The “Real” in Relationships

solar system

I used to walk around in rose-colored glasses when it came to this idea of “love” and lasting relationships. In my youth, and to some degree in my adulthood, I tended to believe there was this mystical “perfect person” with whom we were destined to spend our lives. However, years of living, loving, and losing have taught me that there isn’t a “ONE” out there waiting to save us from ourselves (basically we have to save our own self). In all honesty, I think that there are an infinite number of possibilities that we can “make love” with (please do not misconstrue my use of the phrase ‘make love’; it is not sexual in nature, but spiritual). Like I said, I do think there are a number of individuals who cross our paths over the course of our lifetime(s), and it is up to us (both partners) to decide if we will walk out this experience together. Yesterday I read some TRUTH that not only opened my eyes, but allowed me to take off those rose-colored glasses and crush them under my feet. The following words revolutionized my thinking:

Love often fails because people instinctively give what they want….Many people give up when relationships become too difficult. Relationships become easier when we understand our partner’s primary needs. Without giving more but by giving what is required we do not burn out….To fulfill your partner, you need to learn how to give the love he or she primarily needs (John Gray, from Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus).

When I tell you that my mind has been blown and that this is earth-shattering information, I kid you not. This statement tells me that this idea of “love” that we so often toss around has the power to be sustained in a relationship/partnership so long as both individuals know how to fulfill their partner’s needs, not just their own.

I will be the first to admit that I had a selfish view of “love”. I was overly protective of my fragile heart because I was afraid of being vulnerable to another person’s needs and desires. In nearly each of my past relationships I kept up a shield to protect myself because I was so concerned about my needs that I failed to take the necessary actions to meet the needs of each man I claimed to “love”. That is a sad indictment on my part, and for that I apologize to every man I have ever loved.

The truth is, I was afraid to do what real love requires: surrender. Deepak Chopra wrote in The Path To Love, that:

Spiritually, no action is more important than surrender. Surrender is the tenderest impulse of the heart, acting out of love to give whatever the beloved wants. Surrender is being alert to exactly what is happening now, not imposing expectations from the past. Surrender is faith that the power of love can accomplish anything, even when you cannot foresee the outcome of a situation.

Quite honestly the idea of surrender scared the crap out of me. I connoted surrender with weakness and as an independent woman the last thing I wanted was to appear weak. But that’s what happens when our ego gets in the way. And you know what Deepak Chopra has to say about the ego? He says:

At the level of ego, two people cannot want exactly the same thing all the time. Yet at the level of spirit, they cannot help but want the same thing all the time. Your ego wants material things, predictable conclusions, continuity, security, and the prerogative to be right when others are wrong….spirit and ego are total opposites. Bringing them together is achieved through surrender, and the only force that can accomplish it is love. Surrender, then, is the next phase on love’s journey, which you enter as soon as you choose to be in relationship.

I don’t think that Deepak Chopra is saying that we, and our beloved, should literally want the same things, but that we should desire the same things from love: support, compassion, understanding, appreciation, respect, devotion, etc. I believe that he is urging lovers to recognize that our ego inhibits our ability to surrender. For it is through surrender that we are able to achieve our loving desires (those noted above).

In my previous post, “Le’Go My Ego”, I spoke of the importance of relinquishing ego because it stands in direct contrast to love. I stand firm on this belief. Actually, while watching a previously-aired episode of Oprah Winfrey’s “Super Soul Sunday” I received confirmation about this issue of the ego. In the midst of a conversation with Reverend Ed Bacon, a priest in the Diocese of the Episcopal Church, he noted that Satan, the deceiver, is synonymous with ego. Reverend Bacon went on to say that Satan/ego (whose instrument is fear) isn’t purely outside us. The enemy that he spoke of is not outside, but within and that makes sense when Joyce Meyer has informed us that the battlefield is in the mind. So much of our drama is internal, and if we are ever able to control our thinking, I’m certain that we would experience a freedom we have never known, perhaps surrender. Our ego is that enemy that we battle daily. If we want our freedom, we have to give up ego. Just last week my therapist asked me a fundamental question; she looked me right in the eye and said: “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be effective?” The question she posed was asked in the midst of our discussion about my emotional turmoil over my most recent break up. I contemplated her words and instantly realized how I had been allowing my ego to sabotage my relationships. Instantly I wanted another chance to prove that I could love: be vulnerable and surrender.

As I sit here now, I continue to contemplate Bacon’s words and am immediately drawn back to Chopra’s idea of surrender as it relates to spirituality. If each of us is on a spiritual journey, then it only makes sense that love would require us to learn lessons about surrender. While I cannot do anything to change my previous actions/responses to love, I am eager to integrate what I am learning. So here’s what I have gleaned from Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

The Differences in Men’s & Women’s Values

Men Women
Power Love
Competency Communication
Efficiency Beauty
Achievement Relationship
Proving themselves Support/Help
Developing power/skill Nurturing

Men define themselves through achieving results. They gain fulfillment through success and accomplishment.

