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  • Writer's pictureAnnette Nilsson

The Us, the Self and what love has to do with it

This year has taught us many lessons, in many different ways. For me, the most important one is that we are nothing without each other. Our relationships are vital and so is our relationship with our self. We need each other as mirrors, communicating with and understanding each other is essential for the idea we have about our selves. Interaction is the glue which keeps society together.

My clients told me that they are extremely tired after virtual meetings, and I believe that one reason for this is that we do not interact in the way we are meant to. We listen to words, and we see images of others, but true interaction happens on many different levels. Online meetings deprive us of the chance to not only exchange words, ideas but to exchange energy, to feel others.

We cannot properly read the body language of those we interact with and therefore, we need to concentrate so much more on the words being spoken, trying to detect meaning and intention. Intention especially is conveyed to the largest part through body language, and we simply miss this experience in online meetings. Also, we are forced to look at our own image, something we do not do in personal interactions, the other one is our mirror and not the camera of a computer or phone.

Our private relationships became more important and more vulnerable. We were forced to stay and work from home, spending much more time together, and as much as we love our partners, too little freedom, too little space puts the best of relationships at a test.

And some relatonships will not survive this test, as we could not escape to the office or to the gym, we had to stay. We had to maybe realise that the relationship we are in is not what we thought it was, we could not look away anymore. The pandemia has not only caused dramatic economic damages, but also shone a light on what was not going well before, and unhappy or unhealthy relationships might have become exposed under that light. Those who come out of this crisis with an intact relationship are more than lucky, they might have taken good care also of their very own needs, something we are not always good at as taking care of your needs is confused with egoism.

Many people believe that if they give themselves completly, if they love the other one more than anything else, the relationship with the loved one must be good, intense, fulfilling. The truth is that this form of love often does not lead to the desired form of relationship but it creates a form of dependency, of neediness and in worst cases of self-neglect.

According to Dr. Gabor Mate, the compulsive and automatic concern for the needs of others while ignoring your own is a major risk factor for chronic illness.

We also might confuse love with dependency because our first experience of love was when we were dependent on love, that is as children. Our parents ‘read’ our minds, they knew what we needed. This behaviour, which served us as children is a threat for the very love we hope to receive if it persists in adult relationships. The closer we are with a loved one, the more we expect the other person to simply know what we need, to read our mind. And if that fails, if our needs and expectations are disappointed, we sulk, like children. We are upset, we withdraw.

But nobody can read our minds, no matter how much we love each other. In all relationships, we are responsible to communicate our needs and also to accept that not all our needs can be fulfilled by one person.

The question then is what does it take to embrace the power of love and keep its cousins jealousy, vanity and greed at bay? If as adults we fail to meet our own needs, these aspects of human character will often demand their rights the moment we have to share our love, are rejected or have to let go.

According to Alain de Botton, to love somebody is to apply charity and generosity. I believe, that if we extend that generosity to ourselves, if we can accept that we are not perfect, that we have our flaws, that we are not the perfect partner either, then we are free to love and be loved. Here is to a New Year filled with Love and Light!

For more ideas and inspiration read Alain de Botton, The School of Life, An Emotional Education.

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