Love And The Failure To Launch
'If you want to be loved, love, somebody.'
Of course, that old saying presumes you know both how to love somebody and how to be loved. It also presumes that you are familiar with the tools of love.
In an age where image of often mistaken for substance, there needs to be distinctions made between what are real expressions of love and those that no more than prepackaged and predigested 'meaningful moments' for sale, geared towards those numbed by narcissism and self absorption. Big bouquets of flowers, giant greeting cards, jewelry, gifts and so on, are the equivalent of fast food masquerading as a healthy diet. Real expressions of love are often supplanted because many of us no longer realize what love means.
In other words, some people have replaced values (real love) with current expressions of what passes for popular culture (pretend love). What is truly sad is how this is now being taught to kids. Children learn what they see- and they are being deprived.
Is it any surprise that public displays and dramatic obsessions, masquerading as love, shaped and framed by popular culture and narcissism, are in full view?
Love is redefined daily by the likes of astronauts gone wild, celebrities gone wild and boys and girls gone wild. Love is now defined in whatever way we need to love to be defined, so that it might fit our desires. Of course, that is the last thing love is about.
Love is a value, defined, taught by example and refined by time. It cannot be learned from a TV show, no matter how 'touching,' nor can it be taught by way of scripted expressions. Love is about choices, the manifestation of those choices and takes years and years to learn. The profundity of love is that the learning process itself can be a great joy. Real love rightfully conflicts with our cultural notions. Love is best when it is not efficient and love is best when served not from a prepackaged and portion controlled, off the shelf ideal.
Dr. Sanity writing about psychological defenses in “A Most Ingenious Paradox” has this to say:
“An individual’s level of development; the depth and breadth of his interpersonal relationships, and the intensity of the perceived threat both combine to determine which psychological defense the EGO might deploy in a given situation. A child, for example, does not generally have either the life experiences or the internal wisdom to use one of the more mature defenses in a traumatic situation. But as life is lived and mild, moderate and severe trauma is survived; as the individual learns from his or her mistakes and gains mastery over the world; then the EGO has more options (i.e., more possible defense mechanisms available—from the most immature to the most mature) that can be utilized.
”As a child matures, he or she also must deal with the quite natural pain and trauma associated with all interpersonal relationships. Even the most loving relationship can have tremendous pain associated with it, particularly when it is abruptly taken away due to the inevitability of separation and death. The child not only must learn to cope with physical trauma, but must learn to cope with this type of inevitable emotional trauma, also. Those whom he loves must be taken in psychologically and incorporated--both the bad and the good parts-- and fully digested into his own self. Thus, does a person learn to accept that those they love and tend to idealize are not perfect and are "good enough." Such fully digested individuals are never completely lost when death or separation happens, and the pain is mitigated so that the grieving process ultimately leads to a person's individual growth, rather than threatening his very sense of self.
”The loss of someone who has not been fully psychologically digested and processed (i.e., someone who is loved but whose bad qualities are so overwhelming that full digestion is difficult, if not impossible) can thus lead to so much internal conflict and misery that the grieving person's life and maturation may be severely impeded from going forward.”
There are people and commercial entities who take advantage of our desire to be loved. Read the right book, watch the right TV show, take the right magazine test and you too, can have a life filled with love, equal to those who took decades to learn the very things in which are now passed around like a plate of hors d'oeuvres .
While we have come to venerate the ubiquitous culture all around us, our identification with values becomes more distant and clouded.
There is much talk of familial dysfunctionality. Certainly, the suffering and tragedy of those that have had to endure much hardship is not to be trifled with. That said, hardship and suffering do not need to be anchors that drown the victim- and more often than not, the victims family. The fact remains that if we do not overcome the legacy of suffering and tragedy, the cycle repeats itself. Those who choose (yes, it is most often a choice) not make their homes places filled with real love and values, remain forever in the 'victim/survivor' mode, never seeing beyond the immediate.
Some argue that overcoming 'toxic relationships' is a herculean task. Well, sometimes it is. On the other hand, dealing with a 'toxic relationship' need not be nearly as difficult.
There are many household chemicals that are toxic. We can't avoid those chemicals, because they are in our cleaning products, pest control products, gardening compounds and so on- so we have to keep them around. We know that if we ingest those chemicals, we will be come ill. That is why we keep those chemicals stored away and out the reach of children. We take all the necessary precautions to keep our homes and families safe. We do not obsess over household chemicals and we don't think about them, morning, noon and night. Why? Because we have secured those toxins and keep them in a place where they can not hurt us or our families. We have learned how to handle and deal with toxic chemicals. We are free to go on with our lives.
We cannot allow the toxicity of the past to poison the love of the present and future. We must engage in a 'cleanup,' so that future generations are not poisoned. No parent would expose their child to radioactive waste, willingly. The would do whatever it took to provide the child with a safe environment.
It is clear that the foundation pillars of a loving and healthy home are the spiritual connections that are found there. Not necessarily in the religious and stereotypical context of the word, but rather, spiritual in the sense of people who embrace life and celebrate life.
A loving home is where meaningful exchanges and conversations take place, where ideas are shared in a honest and encouraging way, discussed without fear of ridicule. A loving home is place where words do not have to be measured and there are no eggshells to be found. In a loving home, egos are not wielded like swords. Real love, shared, is about common goals and ideals and visions of an always expanding love and encouragement.
A loving home is a safe place. A home and family that knows love may not have the 'right' vase to put the dozen roses. A home and family that knows love may not even see that dozen roses. A home and family that knows love does not have to celebrate Mother's Day with dinner at a restaurant.
What loving homes all have in common is commitment. Loving homes commit to the establishment and nurturing deep roots. As each garden is different, so is each home and family. If we do not learn, teach and commit ourselves to real and deep love, we will not have a loving home to come back to. If love- and the expressions of love- are defined by current 'culture' and not by values, we remain off balance. If we are off balance and lack real definition, no amount of riches or displays of au courrant cultural expressions will anchor us. Without deep rooted values and real love, we become hostages to a culture that has no deep roots That is who we become- an extension of our culture, not our values. Is that the legacy we want to pass on?
Today may be the day to give mom that card. Spending a bit of time telling her- and thanking her- for the things that you have learned from her, will last a lot longer than the flowers. Spend a bit of times talking to your kids about the real meaning and values of love, and you'll guarantee a lifetime of Mother's Days that will be about a lot more than cards or flowers.