..Psychology of Love..

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"Love (the bastardized version most of us give and receive):
This is conditional love. I'll love you if you do this, or act that way, or perform in some way that meets my expectations. Most of us received conditional love as children. Most of us needed then to hide our hating, our sexuality, our tears and/or our vulnerabilities because those human qualities were not accepted by parents or society. So we put on a performance by denying those unapproved aspects of ourselves to get the maximum number of strokes. It was not real acceptance of ourselves we received as children, just an absence of condemnation of the aspects we hid. Conditional love is widespread today among adults in most relationships. We couldn't possibly love them if they do this, or they dislike us, or they have the wrong views, etc. If you don't act the way I think you should act, then I'll reject you. You are totally unacceptable to me if you lie, cheat, two-time me, hate me, treat my family wrong, don't agree with me on issues, etc. But if you do jump through my required hoops, then I'll love you (conditionally, obviously). Conditional love created many trauma knots in us as children which we then later as adults need to untie.


..........Love (which lasts).....


This is the stuff of actively caring for another and accepting the other as they are. This type of love is a decision.* One decides to accept the other totally, without reservation, and with eyes open. The other's faults are both seen and accepted. The true practitioner of this type of love can honestly give their loved ones the Love Story message, "Love means not ever having to say you're sorry" (Segal 1970, 131). For whatever so-called harm was done, the loved one is accepted and known to be OK. Many of us achieve this type of love only with pets or small children. Active involvement, while not essential to feeling love, is essential to an ongoing relationship; and its absence will typically be felt as a lack of love. In this culture many of us experienced the physically and/or emotionally absent father, who may have felt love for us, but from whom we often did not receive the feeling of love.


Love (the feeling):


There are some of us who cannot feel the feeling of love for others. It was trained out of us by the traumas of childhood. For those of us so suffering, (often unknowingly), more men than women, there will be avoidances of (1)close relationships and (2)the words "I love you". If this is your difficulty, then the most important step you can take is to decide you want to feel love. To actually feel loving toward others will probably take some time and perhaps therapy. There are even more of us who do not "get" the feeling of love when it is directed toward us. We slough it off without actually receiving it. A decision is also required here as a first step, the decision to want to be able to receive love.



Love (its verbal expression): the words I love you.


Many of us have difficulties with those three little words. Those who have been "toughened" in their childhoods or by life will often be unable to say, "I love you." Some of us will place a huge barrier between ourselves and those words, a barrier such as: "I can't say them until I know the other person is my life-mate." Thus we fail to acknowledge that we have a problem. The difficulty with saying the words "I love you" without any feeling attached (i.e., caring seems to be missing) is also prevalent, and is particularly confusing to children. For example, children know their silent or angry alcoholic dads don't care much. But their effusive moms, with their thousands of supposedly caring words, can cause a lifetime of confusion. The ability to say the words "I love you" with feeling is essential. The ability to appropriately express those words in a nonsexual context to men, women and children is a good indicator of emotional health.


Love (its physical expression): hugs.


To be able to lovingly hug men, women and children is a part of the repertoire of healthy adults. Unfortunately, many have learned to equate hugs with sex. This leads to homophobic avoidance of same-sex hugs, particularly among men. Often one healthy first step for men is to allow the thought into their minds that such hugs are no more sexual than those given children. (Chapter 5 has more on touching/ hugging.)


.....Love (its sexual expression): lust.


Sexual behavior is usually accompanied by a feeling of significant lust, which may or may not occur within the context of a significant relationship with that sexual partner. The feeling of love (described in an earlier paragraph) may or may not accompany the lust/ sexual behavior. Many of us, because of training and/or trauma, have lost either our lust or our ability to have sexual relations with others. Either loss is much to our detriment (more on such sexual difficulties in Chapter 15).


Emotionally Healthy Adults (with respect to love):


1. are comfortable saying the words I love you to men, women and children in a feeling way.
2. are comfortable hugging men, women and children in a feeling way.
3. "get" (actually physically receive) the feeling of love when it is directed their way.
4. express their total lovingness (emotionally, physically, verbally and lustily) with a particular partner.
5. decide to love another and then do so.

Few of us achieve all the above. Nevertheless, you will be much happier the closer you duplicate the above responses concerning love. Therefore, do you want to make it your personal long term goal to make some changes in how you feel, express and think about love? (I hope you do.)"


The above words about love are excerpted from Chapter 8 of Be Your Own Therapist - Whoever You Hire Is Just Your Assistant, copyright 1995.

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