In the last blog we saw that love is the essence of who we are, and that it’s very important to examine our beliefs about love because we have received so many false messages from our culture about what love is. We must become aware of how we unintentionally blind ourselves to the realization of the love that we essentially are.
Also, we block our realization of love by holding on to “unfinished business” from the past. In gestalt therapy this term refers to unexpressed emotions, desires and words. This energy is locked in the unconscious because earlier in our life we felt that it wasn’t safe to express these feelings, words or desires. We believed that expressing these parts of ourself would cause us much pain and suffering. Our repression became habitual, and eventually, unconscious. Not only did we not want to express these feelings, we did not want to even acknowledge that they were there.
We often choose relationships that support our pattern of repression. These relationships may be comfortable but they may also offer little opportunity for self-discovery or personal growth.
On the other hand, we may engage in relationships that do just the opposite. We may be attracted to another because we sense that they have something that is missing in ourself. We find these people to be stimulating or exciting—until we let go of our projections and encounter the real person living behind our created image!
We may find that same qualities that were so attractive to us have become quite problematic! They now appear very different to us. We may feel betrayed by the other person, when in reality we are simply discovering our own self-betrayal— which stems from believing that another person can give us something we refuse to accept within ourself. It’s like the beggar who grovels for alms unaware that he has a huge diamond hidden in his own pocket.
Cindy was attracted to Jack because he seemed so self-assured, decisive and clear about what we wants and what he does. Jack was attracted to Cindy because of her perceived compassionate and gentle nature. The both felt that the other “completes them.”
After being together for a while Cindy began to perceive Jack’s self-assurance as aggressiveness, willfulness and a lack of caring. This awareness was very challenging to Cindy because it mirrored the same qualities that she had repressed within herself. As a child she was often reprimanded for being too loud and unruly. She was taught to be quiet and submissive—like a “good girl” should be.
To Jack, Cindy’s compassion and caring began to look like the dependency and the neediness that Jack hated because it reflected his own repressed feelings of dependency. He was taught to always be “tough” and independent and to act “like a man”---which meant to never need anything or to depend upon anyone else.
Over time, Jack and Cindy were willing to open up to their own repressed feelings and to stop projecting them onto the other; eventually each of them grew significantly from their relationship.
A so-called “difficult relationship” can be a powerful vehicle for growth--if you use it in that way. Yes, the other person is far from perfect, but as long as you focus on their faults you diminish the opportunity for your own healing.
And yet, this does not mean that you should tolerate abusive or toxic behavior. It’s okay to set clear boundaries on what is unacceptable. And, it is possible to end a relationship and still continue the healing process that was triggered by the dynamics of this relationship. If you do consider ending a relationship it’s very helpful to ask yourself: Am I running from, or moving toward, a greater realization of love?
As you begin to accept all parts of yourself you will clear the way for love to emerge. When you love all facets of yourself then you can love others for who they are. Love always begins “right here,” with yourself.
If we have not cleared out the internal debris then our love will be blocked, distorted or tainted by neediness. All too often, we ask another to love us when we are unwilling to do it ourself. We want the other to compensate for the love that we are denying ourself—and it doesn’t work!
If you are willing to love all of yourself unconditionally then life will present the opportunities for you to do that, whether you are alone or with another. Some aspects of the hidden self can be found only in relation to others, and some aspects can be discovered only if we are alone.
Psychotherapy or some form of support system can be very helpful in our growth process. This environment may provide the safety to feel and to express those parts of yourself that once felt too scary to express.
Journaling can be also helpful. This is something that you can do at any time. It is most effective if you do it on a regular basis.
I have frequently heard someone affirm: “The love that I seek is seeking me.” This is always true—but not necessarily in the form of a friend or lover. The love that is always seeking you is your own true nature. It is seeking you because it is you--following you like your own shadow, forever seeking to be recognized.
In our next blog we will look at some ways to cultivate the various qualities of love.