Many people need to relearn how to love in order to love more maturely. Your capacity to love others is based on your capacity to love yourself as I explore in The Power of Caring series. Learning to love yourself is not selfish and conceited in fact it is the most mentally healthy thing you can do. There are a number of specific steps you can take to increase your self love and connection wtih your true self.
Love is like sitting with my back to the fireplace I can feel the warmth without every seeing the fire.
Love is the greatest gift you can receive but you have to give it to yourself.
Over the past thirty years I have asked thousands of people to do this exercise in the adjustment seminars and it normally proves a very difficult assignment for most people to do. A typical divorced person says 'I thought I new what love is but I guess I don't In fact many people feel inadequate about their definition of love. Love is like a diamond and you can view it from many different direction and there is no right or wrong way of defining it. There is only the way you feel about love.
In our society many people have stereotyped love to be something you do for somebody or to somebody. Very view people realise that love is something that should be centered within you and that the basis of loving others it he love you have for yourself.
To begin this section let me present a somewhat cynical definition upon which many relationships are based 'Love is the warm feeling that you get toward somebody who meets your neurotic needs.' This is a definition of neediness rather than love. Because w are not whole and complete people but have emotional deficiencies we try to fill those emotional deficits by 'loving' another person. What we lack in ourselves we hope to find in the other person in other words many us are half people trying to love someone in order to become whole. I believe and experience working with people has given me the following idea about love coming from a whole person who is more mature in their life.
Perhaps you have heard the expression 'warm and fuzzy with a fish hook in them' A warm fuzzy is a nice gesture that you give someone such as saying I love you. Unfortunately may of use are still struggling to fulfill ourselves so if their life is empty when a person says I love you to find another person it probably means 'Please, please love me.' The other person finds the warm fuzzy, swallows it, and is hooked. Saying 'I love you' from an empty bucket of emotional connections tends to be manipulative, while love from a bucket of connections and embrace for who we are as a unique individual allows others to be themselves and to be free to share in our lives.
A common problem in society is that falling in love is the most acceptable reason for getting married however falling in love may have more to do with loneliness than with warmth towards another person. Falling in love to overcome loneliness is not actually love. It is rather a feeling of warmth which comes from breaking down the barriers that have kept us from being intimate with other people.
Sometimes one does not love the other person, but loves instead the idealised image of that person. When the difference is realised, one becomes disillusioned, falls out of love, and the relationship is dissolved. If a couple can grow past the stage of loving their idealised image of each other, there is the possibility that they will be able to love in a more mature manner. For some, this grown will occur in the relationship and their love for each other will mature. For others, maturity comes only after the dissolution of an immature relationship.
I have seen many people loving with an immature love: Love equals doing something to somebody or for somebody; Love equals taking care of someone; Love equals 'never having to say you're sorry'; Love equals always being strong; Love equals being nice.
Shirley had believed that love equals being nice and she was trying to improve an unhealthy relationship. Ken asked her in the seminar why it was not working for her to be nice. Shirley replied, 'I guess I just wasn't nice enough.'
Many (most?) of us, while growing up, have not received enough unconditional love - love that was given by parents or others just because we were, not because we earned it by being 'good'. We adopt immature forms of love toward others because we have not been loved unconditionally. Nevertheless we can come to realise that mature love equals loving yourself for being what you are, and likewise loving another person for who he or she is. When we can feel such unconditional no-matter-how-you-act-love we have learned what I call mature love. Mature love allows you fully to be yourself with the person you love.
In my experience it difficult for many people to give up the immature forms of love. That is the way they have always received their strokes, attention, and good feelings. Yet eventually they recongise that they had to keep striving harder in order to earn the love they were seeking It is like settling for second best taking whatever strokes we can rather than going all the way to get really good strokes by learning to love ourselves.
Building on my experience I have found that many people write that love is caring and giving and making the other person happy and that very few people include in their definition of love a mature idea of self love. If the center of your love is in your partner and the relationship dissolves the center is suddenly remove and this makes divorce even more painful. What might it be like if you have become a whole person and learned to love yourself? If divorce came there would still be pain and trauma but it would not be so devastating for you would still be a whole person.
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