Recovery Messages & News

On Love…

By Dr. Raju Hajela

February is the month for Valentine’s Day, which is commonly associated with romantic love; and Family Day, which gives us a holiday Monday, as time for loving connections with our families. Love is commonly felt as a combination of hope, fantasy, commitment, loyalty and attachment. People usually distinguish between romantic love, erotic love and filial love. Some languages even have different words for each.

Love encompasses a lot of feelings and people often say that all of life’s problems can be solved by more love. On the other hand, love can become pathological- involving pre-occupation with another person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours, which is termed co-dependency; or part of relationship Addiction, where one feels incomplete without the other and/or the other becomes a “drug” for one’s own well-being. The latter is a big vulnerability for parents who want the best for their children, yet can become rescuers and enablers, contributing to harm while thinking that they are motivated by love. Relationship Addiction is also what perpetuates unhealthy relationships and keeps people trapped in dysfunction, hoping or trying to change things that require acceptance and boundaries while ignoring things in oneself that can be changed with courage.

Sexual feelings can easily be aroused with love too; however, it is important to appreciate that sex as the dominant expression of love can be problematic, especially if one’s brain becomes more dependent on the pleasure of the orgasm rather than the love connection between two people that requires mutual respect and caring. Love needs to be a win-win for both, where sex can be a bonus in a healthy, loving relationship. Sex without a loving relationship foundation, even though it may feel “good”, often translates into using each other. The focus on orgasm also unfortunately feeds the disease of Addiction, driven by the chase and fantasy, where the other becomes an object to fulfill a desire rather than a person to connect with.

At its base, love is an emotional experience that signifies a pleasurable connection between a person and another person, place or thing. It is a strong motivator for action. The love associated with a place or thing actually signifies attachment and usually defines how we see ourselves and how others see us. It can also lead us to others who share those attachments that are driven by meaning and values that are central to our existence as a human being. Although the expectation of reciprocity, if the love involves a person, is common, it is not necessarily normal. Rather, one needs to honour boundaries and be open to see if reciprocity exists. Fantasy unfortunately can easily take over, which is why “falling in love” and the related pre-occupation are the closest thing to Addiction that all of us experience. One can go beyond the stage of fantasy, often called infatuation, and build a relationship on a foundation of love that leads to healthy attachment; whereas, someone who has Addiction has to be more diligent in separating out fantasy to be able to focus on the reality of relationships that require acceptance of what is and boundaries. Boundaries help us maintain unconditional acceptance in the context of mutual respect, without rescuing or enabling.

So what drives love in all of us? Have you considered that one has to love oneself before one has the capacity to love another? Love for oneself is spiritual in nature as it requires clarifying what gives meaning to life and what are one’s important values? Internal clarification and alignment of those in our behaviours lead to a connection with one’s Higher Power or nature/collective consciousness. This alignment also brings more honesty and intuition in relationships with others, as being true to oneself is essential to be being true to others.

Loving oneself is essential before loving another to appreciate the holistic, all- encompassing biological, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of love.

Loving another definitely does not mean that the other has to love one back. If one can truly own feelings of love, which means unconditional acceptance of oneself and the other, then reciprocity is not necessary!

SO, celebrate LOVE joyously by connecting and sharing with no expectations and clear boundaries! May it lead you to equanimity and serenity!!