On the other hand, women define themselves by their feelings and/or the quality of their relationships. They are fulfilled when they share/relate.

The Differences in Men & Women’s Primary Emotional Needs

Men Women
Trust Caring
Acceptance Understanding
Appreciation Respect
Admiration Devotion
Approval Validation
Encouragement Reassurance

In reading John Gray’s text, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, I have been able to pinpoint experiences where past relationships had “gone wrong”. Knowing what I know now, I feel I have gained insight on what is required to successfully maneuver through a healthy love relationship. If the premise from my introductory paragraph is correct, “…there are an infinite number of possibilities that we can “make love” with…”, then I am walking into my future with 20/20 vision.

Now knowing these fundamental truths, I am hopeful about my future responses to love.   And the following quote will lead me to loving freely and fully.

“Love is magical, and it can last, if we remember our differences”—John Gray (author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus)

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Le’Go My Ego!

Despite the fact that I’m just four months shy of my 39th year, I have just begun my “path to love”. At times it seems both strange and frustrating to only now be on such a journey, but I try not to allow the idea of time to box me in. Better to have begun the journey, than to live a false life without really knowing, and experiencing, love in its purest form. Now, this “path to love” that I have started isn’t so much about finding an external source of love (a partner), but about falling in love with the Self (spirit) as it is referenced by Deepak Chopra. According to Chopra, the ego is at odds with the Self (spirit):

Ego is responsible for protecting your self-image; it creates the compartments where everything undesirable about you has been hidden. What blocks love is not the presence of these shadow energies but the division of the psyche that came about when your ego started building inner walls. Love is a flow, and walls keep the flow out (24).

If Chopra’s premise is true (that the ego battles with the Self), then my inability to experience love in its truest, most pure form, has been the result of my fated attempts at preserving my “fragile” ego—which in turn is the cause of my “emotional constipation”. That being said, it’s now time to “le’go my ego”!

As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, I started reading The Path To Love: Spiritual Strategies for Healing by best-selling author Deepak Chopra when a dear friend (Sunila) suggested I look into some of his videos on meditation. While in search of Chopra’s videos, I came across the before-mentioned book title and was immediately in awe of his prolific and profound words. Recently, while reading the chapter titled “The Spirit of Romance: Tender Courtship”, the following words from Chopra leveled me.

The exhilaration of falling in love is an escape from ego, its sense of threat, and its selfishness…the ego cannot do two things: it cannot abolish fear, since ego is founded on fear; and it cannot create love, since ego by definition shuts out love. The reason the ego and love are not compatible comes down to this: you cannot take your ego into the unknown, where love wants to lead. If you follow love, your life will become uncertain, and the ego craves certainty. You will have to surrender to another person, and the ego prizes its own will above anyone else’s. Love will make your feelings ambiguous, and the ego wants to feel the certainty of right and wrong. Many other experiences that cannot be comprehended by ego apply to love—a lover is confused, spontaneous, vulnerable, exposed, detached, carefree, wondrous, and ever new. Love’s journey would be terrifying if we didn’t have passion to give us courage—the blind courage of lovers, it is often called. It would be truer to call it the blind wisdom of lovers, because the ego’s certainty is an illusion. Uncertainty is the basis of life (115-116).

The ego is at war with the Self (spirit).

Fascinated by human behavior, I took my first psychology class as a sophomore at Denison University. I continued to take psychology classes and even considered a dual major in English and Psychology, but my love of literature and writing won out. A couple years after I had graduated with my B.A. the yearning for the field of psychology haunted me and I found myself in another institution of higher learning, Marshall University, simply taking psychology classes because of my curiosity with the subject matter. But let’s get back to this business of consciousness and the battle of the Self and ego.  In an effort to fully understand Chopra’s words, we must return to our notes from “Psychology 101” where many of us learned about the three parts of the human psyche, as defined by noted psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.

Pen and Paper, Please: Time for Notes

First and foremost, in The Ego and ID, Sigmund Freud explains the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness—which are central to understanding his assessment of human personality (id, superego, and ego):

The term ‘conscious’ is to start with, a purely descriptive one, resting on a perception of the most direct and certain character. Experience shows, next, that a mental element (for instance, an idea) is not as a rule permanently conscious. On the contrary, a state of consciousness is characteristically very transitory; an idea that is conscious now is no longer so a moment later, although is can become so again under certain conditions that are easily brought about. We can say that it was latent, and by this we mean that it was capable of becoming conscious at any time. Or, if we say that it was unconscious, we are giving an equally correct description. Thus ‘unconscious’ in this sense of the word coincides with ‘latent and capable of becoming conscious’…we have two kinds of unconsciousness—that which is latent but capable of becoming conscious, and that which is repressed and not capable of becoming conscious in the ordinary way…That which is latent, and only unconscious in the descriptive and not in the dynamic sense, we call preconscious; the term unconscious we reserve for the dynamically unconscious repressed, so that we not have three terms, conscious (Cs), preconscious (Pcs), and unconscious (Ucs)… (Freud, 1927)

Yes, that is certainly a lot to ingest, but I am certain that Freud’s insights about human behavior, coupled with Chopra’s insights about love, will lead us to a better understanding of how many of us have blocked the flow of love in our lives.

