We talk a lot about romantic love around Valentine’s Day. When romantic love devours us, we can find ourselves joyfully lost, frightened, and overpowered by intense feelings of belonging. And when this romantic love-bubble bursts, we seem to deflate into a mess of hurt, broken, and overshadowed feelings of failure and unworthiness.
It seems that love, from our human perspective, is inherently limited. The love we feel for another, as partners, family and friends, seems to come with all kinds of conditions. Some of these conditions may seem quite reasonable. For example, you might feel perfectly justified to say to your spouse: “I love you, but not if you have an affair/physically harm me/gamble away all our money.” Other conditions may be more dubious: “I love you, but only if you agree with me/let me have my own way/have enough money, beauty, fame/share my beliefs/keep me from being lonely…” This list can go on and on, depending on the deep inner needs that are unmet in the individual lover.
Love conditions can change in time throughout a relationship. They are restrictions on who or when we are willing to love and how much. Its polar opposite is unconditional love. Unconditional love occurs when we love people freely, fully and openly, with no expectations, demands or restrictions. Unconditional love is a constant stream of acceptance. It is not turned on or off, like conditional love. Unconditional love is full of mercy for the limitations manifested in the one who is loved.
But is it possible to love in this way? Perhaps unconditional love can only be fully expressed by the Higher Self or God. Nevertheless, it is an ideal that the world desperately needs, and something worth acting upon and experimenting with. We might first start with receiving unconditional love from our Higher Self. To know that we are fully worthy, accepted, and loved for who we are, in all our messy brokenness, failure, and even acts of irresponsible choice or worse.
In the ancient Syriac Christian tradition, there is no Hell. The 4th century poet Ephrem and later Isaac the Syrian wrote of God’s irresistible Love. They believed that God’s unconditional love is eternal, ceaseless in its desire for us to embrace it and all that is good. No one can reject God’s love forever, no matter how long they turn aside, try to outmaneuver or outlast His or Her Loving gaze. Unconditional Love is irresistible!
This makes me think of times when I become frustrated or angry with my husband. I shut down and want to run away. But he knows and loves me well enough to always come closer at these times. He typically grabs ahold of me before I flee the room and tenderly embraces me. I may be acting childish and unreasonable, but I cannot resist his act of unconditional love!
Our story is just one small example of unconditional love in action. But more profound examples occur when we forgive and continue to love those who have deeply hurt us. Perhaps the failure of a partner to meet a vital condition for our love is a call for help. If he or she cheats on you, can you still forgive them and wish them well (over time?) even if you ultimately decide to end the relationship?
Unconditional love brings freedom. We are free to be ourselves in all our human frailty and know we are still loved. We are free to love others without expectations, demands or emotional turmoil. In turn, the love is also free to flow and transform all that is around us.
We cannot expect to reach perfect unconditional love – that is perhaps only for God, but we can continually step closer to it and learn to find the right balance between the two. We can start by realizing our unmet inner needs and start to see how we try to fulfil them in our relationships. What conditions do we place on the ones we love (including ourselves)? And how do we ascertain our loved ones’ compliance?
Then try, step-by-step, to meet our inner needs ourselves. To gently move beyond our love conditions, first for ourselves, and then for others. As we open up to more love, the Higher Self can sneak through all our messy insecurities and help us to realize a broader, constant, consistent, and radiant Love. A Love full of mercy. An Irresistible Love!
Oh! And by the way…Happy Valentine’s Day!
On another aspect, I had a conversation recently with a deeply loving person, and we discussed how poor the English language is when it comes to the word ‘Love’. We have just one word that is meant to encompass many nuances.
The love we have for a child, a friend, our life partner, The Divine. All may stem from the same source, but all are ‘different’.
I think as well, we confuse lust – sexual desire – with love as well. And that can be deeply confusing, even damaging. One wonders how many marriages or relationships break up, because one or both partners have confused their cooling of sexual desire as their love dying. This type is ‘love’ takes a lot of energy from us, and can be exhausting.
I think a sign of True love. It’s unconditional nature, is the energy expended when we give it freely. Unconditional love comes easily. Flows deeply from within from the field of love that we all have access to, into us, through us, and we become a chalice that overflows that others can drink from. I think that when we recognise the energy, or vibration, of love we are ‘giving out’, it will help us to ‘name’ it correctly.
Yes – a timely and powerful piece of writing on Love. Thank you, and have a Happy Valentines Day
With gentle love
Hello Mandy, Many thanks for your thoughtful comment. Assagioli wrote quite a lot about transmuting and sublimating sexual energy into spiritual energy as well as the power that can be evoked by a spiritually loving couple. I believe that our spiritual and sexual lives are very close to one another, both are full of immense creative energy. With gratitude, Catherine
Hmmm. I think I need to be open to more of Assagioli’s ideas on this area as I explore my Self and ‘grow’. Thank you Catherine.
Here is the article he wrote about transmutation and sublimation of sexual energies in 1911! He also wrote later how the same techniques could be used to transmute combative instincts and drives. http://www.psykosyntese.dk/a-197/
Thank you – the link is greatly appreciated. I look forward to reading and contemplating on it more deeply. However, I have had a first read (I generally have to read things mutiple times to ‘get’ them), and it appears to refer to unjudgemental self discipline being key when Lust takes hold and creates potentially unhealthy sexual fantasies that can lead to an acting out of sexual desire which can be potentially harmful.
Rather than acting out such fantasies, one should work at staying True and honouring ones Self as well as the Self of another when sharing loving intimacy. (Please correct me if I’m wrong – I’m taking ‘baby steps’ in this direction, and might have not properly understood and digested what Assagioli is alluding to here)
Yes, you are right. The “work at staying True” involves using one’s conscious will to focus one’s attention and energy towards “the precious elements of a higher life,” that is our transpersonal qualities. This is not just done inwardly, but also outwardly. In fact Assagioli says that sexual energy is more easily transformed into creative energy than into other types of activity. Thanks for your input. I think this is an interesting topic. You have inspired me to write more about it in my next blog! Catherine
I look forward to reading it 🙂