An interesting little exercise came to me. Trying to love myself never really worked for me. Basically, I would focus on something I do not love, and then try to love it. I couldn’t. But I noticed something of value: When I try to love, I create a distinction between the loving entity and that which is to be loved. The loving entity fails to love the thing which is to be loved, so I assumed love was nonsense. But you can take it a step further and instead of focusing on loving that thing, focus on the loving entity. And when I do that, I get an image in my head of the loving entity. And when this happens, it becomes obvious why the loving entity is unable to love that thing – because this entity is a representation of a form of conditional, rather than unconditional, love. A representation of a form of love that I have come to learn as real love during the course of my life.
To continue, I then try to love this loving entity. Which brings up a different loving entity that is trying to love the first. Again, this is a representation of conditional love, and so I go on and try to love that entity.
This is a great exercise because it shows me from which place the love that I am trying to give is actually coming. And the farther I go back in the chain recursively, the purer the love becomes and the less susceptible it becomes to doing it the wrong way. The farther I go back, the more the voice of love becomes my own – and not one that is learned.
To make this a bit clearer, here are a few examples of the false – or conditional – loving entities that come up for me:
- Pity. A female love that can only love if it puts itself above the thing to be loved and finds this thing miserable and horrible and deserving of pity. This does not work because it actually makes the thing to be loved feel even more worthless and pathetic. In a way, this false lover is less trying to love than to shield itself from the thing that is to be loved. Oh, poor you! Here, take these scraps of affection! I almost definitely picked this up from my mother. Hence the reason why the idea of a mother’s love does not really work well for me – while it might for others.
- The hero. The hero’s love fancies itself as a pure white light, fighting against the forces of evil and struggling to love them in an epic battle, usually losing. This love is actively fighting that which is to be loved, under the pretense of love. It does not really love the thing that is to be loved, but sees it represented as black clouds of evil. It may be a representation of early-childhood narcissism. It is a form of look, I am so great, I am trying to love you despite your horridness. I can take all this pain, oh my god, I am a hero!
- Tough love. This love is male. It tyrannizes the thing to be loved, trying to control it, make it obey, make it useful. It does this from a point of distorted love that thinks it is only doing this for the thing’s own good. This love tries to break the thing that is to be loved, tries to mold it into something useful. In breaking the thing that is to be loved, it is firmly convinced it is doing the thing a favor. One day, you will thank me. This, to me, is a father’s love or the love of a patriarchal god. Or some moralistic tyrant.
- Jesus-Love / Helper. This is the kind of love that I associate with some gurus and New Age nutjobs and many girls/women. And I guess many modern politicians as well. This love smiles at the thing that is to be loved, but the smile carries a tone of superiority. The smile says: I love you unconditionally. Look, you can be like me, happy, good. Why do you insist on being bad? It is a shaming form of love, making you feel bad for being bad. It is a bit similar to tough love, only that it uses shame and manipulation instead of overt force. A variant of this is: You are bad, but I love you anyway. Or: I can not love you as long as you insist on being unlovable. Or: Give up. I know what’s best for you. This love is basically attempting to persuade the thing that is to be loved to masquerade and appear lovable. I associate this with a woman’s love that tries to subdue male aggression under the pretense of love.
- Pride. This is a self-serving love and very self-absorbed. It is a bit similar to the hero. It’s main concern is to be proud at itself for being a loving and wise person. It cares less about the thing that is to be loved than to adore itself in the mirror and say: Oh my gosh, you are such a wise and loving and calm person. I associate this, among others, with my mother, who seems to me to be more concerned about seeing herself as a loving mother than about actually caring about and loving me.
- Guilt. This is a kind of: Look, look how much pain you are causing. Look at me, I am innocent. What have I done to deserve this from you? I associate this with my grandmother and a bit less with my mother. A variant of this is: Why can’t you accept my love? What’s wrong with you? Are you damaged? This I associate with many girls and women I have met or known. It is related to suffocation.
- Reason. A kind of come on, let’s finally get over this thing. This love engages the thing that is to be loved in a debate, trying to prove it wrong, trying to prove to it that it is useless. It is very concerned with what is right. It is the voice that says: Be reasonable. Deep down, you know that this does not make any sense.
- Suffocation. Instead of a calm peaceful acceptance, this is a form of intrusive love that is forced upon something. It is a bit similar to Jesus-Love and Pity, but I feel it is yet distinct. I associate this with a mother’s love a lot. A kind of forced affection.
- Indulgence. This form of love indulges in the thing that is to be loved, simply for the effect of the sensation of doing that. It is more of an addiction than love.
- Submission. This form of love declares the thing that is to be loved its master and says okay, I will do anything you ask. It is an attempt to appease, but it is also related to fear. It is an attempt to calm the temper of that which is to be loved. In that, it is also a bit related to guilt.
- Fear. This is hardly a form of even conditional love. It is basically terror saying: Go away! Go away, you ugly horrible thing! Don’t show me your hideous face! I can’t take it!
The thing that fascinates me about this is that in a way, I have myself become what I hate in others. Long after people have stopped to mistreat me, the pain stays just the same, because I have learned to treat myself the way I have been treated. Another interesting aspect is the subtle ways that we have come to integrate judgments of things into our everyday thinking and behavior. Sometimes the judgment may be so subtle and hidden that we feel like our hearts are clean, but it only shows how well-crafted the mask of love is in us. Sometimes we may think we have the purest intentions and wonder why we end up hurting people – and then even accuse them for being hurt. I think a lot of this has to do with our love not being the clear and attentive non-judgmental river of energy out of our center, but rather a muddled automated program coming from the ego; a self-indulgent emotion, in which we take a mud bath.
What comes up for you?