A few days ago, as the western world moved towards the international day of love, St Valentine’s Day, a friend and I were playing music while we were cleaning up his garage, he said, “What do you think we would have left if every song about love was removed from every public and private playlist?”

Not needing to spend a lot of time on the question, I said there would be little music left when it came to pop or adult contemporary music. Ok what about movies? Perhaps a few more movies would survive over songs centered around love lost or love gained.

While love may make the world go ‘round, in many ways it has morphed into a multi-definitional force that very few people understand. With a power like no other, love drives our experiences as we sing and dance and seek out its very existence. When we experience what we believe love is, we can feel larger than life, energized and showing more of our kinder, empathetic and compassionate self. However, when we feel there is no one out there for us to love, when we feel unloved and there is never enough love in our life, we can turn into an angry, and bitter person refusing to experience our own spiritual nature and then we withhold our compassion and generosity from others, some of who we may have been able to journey with towards healing but they are too sick to begin their journey.

The ancient Greeks separated love into 2 very different definitions, the first type is Eros. This is the love we experience in our romantic relationships and it is inclusive of sexualized love. The other is called Pathos and is defined as a love we feel for others and includes, sympathy, compassion and empathy. In today’s world the distinction between genres of love is not nearly so cut and dry as our early ancestors.

However, love has evolved into a barometer of our overall ‘Am I Ok?’. It is used to build up our self-esteem which in turn tells us we are just fine as a person. The barometer however points outwards and it is completely dependent on how other people interact with us, or at least, how we perceive their interaction with us. If someone is forthright in their feelings about us and those feelings don’t match our self perception, it can spin us into a deep scary place. Such is the power that lies in another person’s words when we give them greater authority than we accept for our self.

Our self-esteem may have been held back from healthy growth through several circumstances in our life. Parents who never praised but criticized, teachers who chastised and intimidated and to the peer pressure telling us to toe the line and be like them, fit in or be expelled from the group. Surrounded by a media that feeds us through advertising and programmed TV shows, what we are supposed to look like, who we are supposed to be, what sexual orientation it is best to be, what we should wear, smell like and how tall and at what weight. Horribly, so many are seduced into believing that their bodies must be this size and their physique gym fit and the (who’s) dictating our bodies dimensions as though they were creating us from scratch.

As adults the cumulative damage of disempowering messages and behaviours, have often lead to painful experiences with relationships. The wounds of love, the wounds of our youth continue to be inflicted on us, first by our self and then by the people we choose to love. If opposites attract, and to a degree that is true, it is our habitualness of the same things that create an even bigger draw. Harville Hendrix and his spouse, researcher Gay Hendrix have developed an incredibly useful theoretical framework that helps us to identify what dramas we continue to play out and what recurring themes there are that we played out with our mother and/or father. Not surprisingly, we choose a spouse who has a combination of our mothers’ traits and our fathers’ traits. What is a bit surprising but makes perfect sense is the emphasis on the negative traits of the parents becoming what we are attracted to. The negative qualities that we have a reaction to growing up are the parts of our parents that were not able to meet our needs and as such we will spend our adult life attempting to have those very needs met. While we usually stop at some point attempting to have our parents meet those needs, instead we turn to friends and our love relationships to have those needs met.

It can be very useful to examine what needs we are trying to meet, how we have tried to meet them in the past, and where we are at with these issues today. Have we created an unrealistic environment by shifting these unmet needs onto others? Is our own backyard open to examine, understand and transform our own landscape without blaming others or our self for our earlier experiences?

For humans, Love can be all encompassing. Love can be understanding, mostly patient and for some, it can be all consuming with terrifying outcomes. Many studies have shown the outcome of what happens to monkeys and puppies when they are deprived of love and affection.
The rapid deterioration of the physical, emotional, and mental states is clear even to the casual observer. While these are clearly research experiments, I can not help but wonder, how do we withhold and deprive ourselves from love?

Next Newsletter is Part 2, of this series on Love: a complex mystery. Watch for this newsletter the first week of March.

Until then,

Be Well and Live Well

~ Gord Riddell

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