If I had a prayer, it would be this:
“God, spare me from the desire
for love, approval, or appreciation”.
From “Loving What is”, by Byron Katie
Let me say from the start: when it comes to romantic love, I was cultured into the whole you-complete-me belief through films, books and some ideas that basically made it impossible to have a healthy relationship. I grew up in a culture where jealousy was (and still is) taken as a sign of loving someone and even encouraged (especially in men). The idea that loving someone involves an emotional attachment pervades many cultures but what does it actually imply? It means I depend on another human being for happiness. I depend on you for my happiness. How does this sound for responsibility?
So what if I do? You might find it flattering for a while. But the next thing I will be doing is demanding you to contribute to my happiness. And it’s not you I like, it’s how you make me feel. You will become my drug, my fix, the way to get validation. Once I get the taste of it, I will start fearing of losing you. Then I will try to control you. I might even ask you to stop seeing some of your friends that threaten my power over you. You might agree, with a saddened heart but I will not see what it costs to you. “Love’s blind”, remember? Yes, because we are blinded by desire and attachment. Probably you too are afraid of being abandoned. And so we will go around, feeling contracted and closed, comforting ourselves, “This is what we do for love, we compromise”. Only this has nothing to do with love.
I will never get enough and will be needing more and more of you but at the same time I will never really get to know the real you.
“Love hurts?” Wrong! Needeness and clinging do.
I remember that a couple years ago a few lines from Anthony de Mello’s book Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality struck me as they touched the core of my own needeness in relationships.
“The heart in love remains soft and sensitive. But when you’re hell-bent on getting this or the other thing, you become ruthless, hard, and insensitive. How can you love people when you need people? You can only use them. If I need you to make me happy, I’ve got to use you, I’ve got to manipulate you, I’ve got to find ways and means of winning you. I cannot let you be free.”
If I am not enough as I am, if I see myself as a “half”, I will need you to complete me to feel happy.
See how that connects with another concept, that of self-confidence? Ever met a needy self-confident person? I haven’t. Self-confidence doesn’t imply we have to be lonely. It means we don’t need others’ love and appreciation to feel good about ourselves.
“What is a loving heart? A loving heart is sensitive to the whole of life, to all persons; a loving heart doesn’t harden itself to any person or thing.”
About 15 years ago I was freshly in love and blind. I only saw my own object of attachment or rather the feelings I connected with him. The country was falling apart, old system was collapsing and there was a lot of instability and confusion in the society on all levels. Didn’t notice much of it in those months though, in love with my own idea of the person. When approached by another person, my teacher who I had great respect for, I did not recognise the depth of her suffering and the need for some of that love I thought I was feeling everywhere. I was fixated on that guy to the exclusion of the person who was in despair… An attachment destroys our capacity to love. Can you see how? Can you remember how when chasing one attachment you were pulling away from the rest of the world?
I like the image of a soft, fluid heart rather than a hardened one, the one that easily breaks. Do you believe that anyone can truly hurt you and break my heart? Who gave that person the power to do so? About half a year after she reached out to me and shortly after that killed herself, I myself was considering suicide, cut off from the parents and friends, no longer knowing who and what I was: the guy turned out to be a manipulative person who had an issue with women and was trying to hurt each and every one he met. Best teacher I ever had but would never have the wisdom and the guts to ask for. Once again I was not in touch with reality: when the economy collapsed entirely, I was not so preoccupied with what and how I’d eat for dinner as I was busy collecting pieces of myself together. Did I not set myself up for all that psychological violence through my own needeness and bad self-confidence?
“I can only love people when I have emptied my life of people. When I die to the need of people, then I’m right in the desert. In the beginning it feels awful, it feels lonely, but if you can take it for a while, you’ll suddenly discover that it’s not lonely at all. … But in the beginning giving up the drug can be tough, unless you have a very keen understanding or unless you have suffered enough. It’s a great thing to have suffered. Only then you can get sick of it. You can make use of suffering to end suffering. Most people simply go on suffering.”
Why? Because we believe that this time it will be different. If I believe I can make a banana cake using carrots I am missing something, wouldn’t you say?
So the question is: can I love you so that I do not need you? Can I love you so that I do not hold you a prisoner of my needeness? Can I love you so that I can afford losing you because I’ve never made a claim on you to begin with?
“If you were to leave me, I will not feel sorry for myself; I enjoy your company immensely, but I do not cling. I enjoy it on the nonclinging basis. What I really enjoy is not you; it’s something that’s greater than both you and me. It is something that I discovered, a kind of symphony, a kind of orchestra that plays one melody in your presence, but when you depart, the orchestra doesn’t stop. When I meet someone else, it plays another melody, which is also very delightful. And when I’m alone, it continues to play. There’s greater repertoir and it never ceases to play.”
Can you hear the melody?