I can still hear my grandmother’s voice in my ear, gentle and assuring, “You are so sweet and loving, you are going to make the best parent in the world.” My chest swelled with pride, as I gullibly believed her promise. I am loving, I will make the best parent. Love = good parenting.
And then I became a parent.
And there – in those early years – exhausted beyond belief from lack of sleep and self-care – that all those loving feelings that I thought I had ample of, flew out the window.
Left behind, was the most un-motherly mother possible! I was angry, irritable and dare I say, resentful of the fact that I had to take care of a being that – on most days – I had no idea how to and no one was going to a) rescue me….ever b) there was no huge bonus salary at the end of the year and c) I wasn’t going to be awarded by her or my spouse that Parent of the Year award, because it seemed as if these endless hours of giving and more giving…was just something I was “supposed” to do.
It then dawned on me,
“This love thing doesn’t last in times of exhaustion or cluelessness! I can have all the love in the world for my child, but it doesn’t keep me calm, loving or present. In fact, the more I believe I love my child, the more I want to scream at it when it doesn’t abide by my wishes.”
And then the sober truth surfaced: All this love for my child, my spouse, everyone really, was all about me. ME, ME, ME. How they made ME feel. If they made ME feel good, competent and worthy, then I was fully in love. The moment they did not follow my commands and fill my needs I was resentful, childish, needy and of course, judgmental and controlling.
So then what was the missing ingredient? I wondered.
I thought love was the be-all and end-all.
Consciousness! That’s what it was. What does this mean exactly?
- The ability to be conscious of how my love was conditional – ouch, this awareness really hurts! After all, who wants to admit that they love someone because of how the other person makes them feel and has little do with how they feel about the other? We see this with our spouses and our children especially. On the days that they listen and follow our fantasy of them, we are our most gentle and patient. The moment they stray from our expectations and fantasies of them, everything comes crashing down. We manipulate, threaten and control — especially our children, who society says we have every right to. This is where our love becomes toxic.
- The ability to be conscious of how – when threatened – other feelings rival that of love, and in many cases, devour love completely – most significantly, the rival emotion of fear. When we feel like our “love” is going unappreciated, or is not making the difference we thought it would make in the other person’s life, then we enter a state of helplessness and loss of control. This triggers a primal state of fear within us – a fear of our inadequacy and lack of agency. Once this fear is triggered, we can do only one of two things: avoid it by seeking refuge in unhealthy objects (booze, food, gossip, negative relationships) or control it through a raging temper tantrum. In these moments we realize that our love is threadbare and can be easily overtaken by other feelings triggered by fear.
- The ability to be conscious that we need to develop an awareness that transcends emotions – this is a tricky one isn’t it? We have been told that our emotions lead us to our truth. I don’t believe this. I believe that our emotions lead us to blindly react to events and situations, which then take us further and further away from our truth. Instead, our feelings, and the pure and simple feeling of our feelings – something very few of us can really do – take us to our truth. Feeling our feelings does not mean complaining about them, venting them to others or wallowing in them. It means being aware that they emerge from a false self and are not our true self. Our true self is pure awareness. This realization leads us to develop a transcendent awareness that is higher and greater than our feelings – it is a state of presence that is able to stay constant no matter what we are feeling. It is a witnessing state of observance that allows the feelings to be felt in their pure form without the need to project or control these feelings in some way. This requires discipline and practice. This is what it means to be conscious — and when we are conscious, we are automatically loving, in fact, the most loving we can be, because we own our feelings and take care of themselves by ourselves, without needing the other to soothe them for us.
It is only when we are able to understand that love without consciousness is just another emotion, that we will desire to grow into a higher awareness.
If we simply cling to the emotion of love for the sake of its name and idea, we will be lost in its capriciousness and prey to its conditions.
When we rise to a state of awareness of our love – just as we do of our other emotions – then we are able to love ourselves and the other as they are – without expecting them to change or love us back in exactly the way we need them to.
Our love for them no longer becomes about us.
We are out of the equation.
Now, we either choose to love the other person for who it is they are, or we don’t.
Now, love is about them – as they are …but of course, it is so about our ability to choose consciously.
So ultimately, our ability to love another, comes from our ability to be conscious of how we need to unconditionally love ourselves first.
When we are able to meet our own needs, we are then able to love another fully and wholly.
When we love from a place of need, the love for the other is really about need, dependency and control.
Examine your love for others from this lens. You may be surprised about its shallowness and conditionality.
Don’t be disheartened. This is perhaps the path to a greater love: one that is tempered with consciousness.
Love with consciousness? Ah, now we are talking about true love.