I’ve been catching up on ‘smaller’ writing projects the past month, clearing my desk and schedule, making space for books I want to write. One project, an encyclopedia entry on love, trips me up more than the others (hence, in part, the recent blog posts on love).
I oscillate between feeling into love as a transformative, life-giving force, and reflecting on love as a social construction learned early on, much like a myth or fantasy, one that life would be too dismal to bear without. (And how better to explain teenage angst and lust?)
I’m not actually a cynic; I do believe in love. And I believe love heals, including the wounds of trauma. I’m not alone in this view. While recently rereading C. G. Jung’s The Red Book for an upcoming presentation, I rediscovered his view of love as that which fills us. Without it we are hollow in our thoughts:
Whoever is in love is a full and overflowing vessel, and awaits the giving. Whoever is in forethinking is deep and hollow and awaits fulfillment.
Living from the head, hiding in thoughts — far away from feelings that might trigger old hurts — is a defense rewarded in our logocentric, future-focused world. (Who has time for love???)
I also like the following remarks by Thich Nhat Hanh. They express the simple truth — one many of us spend a lifetime trying to keep up — that the first priority must be to love oneself, since self-love makes possible loving another:
Love, in Buddhism, always begins with yourself, before the manifestation of the other person in your life. The teaching of love in Buddhism is that when you go home to yourself, you recognize the suffering in you. Then the understanding of your own suffering will help you to feel better, and to love, because you feel the completeness, the fulfillment in yourself.
There is some caginess surrounding talk of love and psychotherapy. Perhaps this has to do with the fear of unbridled passion and sexuality entering the therapy room. This caution is important, for therapy and sex should never mix. The impact can be so damaging as to lead to suicide.
Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, when the love a therapist provides is wholesome, arising from her or his own struggles with love, there can be greater understanding of the path to filling what has become hollow, and revitalizing self-love. Then it’s hard to imagine transformation and healing occurring without love somehow in the mix.