LOVER

I usually post my own thoughts here on WordPress, but picked up this book today and felt compelled to share what jumped out at me. You are invited to share your feedback – I’d be curious to know what this piece brings up for you. Cheers!

 

The Lover is one of the most potent archetypal forces in the Western psyche, and in America, romantic love may well be the single greatest energy system that governs our lives, competing with religion as the arena in which we seek meaning, wholeness, and ecstasy. Nearly every level of the entertainment world – our movies, novels, magazines and media advertising – taps into this hunger, the passio perpetua of the modern age. At its best, romantic love leads us past the literalism and materialism of the Western mind and brings us face to face with the symbolic life, opening our eyes to the meaning of human love. At its worst, it distorts and wastes our lives.

In our culture, ideals have been set so high that we have come to believe that romantic love is the only form of “love” on which marriage and intimacy can be based. Other cultures, like those of India and Japan, foster deep love and devotion for their partners, but they do not impose the kinds of impossible demands and expectations as Americans have done, believing, as we so often do when we “fall in love,” that we have found the ultimate meaning of life. We feel completed – as if we have found the missing parts of ourselves – and we suddenly feel alive and whole. But when the fantasy wears off, we become anxious, angry, or depressed. We blame our partners for the loss of ecstatic love, or seek romance with someone new.

Underneath, we do not recognize the deep sense of loneliness and alienation that emerges from this idealistic pursuit, one which limits our ability to form genuinely loving and committed relationships. Romance insinuates that we have the right to expect that our desires can and should be satisfied. But by its very nature, romance must deteriorate into egoism, for it speaks more about our own fantasies, projections, and expectations than it does of the other person.

This is the great wound of our psyche, and if we are to heal ourselves, we must undertake the difficult task of understanding it. The path towards consciousness can bring new awareness about ourselves and our relationships with others.

We cannot linger forever in the romantic ideal; eventually we must push forward to overcome the dogmas of our culture. We have to deal with our own Western unconscious and our own Western wounds, finding the healing balm within our own Western soul. What we will find is that the essence of happiness is not so much to be loved, as to love. 

~ Robert A. Johnson, in LOVER: Embracing the Passionate Heart

 

6 comments on “LOVER”

  1. Hi Bela,

    What jumps out at me as I read the post are aspects of ” Instant gratification” and “Me- Self first” perspectives. Are these products of western materialism as you seem to imply? Maybe. But it could also be something to do with the socio-economic environment that we live in.An environment born out of successive implementation of the industrial lifestyle that demands higher and higher levels of production, consumption and gratification.

    The illusion of romance thus takes on a higher aura ( demanding higher energy and focus) than what old fashioned love and familysustenance really needed. Methinks this is also one of the underlying causes for breakdown of the family concept itself.Is this a good or a bad trend? I wish I could be sure.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

    Shakti

    • Aloha Shakti! Always some great considerations after reading your feedback (and your posts as well). I think the me-first is best explained by Johnson’s statement ” … by its very nature, romance must deteriorate into egoism, for it speaks more about our own fantasies, projections, and expectations than it does of the other person.”

      And so it doesn’t necessarily connect consumerism and materialism with these feelings – at least that’s how I understand it/him. He’s a Jungian, and a famous one at that – so his perspective would be mostly depth psychology-influenced. Consumerism is best explained from an eco-psychology perspective, in my opinion.

      But your point is well taken with me, as I have for some years had huge concerns about Western materialism and its global impact. We set up a model (democracy) for the world to follow, but we are such a young nation (which I’ve referred to more than once as an ‘adolescent nation’ – very much with great ideas and ideals, but not fully matured and often impulsive or ill thought-out).

      Johnson also (in this book) brings up the fact that we’ve replaced the spiritual/religious affiliations of older cultures with what might be termed the religion of love – but in this case, that love is, once again, not fully formed and mature – so it becomes a sort of religion of romance. Which has its own consequences.

      Now all that being said, there’s got to be an upside to Western infatuation and influence – just like there’s such profound wisdom in Eastern spirituality. We are sharing with each other as never before, with the result that there is less oppression (religious and otherwise) for my gender, for sure – and for other marginalized people (homosexuals leap to mind) in other countries. So I’ve got to believe that, naive as we Westerners are in the arena of ‘mature love,’ globally we’re all leveling some greater playing field.

  2. Well said, Bela. I saw a movie recently that had its two leading figures meet and instantly fall madly in love. Madly is the operative word here. This is the romantic nonsense that is fed to young people. No wonder there’s so much dissatisfaction.

    • You’re right-on, Ronnie. Madly IS the operative word! And it goes back further than my own mother’s generation, though the media influence was nowhere near what it is today. I remember going to double feature movies at the theater – and what an event that was! I could count the number of movies I went to up until I left home. Now we watch Netflix moves almost every night – we own a lovely TV screen but have never and will never hook up a TV – we just watch film, foreign and otherwise. Kids often grow up today with such a media onslaught that it’s a wonder they sift out their own thoughts, opinions and feelings at all.

      I think of someone close to us (not my own kids) who, as long as i’ve known her, has modeled herself on old movie stars – right down to facial gestures and phrases. It’s actually creepy. I wonder if she ever does anything truly authentic or genuine, or if even her private life is sprinkled with whispered phrases that Vivian Leigh spoke in some movie.

      Right or wrong is not for me to say – only that I have to wonder how far removed we are collectively becoming from ourselves – and what the long-term consequences of that might be. I guess time will tell, for there is nothing more capable of self determination than the human race. And our ability to balance the scales by going to either extreme seems borne out by history. Exciting times we’re living in!

  3. I adore that shot of you two tho.. classic.. i don’t know about love at all, don’t get me started after three marriages and who knows what else.. ah well.. i am glad to be older now.. c

    • When my daughter took that photo, I didn’t think as much of it as I do today. It really speaks volumes of our life together! So thanks for appreciating it 😉

      I have had three marriages as well! Took me awhile to grow up, but this one is a keeper, over 20 years strong. And I’m no expert on love, that’s for sure. That being said, I *have* discovered that it wasn’t “romance” that kept love alive and growing. That’s how the first two failed – when they came down to earth, so to speak. This one was grounded first in deep friendship and mutual admiration and respect. In my ’20’s I would have considered that BORING. And compromise and the willingness to admit we’re wrong when we are – so valuable.

      I suspect, Ms. Celia, that you are wiser than you admit. And yes, isn’t it fabulous to be older! I wouldn’t change that for a second!


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