Why we look for love the way we do.
In a few days, I will see the person I used to think of as “the love of my life.” Even though it’s been a while since we parted ways, I can’t help but look forward to being in his presence again. We are friends now. But I still hope to feel the high I used to feel when he looked at me with desire.
The feeling I used to call “love” is like a drug. No, I mean, literally. It is maybe dopamine — or another substance — hit in my brain that I am really after. When I am “in love,” this is all that matters.
I just crave another dose of a chemical, which is wholly dependent on the quality of attention the other person chooses to give me. This is the conditional kind of “love.” The condition is the other person’s behaviour, presence, willingness — and alignment of those things with my personal projection of how I want to be loved.
I am not sure I know what unconditional love feels like. Maybe I only had glimpses of it in my experience. But I certainly cultivate a mental fantasy about what unconditional love is.
The sensation of unconditional love
In my imagination, unconditional love feels like the ocean. The feeling of it is not very concrete in my awareness. I have only encountered the ocean twice in my life. So knowing how it feels is just about as vague as unconditional love to me.
The first adjective that comes to mind is “stable.” It exists regardless of what I do, how much I love and how many tears I cry. In the end, even handfuls of my tears don’t change much if poured into the ocean. I am both insignificant and humbled when faced with it.
Then, it gives me a comforting feeling of reassurance. It always was and always will be there. Contrasted with my lifetime, it represents the Foreverness. It is timeless and this is miraculous to me. While everything else in my life is fleeting and ever-changing, whenever I go to the shore, the ocean is there. Always and all ways.
Finally, it transcends my imagination. I know that no matter how hard I try to think about it, I will never be able to grasp it in its vastness. I might have an illusion that I can see the horizon of the ocean — and therefore the place where it ends. But then common knowledge tells me that this is just a trick of the physical world. My senses are simply not suited to perceive the wholeness of the ocean all at once.
Unconditional love is like the ocean. I can say whatever I want about it — but it never actually enters my experience in its entirety.
Embarking on a search for the Prince
During all that time when I haven’t been seeing the ocean — which is, almost all the time — I have been in search of the worldly love. The only kind of love I was ever told to look for. As a little girl, I looked up to my father as a role model for my future husband. At the same time, I was told children stories and then read books about princes arriving on white horses and princesses being adored by them into a happy-ever-after life.
Ever after what? — that question has never crossed my childish mind. But my unconscious must have registered it, as the lack of an answer to this question has determined my further quest to find my own Prince. The only thing I took away was that I will be happy after — after the initial struggles, after hard work, after getting hurt.
Ultimately: after trying hard to earn the love from the Prince. After proving that I am worthy of his feelings. And that — that caused most of the pain.
Because a part of me always knew about the existence of unconditional love. The oldest, pre-socialisation part of me that I seemingly managed to quiet at the age of seven or eight. But the voice of that girl was always there. Through all these years when I tried to fulfil the necessarily painful prerequisites to the “happily-ever-after,” that girl was continuously speaking.
This battle of the conditional and unconditional parts of me resulted in desperate projections of my unconditional desire into the conditional world. In that world, I encountered flawed, very human princes that I was trying to turn into who I wanted to see.
The mechanics of projecting “love”
Actually, I was mostly looking for my drug — like any addict would. Now I call that drug “the resonance of feeling recognised and desired.” Oh boy, was I addicted to that resonance. The addiction was driving my behaviour in pretty much all areas of my life, as my main concern was to simply get my hands on another dose.
Just like with any addiction, desperation inevitably entered my experience. And through the lenses of desperation, any man that showed me some interest seemed to be a good candidate for the Prince.
This is the power of projection. It doesn’t matter what happens in the real world or what the person in front of you is like. To the person who’s projecting, this doesn’t matter the slightest bit. Because she always sees just what she wants to see. In my case: the compilation of my father’s features and the stories about princes I was told as a little girl.
It doesn’t matter that the guy at the bar is a prick determined to satisfy his lust at all cost. To a girl who projects her fantasy of him showering her with love, he may well seem like a good candidate for a prince. And this causes her to trust him against all common sense.
Worst even — she does it over and over again, without ever realising what she is doing. It always seems that it is them doing it to her. It is them cheating, mistreating and lying to her. And all that she had in mind was the strive to be happy ever after.
After this whole struggle would end and somebody would finally love her unconditionally.
This goes on and on and on. Until, one day, she realises something important.
Unconditional love is born from giving, not getting
There comes a day — or a week, or a month — when something or somebody finally opens her eyes. In my case, it was the “love of my life” who did it. He became the love of my life not because I got something from him — but because he made me realise that love is about giving to another, rather than getting something from them.
These were very romantic times, full of intimacy and closeness — but also times of deep spiritual transformation that reversed the course of my life forever. During the period when we shared a kitchen and ordinary meals in it, I was not ‘happy’ in the classical sense of the word.
In fact, I cried more than ever before or after next to that man. But the way he received my tears changed everything. This was the transformative part that gave my conscious mind a glimpse into what unconditional love could be.
He wouldn’t panic or try to prevent me from crying. He wouldn’t stubbornly ask me what happened or try to cheer me up so that he could escape from the discomfort of watching my tears. No. He would receive me exactly as I was at that time — a helpless, confused and snotty little girl, who finally decided to grow up.
While he was sitting still, watching my tears with his loving presence, I was slowly waking up to the patterns of projection I used over and over, all my life. I saw clearly how I projected the Prince image on him, yet again expecting to be showered with love. But because he would be more aware of those projections than I was, he didn’t react. He allowed me to see for myself that I was trying to get something very specific from him.
But he wasn’t giving it to me. And that’s how my consciousness-transforming journey began.
This is how I want to look for love
Today, as I write these words, I am waiting for him to visit me. And from the way I feel while I am waiting, I know I haven’t yet entered the unconditional experience. I am still hungry to get love.
But since our last kiss, I have met other men and approached them somewhat differently. With each and every new encounter, I was just a little more aware of my motivations. I could feel just a little bit more of my deeply embedded need to be recognised and desired.
Sometimes I acted on that need and other times I didn’t.
And so I engaged intimately with people who barely knew me. I allowed them to touch me in a way I despised. I felt guilty. Then I opened up. I gave somebody my loving attention. I saw my own soul in the other person’s eyes. I pretended to be somebody else. I begged for one more kiss. I spoke the most honest words in my life. I laughed and I cried.
I did the usual, going through the ups and downs of becoming intimate with somebody other than me. There are always ups and downs, for intimacy is such a complex experience. From the outside it didn’t seem like something substantial has changed in my attitude.
But my inner landscape felt different ever since I experienced intimacy with “the love of my life.” I knew that the core motives of my behaviours have changed. I am not an addict anymore.
First of all, I learned that I can be alone and be fine.
Secondly, I discovered that I have a choice as to whether I want to engage in the “search for love…” or not.
Finally, I know that if I do search for it, I am ultimately interested in the unconditional experience. I don’t want love to be just a means to satisfy my hunger.
Now I choose to feed myself first. Then I will look for a partner who is not hungry for, but abundant with love. Then maybe — just maybe –we can dive into the ocean together.