1. Is this love or fear?
The basic fear “I am not loveable” is the primary cause of all suffering. When you identify with this fear, it causes many tears to fall. The fear is not true, but if you believe it, you will turn away from yourself. Feeling unloveable causes you to reject your eternal loveliness. Instead, you put on an act that takes the place of your true self in the hope that this will trick people into loving you. However, because you have rejected yourself, you are afraid that everyone else will reject you, too, especially when they get to know the truth about you.
When you believe “I am not loveable,” it causes you to contract inside, to defend yourself, and to behave in unloving ways that add to your pain. You also experience pain when fear appears to triumph over love: for example, when it looks like love is not present, that love changes, that love is being withheld, that love is not enough, and that love dies. In deep pain, the fear is that love has forsaken you. In other words, love has rejected you, too. This is your private hell. The temptation here is to reject love. However, when you stop loving, it hurts you even more. Only by loving can you begin to face the fear, heal the pain, and walk out of hell.
2. Is this love or dependency?
Many psychologists view dependency as a major source of pain in love. They counsel you against needing anything from anyone, lest you get hurt. One way to counteract this fear of dependency is to be totally independent of others. Unfortunately, this causes just as much pain. Independence looks like freedom, but really it is a dead end. It shuts you off from the whole of creation. Imagine if you had no relationships in your life. I grant that this might appeal to you sometimes, but for most it is only a passing thought. The truth is, we depend on relationships for our growth and evolution. Relationships are how we learn to love and be loved.
Healthy dependency allows you to ask for help, to be open to inspiration, to cooperate with others, and not to try to do life by yourself. Unhealthy dependency arises when you feel unloveable and see others as the source of your love. This causes you to enroll your mother, your partner, or your children, for instance, into making you feel more loveable. They may not know it, but they have a contract of employment. You believe it’s their job to make you feel whole, secure, and connected to the world, to heal your wounds, and to validate you. Inevitably, though, when you make someone your source of love, they will also be a source of pain. No one does a very good job making someone feel loveable, mostly because it’s an impossible task.
3. Is this love or attachment?
Can you feel the difference between feeling connected with and feeling attached to someone?
When you love someone, you feel a connection that defies all physical laws. You feel connected from the moment you first recognize each other. Your friendship is timeless. You feel connected even if you live ten thousand miles apart. Your friendship knows no distance. You feel connected even if you haven’t spoken in ages. Your friendship is beyond words. You feel connected even if one of you is in heaven and the other is still here on earth. Your friendship is beyond all form. Your love for each other serves as a memory of your true nature, and somehow you know that your connection will continue long after you have forgotten about your visit to this world.
When you are attached to someone, it is still possible to feel the love that connects you, but mostly what you feel is fear, anxiety, and pain. Attachments are contracts based on form. Pain arises when the conditions of attachment are not met. For example, “I do, hereby, expect you, lawfully, to agree not to change too much, or grow too much, or become so happy that you don’t need me. The penalty for such unlawful behavior is shame.” Pain also arises when the form of the relationship changes. Children grow up and leave home. Parents divorce and leave home. Our best friend gets married. Our father gets married again. We get married and divorced. People we love die. We grieve the loss of form, and understandably so. But, in truth, there is no loss in love, not when you allow yourself to feel your genuine connection to each other.
4. Is this love or do I have an agenda?
What do you expect from your mother? What do you expect from your lover? What do you expect from your child? What do you expect from the world? Whenever your expectations are not met, you will know it, because you will feel disappointed, let down, angry, and hurt. What is the difference between an expectation and a demand? Nothing much, actually. Expectations look innocent enough, but they carry an agenda, a plan, and a demand to get something. Each expectation is set on a timer, and if you don’t get what you want in time, the bomb goes off.
Expectations are fear based. They are an effort to grab what you want instead of letting it come to you. The more afraid you are of not getting what you want, the more expectations you have on your list. Expectations are frustrating because they arise from an attitude of getting that blocks receptivity. They create an agenda that acts like a wall between you and the other person. Love doesn’t have an agenda, because an attitude of love is really based on being rather than on getting and receiving. In other words, love helps you to be what you want to give and receive.
Here is a list of common expectations that cause hurt in relationships. As you take each expectation off your list, it frees you up to love and be loved.
- I expect to be loved by everybody.
- I expect people I love to love me, too.
- I expect people I love to love me more than others.
- I expect others to know how I need to be loved.
- I expect others to love me the way I love them.
- I expect people I love to know that I love them.
- I expect others to love me without an agenda.
- I expect others to love me without making mistakes.
- I expect others to love me all the time.
5. Is this love or am I trying to get something?
“You can’t feel hurt unless you are giving to take,” says Chuck Spezzano. Imagine you are walking down the street. A stranger approaches. You smile and say, “Hello.” The stranger doesn’t respond. How do you feel about that? Do you feel foolish for having said “Hello”? Do you feel rejected? Are you offended that they ignored you? If you feel any hurt at all, the chances are it’s because you wanted that person to give you something. Your “Hello” wasn’t just a greeting; it was a trade. What did you want? Was it attention? Was it connection? Was it love?
When you give love in order to get love, it ends in tears, either right away or eventually. Love is not something to get. You can’t get love from people like you get a bottle of soda from a vending machine. If you did a naked dance in front of them, you could probably get their attention, some approval, and even wild applause. This might feel pretty good, but it wouldn’t be love. If you give love in order to get love, you will end up feeling disappointed and resentful. “Look what I did for you,” you yell. “I even did a naked dance for you,” you cry. When you give love freely, you feel the love you give and you feel loveable no matter what the return.
Excerpted from my book, Loveability.