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