that remain in play in our society today. These love MYTHconceptions precipitate the challenges many of us experience around love and relationships – of both the romantic and non-romantic variety.
The 5 Love MYTHconceptions are:
1. Love As Need
2. Love As Risk
3. Love As Selfless Sacrifice
4. Love As Weakness
5. Love As Quicksand
Love As Need - Love As Risk
Have you ever wondered why love can feel so scary? Well, the truth is, love is never scary, but need always is. One of the biggest obstacles to really feeling and expressing love is that, much of the time, many of us confuse love with need.
We often withhold our love, thinking, "What if I love him/her, and he/she doesn't love me back - or he/she throws it away, rejects me, etc?" When we ask ourselves this question, we are seeing love as a trade: I give you my love, and you give me your love in return. And, hey, this trade had BETTER happen. Few possibilities seem more petrifying to us than someone bailing on their end of the trade and not returning our love (in exactly the way we desire). At the core, we are afraid of "getting hurt."
However, the only way for us to experience hurt is for us to hurt ourselves, and we do that by judging ourselves. Here's how it works:
1. I love you, and I tell you so.
2. You tell me to go fly a kite.
3. I think two things: "I'm now missing something I need," and "There must be something wrong with me if you don't love me back."
So, in truth, when I said, "I love you," what I meant was, "I need you." In fact, what I really meant was, "I've decided to use you as the barometer for my self-worth." None of this has anything to do with love. Love is a sense of joy about another person. There is not one shred of risk in feeling joy and appreciation for someone. We have taken the word need, replaced it with the word love, and, thus we have attributed all of the unpleasant aspects of need to love.
No wonder love, and its expression, seems like a risky proposition. Need will always seems frightening, but love, in its pure form, is a risk-free, fear-free alternative – one that immediately revolutionizes relationships. We can replace our need with love, and when we are being needy, we can at least own it. This closes the door on interactions marked by demands, “hurt feelings,” and attempts at manipulation, and opens the door to relationships filled with unrestrained expressions of love and affection. Pretty sweet, huh?
Love As Selfless Sacrifice
Who is the beneficiary of love? Many of us speak as if the primary beneficiary is the person on the receiving end. There is no question that a great number of us give ourselves wonderful feelings when we believe we are being loved. In actuality, though, the primary beneficiary is the person feeling the love.
Many see love as selfless. I see it as the ultimate selfish feeling. When we love, we fill ourselves with a fantastic and highly beneficial emotional experience. The receiver only receives if he or she takes the love in. Many don't. Even then, the receiver is only estimating what he or she thinks the other is experiencing.
However, the person feeling and expressing the love has a guaranteed ecstatic experience, no matter what. The more we love, the more direct benefit we get. When we don't love, don't give ourselves the love experience. So, it is only ourselves we are depriving. This does NOT mean that it is not bad or stupid to deprive ourselves in this way. When we withhold our love, we only do so because we see this as necessary to take care of ourselves, to keep us safe, among other things. Usually, this view of safety is based either upon the love as need paradigm or the love as sacrifice paradigm.
Many songs and movies talk about love as if it is noble. This, again, comes from the love as sacrifice paradigm. Love isn’t a bit more noble than hate. It just feels very different and leads to very different behaviors. Interestingly, behind this paradigm is the more basic perspective that sacrifice is noble and focus on the self is not. This leads to so much self-condemnation in our world. So, be selfish, baby, and love for your own benefit, not for that of others.
Love As Weakness
Another reason for our wariness about love is that we believe that loving equals weakness. If I love you, I will let you walk all over me. If I love you, I won't stick up for myself. If I love you, I won't be powerful in expressing to you what I do and do not want.
However, the weakness we associate with love is really about fear. All of the "if I love you," sentences above actually recount examples of how we behave when we are scared.
Since many of us are afraid, we often use anger to voice what we do and do not want. In fact, many of us associate anger with strength, which accounts for its massive popularity in the world today. (I very much enjoyed something Bears once said: "Anger is not a display of power; it is a request for power.") Others feel that cold detachment equals strength.
The truth is, there is no more powerful position in which we can place ourselves than unabashed love. If we love without fear, we can really clearly articulate what we want and what we absolutely don't want. Moreover, our statements are far more likely to be digested by the person to whom we're talking. If, however, our husband, our friend, our family member, or even a store clerk does not treat us in the way we would like, we can take decisive action in a clear way when we are loving. This can include everything from asking again from divorcing our spouse, from moving on to suing. All of these actions, and many more, are totally compatible with being loving. Trust your love, mamacita. It will take you wherever you want to go. Whenever you think it’s making you weak, you can just know that you’re being a scaredy cat, not a love muffin.
Love As Quicksand
The mythology of love revolves around the idea that we "fall" in love, that some kind of colossal accident takes place, and POOF we're in love! We didn't want to do it. We didn't mean to do it, but now, here we are, head over heals in love. We have tripped and fallen into the quicksand, we have no choice by to flail helplessly as it swallows us up.
We like this idea. We think there is something romantic about it. But let us ask ourselves: do we want to abdicate responsibility for our feelings of love and caring? Do we wish to act as if we are the victim of our emotions, rather than the architect of them? And, why is the idea of falling in love against our will more romantic than the idea of choosing someone to love? What would our relationships be like if we owned our love, acknowledged to our special someone that we have chosen them especially to love, and then loved them without need, condition, or fear?
Raun K. Kaufman Bio:
Certified Option Process Mentor/Counselor
Option Process Group Facilitator and Teacher, in North America and Europe.
The Option Institute Contact Raun Kaufman at Option.org
Copyright ? 2004 Raun K. Kaufman
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