What They Don’t Teach You in Psychology Classes

This Universal Emotion Is Surprisingly Absent from University Psych Lectures

There were no lectures on love when I studied psychology. Things are changing now, but love is still the road less traveled in universities and colleges in the Western world.

My classes were interesting but not enlightening. We studied a self with no soul and a mind with no heart, and the body of our work was full of disease and anxiety. There was no joy.

Love was absent.

A lecture on something called Interpersonal Attraction Theory flirted with love, but only a little.

No one addressed love directly, not even Carl Jung, who wrote about everything. It was as if we had forgotten that love existed, or maybe we were avoiding it. Mostly we studied Sigmund Freud. Freud stated that “the communal life of human beings” (his own term) had a twofold foundation, which was love and work.

“Love and work is all there is,” Freud wrote.

Reading what Freud had to say about love was hard work, certainly.

Here again, I found that love was not addressed directly. Even his book Psychology of Love is mostly taken up with commentary about ego and libido, Narcissus and Oedipus, and eroticism and neurosis.

“One is very crazy when in love,” wrote Freud, echoing the thoughts of Plato and Friedrich Nietzsche and others.

However, Freud also wrote this about love:

“A strong egoism is a protection against disease, but in the last resort we must begin to love in order that we may not fall ill, and must fall ill if, in consequence of frustration, we cannot love.” — Sigmund Freud

Freud taught that separation is the root cause of suffering.

All our fears, our unworthiness, our aloneness—the entire A to Z of misery—is caused by our sense of anxious apartness. This separation happens in the mind.

It’s like a lucid dream. In the dream, we make a separate ego-self. I refer to this self in my work as the learned self, which is what we identify with when we forget about the Unconditioned Self. This ego-self is governed by a superego, which is a self-made god that reigns high in clouds of conscience. The ego-self is not sure what it is.

Feelings of separation and anxious apartness give rise to questions like “Am I real?” and “Is there a God?” and “Does love even exist?” What the ego-self really wants to know is “Am I loveable?

Freud taught that the anxious apartness causes you to feel split off from your true self and alienated from others.  A loss of intimacy with yourself makes empathy with others impossible. Genuine contact with others is lost in a world full of egos, personas, and masks.

Freud used the word object a lot in his work. One of the terrifying effects of separation is that the ego-self, which is the central object of our dreams, turns everything else into separate objects too, including mothers, fathers, lovers, God, and also love. Even your heart is turned into an object, like a small stone, which you can think about, but not feel.

This was the first time I had read about the theory of separation and anxious apartness. Revelation is a big word, and I am reluctant to use it, but I must, because this was revelatory for me.

Freud was showing me that all my pain was caused by this one basic problem, the problem of separation. Not just my pain, but also my dad’s pain, my mum’s pain, and everyone else’s pain is caused by this anxious apartness.

Freud helped me to take the first step in undoing the hypnosis of separation. In the future, I would read more about the illusion of separation and its dreadful effects in spiritual literature, in medical journals, in books on physics, and elsewhere, and I would also learn more about how to undo the illusion.

Excerpted from my book, Loveability.

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