For some of my clients working on relationships, I always ask, "how do you define love?"
Usually, people have a mapped out, higher-consciousness philosophy of what love is. Ask me, and I'll reply the same.
I'd probably say something along the lines of: "I see it split into a few levels- biologically it's when hormones are flooding the body similar to an addiction, physiologically- it feels incredible to be around someone and everyone else disappears, they become what feels like "yours", spiritually, it's a union of souls that mirror one another and are along a joint path. Overall it's a strong sense of connectedness,"
I've read so many philosophical and scientific books on love, even took a course on love in college. I understand, or at least, I think I do.
So then, as someone, and as people collectively who have such a strong grasp on what "love" is, ought to be, why is it that it's the source of so many of our problems and headaches?
The reason I ask my clients what Love means isn't because I'm looking for the answer above. It's because I'm trying to help them see the truth of love's association in their minds. There's usually a dissonance here between what love means, and what love "is" or "was".
Consciously there's a reckoning of what love is in an ideal sense, but subconsciously, love maps are encoded in a way that is out of our control, that is created by our caregivers, our family and our relationship patterns. When we grow up in a family that is less than ideal, who mistreated us, it's no wonder many of us become consciously afraid of love, even though we consciously don't understand why. Many of us seek to create familial patterns in our love relationships for better or worse. We're all looking for "home" afterall.
Take for example: my first love. He was someone who fought with me endlessly. It became about his needs and emotional volatility, and he literally would lock me in his apartment because he didn't want me to ever leave. He wouldn't let me hang out with my friends and when I was out at night (it was my first year in college no-less, I wanted to make friends and be out) he'd harass me and whine until I would give in and he'd come pick me up from where ever I was. I fell in love with him, hard, and love became associated with a feeling of entrapment. Of abuse. Of claustrophobia. Of anger, resentment, a robbing of personal agency, draining and fighting. No wonder I was terrified of it from that point on.
I remember even talking to one of my best friends at the time about it and he said, "the way --- treats you is like you're an abused child,"
It didn't click until years later as our subconscious has a way of hiding patterns from us because sometimes we're not ready to acknowledge it, he treated me the exact way my parents used to. Consciously I knew he was toxic for me, I wanted to get out of the relationship, but my conditioning, my subconscious was used to this: his insecurity, his lack of emotional responsibility, his lack of maturity, his acting out, were things I was well-equipped, and used to, handling. It felt familiar, therefore, it felt safe. FELT is necessary here, because it wasn't actually safe.
I used to wonder why when someone outright harassed me, I'd feel overly sympathetic towards them and love them more. I was used to overjustifying and being overly compassionate with my caretakers, explaining away their actions and overlooking how I felt. I was supposed to be grateful, to be a good daughter, and so being those things means disowning what I felt deep inside- hurt, abandoned, rejected, angry, frustrated, resentful
It's painful to reckon with, and scary that on the "lower" level, our past is still following us, but also recognize that there are positives to this unconscious love mapping. I am attracted to strong individuals, self-made individuals, individuals who have endured many hardships to get to where they are. I am attracted to people who are ambitious, focused and brilliant- as both of my parents were.
On the flip side, I also have incredible chemistry with men who are emotionally unavailable, people who have issues communicating, who are factual to the point of emotional vacuity, angry and narcissistic. I recognize that and as I work hard on changing it, what happens is each cycle in which my life is filled with certain people who activate those triggers, they actually become more available especially as we identify and say no to it-- our cycles repeat, yes, but it's up to us how much we try to clear that energy and imprint and progress is made when we recognize that there's movement until one LAST clearing and then it's out. Sometimes, and especially with familial patterns, usually we're resisting change because there's a part of us that's still holding on. We're holding on to our parents, of what they were to us, and what they could have been. Consciously I'm understanding that the LOVE that's innately wired in me isn't the love that's healthy for me, and that LOVE doesn't mean what I think it means, what I feel it means, or is something I really know at all despite endless intellectual parsing.
This is odd to say as someone who, as you may have read, radiates an unconditional love. It's usually one of the first things people notice about me, write about me- my love. I know what love means spiritually, I know what unconditional love is and how to give it, but on this human level it's a very different story for all of us.