“We have formulated the idea that in every individual there is a coherent organization of mental processes, which we will call his ego.” (Sigmund Freud)

 

Yes, Your Hand May Be Cramping; Suck It Up…More Notes (from Freud’s The Ego and The ID, 1927)

The Ego:

  • Includes consciousness
  • Situated nearest to the external world
  • Controls approaches to the external world; attempts to avoid negative societal consequences
  • Regulates constituent processes (decision-making component of our personality)
  • Goes to sleep at night; censors dreams
  • Represses (attempts to cut off certain trends in the mind—trends that stand in opposition to the ego)
  • Is also unconscious
  • Represents “reason” and “sanity”
  • Carries into action the wishes of the id
  • Operates from the “reality principle”

The Super-ego or Ego-ideal:

  • Less connected with consciousness; preconscious
  • Represents the internal world (of the id)
  • Mediator between the ego (rational) and id (impulsive)
  • Weighs values and morals
  • Controls id impulses
  • Works to “persuade” the ego to operate at a “higher” level of consciousness–moralistic

The Id:

  • Works on an unconscious level
  • Contains passions
  • Primitive
  • Instinctive
  • Impulsive and irrational
  • Seeks gratification
  • Operates on the “pleasure principle” (Freud, 1920)

Okay, now that we’ve taken our notes and have a more insightful understanding of Freud’s assessment of human behavior, here is one last piece of information—an illustration of these systems.

ego

Alas, let’s start to merge Freud’s ideas with those of Deepak Chopra. Let me remind you, Deepak Chopra insists that the ego is at war with the Self (spirit). Let me clarify the Self that Chopra speaks of. According to Vedic tradition, the Self is:

…not the everyday self with its thoughts, wishes, needs, and drives but a higher Self that is silent and eternal…In truth you are the Self, created from the same spirit that in infinite form is called God (12-14)

That being the premise we are working from, we have to understand what this ego is all about. According to Chopra, falling in love is about journeying into the unknown and that is a “scary” place for our rational mind (ego) to go. The unpredictable nature of love stands in contrast to the ego’s desire to reason and rationalize. The ego seeks to avoid pain and does so by weighing the id impulses against the superego’s understanding of societal values and morals. Love desires for us to surrender, but the ego cannot conceptualize surrender because it does not come across as “rational”. However, “Surrender is the door one must pass through to find passion” (Chopra, 1997).

As I reflect over my most recent experience with “love”, I have drawn the conclusion that it was neither pure nor true because it was tainted with an intrinsic need to protect my heart from the “unknown” variables associated with love. If I am to truly love, myself, and another spiritual being, I must relinquish my ego. While it supposedly serves to assist me in rationalizing the world around me, there are just some things that need not be rationalized—love for instance. Chopra notes that, “Getting to true love is a growth process, and the first requirement is to become aware of when you are not being true”. We are not being true to the Self (spirit) when we allow our ego to dominate our actions in the face of love. In an effort to maneuver through Chopra’s four phases of romance (featured below), I have decided to Le’Go My Ego!

  1. Attraction–choosing a person “to be smitten by”
  2. Infatuation—“the beloved becomes all-desirable and all-enveloping”
  3. Courtship—we are “wooed”
  4. Intimacy—“Through intimacy the union of two people begins to be played out in the real world rather than within an isolated psyche”

The patterns in my “love life” have shown that I tend to get so far as the Courtship phase and then the relationship begins to crumble. I am going to venture to say that the crumbling is a result of not being true/honest about my feelings and perceptions. When true Intimacy began to surface, my ego pumped the brakes and I became fearful of sharing my Self.  My vice is my inability to communicate from the deep recesses of my heart, and this has led to many an unsuccessful attempt at love. Knowing and acknowledging this now is freeing me to experience the love that I have longed for. It is clear to me that, “The courtship phase succeeds to the extent that a man and woman can dismantle their defenses; it fails to the extent that they build new defenses together” and “Even the most intoxicating romance will not be able to overcome a history that places ego needs much higher than those of relationship” (Chopra, 1997).

Chopra on Courtship

  1. It brings together two people’s perceptions
  2. Is a tender stage where lovers decide to pursue a new reality or return to the old
  3. Is about speaking your heart to another; sharing your spirit (Self)
  4. Is a shared birth; an opportunity to exchange our innocence
  5. Where a new path (into the unknown) is created together; a path with no past
  6. Allows trust to grow despite old wounds

I know in my heart of hearts that I want a man in my life who will stand with me through the good and the bad. I cannot love and respect a man who flees at the slightest sight of danger and/or discomfort. By nature, I am a fighter and the next man I allow myself to fall in love with must too be a fighter. After all, “If survival is paramount in a dangerous world, two are better at it than one” (Chopra, 1997).