I believe that there is much to learn about our attitudes, joy, and happiness when we examine our beliefs about love. There are many different stories, so many narratives about what love is, or could be, or even should be. This is because love is a mystery that people have been trying to unlock for a millennium. Love seems to be more of a spectrum, with romantic love on one side and selfless love on the other. Romantic love is experienced in the pleasure centers of the brain and is often fleeting, leaving the person wishing and wanting for more. It lights up the brain just like cocaine, very powerful but just as short acting, leaving a person always wanting another fix. Helen Fisher said “romantic love is the most addictive substance on earth.” In today’s dating app world, there is another fix of validation and romantic fantasies with the swipe of a finger. Many people who struggle with substance abuse or dependency often find comfort in the arms of romantic love. They’re often unaware that they are feeding the same underlying issue the substances were medicating or masking. Romantic love can be a perfect cross addiction. I have witnessed clients go through the same pain, anguish, and sorrow when they are cut off from romantic love as one does when experiencing withdrawal from drugs and alcohol. The grief and the heartache are the same. I have also seen clients risk everything for love, be willing to put their lives on the line to taste the passion and power of romance.
Selfless love on the other hand does not seem to have the same consequences. With selfless love there are not any withdrawals or side effects, and no longing or cravings, either. Selfless love exists in the moment, in the present time and place. This love is not worrying about the future or the past, there is no anxiety or stress. Selfless love is performing acts of kindness and helping others without expectations to the outcome. Research shows that when love has been founded on non-attachment appreciation, we don’t rely on external sources to experience compassion, connection, support, and intimacy. Love is derived internally and not based on expectations and compulsions. Selfless love is dismissed because people do not understand what is gained from it, and this is exactly the point. Selfless love is: Love without neediness, desire, compulsion and obsession; love that is unconditional and without assumptions; love without someone else’s validation. Sometimes selfless love is the ability to see yourself through the eyes of another, to practice empathy and be open to how others see you.
Not everyone needs to live the life of a monk. The framework here is to find a balance so you can live a wholehearted life. Our brains, wired to explore, seek an adventure, take risks, while living in the moment and connect with others. We’re wired toward self preservation and survival. Here is a quandary, learning how to dance with love, grief, and happiness without judgement or expectation. Accepting loss and heartache while loving ourselves or others is a step toward living a wholehearted life. Love and loss will change you, opening the ability to be humble while spreading your wings; you become available to new challenges and experiences.
This balance comes down to living a life where we practice spontaneous acceptance and forgiveness. Happiness comes from finding balance and becoming adaptable to my current surrounding, while taking accountability that I am the creator of my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. To get where I am today I have made multiple choices to create this present moment. I am grateful to understand what parts of this dance I have control over and what parts I don’t. My happiness and contentment are based on knowing the difference of what I can change and accepting those things that I can’t. To live a wholehearted life I embrace the ability to hold compassion, acceptance, forgiveness, and tolerance while embracing the diversity of the world I inhabit.