Currency of Love

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(Or I Dated My Mom and Married My Dad)

Currency of LoveI’ve often said I’d like to write a book and it would just contain one word: Love. That word says everything. In fact, it’s worth more than a thousand words, and that’s why it’s so easy to misunderstand.

For most people, it’s easy to give love, it is easy to take love, but so many people rarely allow themselves to receive love. To truly open yourself and let someone/everyone love you and accept it into your heart, mind, body and soul. It’s especially hard for people to receive their own love. Ultimately, our ability to receive love is tied to our ability to love ourselves.

My niece helped remind me about love. That I am love. It happened when we were visiting a museum. She was two years old and she was shining and smiling at everyone. And it wasn’t a random, vacant smile. When she smiled, you were the most special person in the world. You were the work of art and the pictures on the wall were your jewelry. She was giving unconditional love to everyone and everyone was smiling in wonder back at her. It was then I realized I wanted to regain that state of grace. (Now, that doesn’t mean being naïve, but it’s about the ability to receive and give love effortlessly.)

Ironically, there should be one condition to unconditional love. That you should love yourself. Not the cursory ‘of course I love my self,’ but the complete self-acceptance, the complete nurturing and forgiveness of oneself. We can’t do for others what we won’t do for ourselves. It is not sustainable. We cannot continue to give if we become depleted.

A quick way to determine if you’re on the road to depletion is to ask yourself: Are you nicer to others than you are to yourself? Do you put your needs last? Are you overweight or relatively inactive? Do you say things to yourself that you’d never say to others? If you say yes to one or several of these, then there is room for improvement.

Defining your love currency …

First, you should decide what your love currency is. Second, you have to decide if it’s too stringent or whether it truly serves. Often, our love currency is challenging or vague. We create too many conditions. We think we must be worthy or they must be worthy. It must come from the right individual, at the right time, for the right reason. There’s varying intensities and qualities of love. Is this love from a mom, dad, brother, sister, boyfriend, girlfriend, best friend, a child, a stranger? Is it for them? Do they reciprocate?

Often love comes with a price. If I love you this way, then you will do this or that. If you love me, then I must be this or that. It becomes an obligation versus an inspiration.

Unfortunately, when the cost of our love becomes too steep, people give up. We give up. We lose opportunities to create emotional intimacy. We send love packing.

But what kind of bank creates this emotionally-barren currency? The roots lie in our childhood and they’re created by fear. When we’re little, we realize if we’re not loved, we won’t get enough nurturing to survive. If we feel deprived, regardless of the why (perhaps mom is sick, or a sibling was born), we create an expectation that we won’t be loved. If we’ve been hurt, we believe we will be hurt again. We also learn our parents’/caregiver’s abilities and inabilities to give or receive love. We learn how to become them by absorbing their behaviors. Those fears and behaviors become the prism and sometimes the prison through which we view the world.

Reconciling Fact from Fiction…

So, are we doomed to be our parents? No. I have a favorite quote from a Parker Posey movie: She says to another character: “You’re just like your parents.” And he calmly says: “No, I chose to think I started where they left off.”

And that’s what we must do. Our brain must reconcile the fact from fiction – change the context from our childhood to the reality of now. Whether we are an apple that lands right at the foot of the tree, or we’re an apple that rolls far away and down a hill, we have a choice about what we think and what we feel. But it’s not through denial or rejection. (That would suppress the energy within us and create problems later.) We have to understand intellectually and emotionally. We have to help our inner child grow, emerge and understand the greater context that our parents faced and what we faced, but do it in a loving, non-fearful way.

In fact, sometimes we are so interested in not being our parents or significant family members, that we subconsciously suppress the traits we’ve learned. But, those suppressed aspects still have energy and still need to be resolved. So, they act like a black hole, attracting similar energy, people and situations to help our brain resolve the puzzles, the arguments, the anger. Those dynamics become projected onto others so, in essence, we often date our mom and marry our dad (or date our dad and marry our mom, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, etc.). That’s not literally, of course, but figuratively.

A philosopher and writer, George Santayana, once wrote “’Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Even more importantly, those who cannot understand the past and reframe it in a more forgiving and enlightened way, will repeat it.

In fact, go ahead and think about your romantic relationships – do they remind you of a relationship from your childhood? Also, the next time you don’t like someone or something, ask yourself:

1)     What don’t I like about them?

2)     Who do they remind me of from my past? (Hint: Mom, dad, bro, sister …)

3)     How do I have those traits myself?

4)     How do I use them against myself?

5)     What is my fear?

6)     How can I heal that fear with myself? (How can I reframe it in an enlightened, compassionate way, i.e, nurture that inner child.)

7)     Why do I have that fear? Then keep asking why and answering why (trying to supply new insight) until that fear no longer has power.

We also project good traits!

We also project good traits and abilities because we feel inadequate! In fact, the most devastating break-ups occur when people project attributes such as attractiveness, friendliness, creativity, musical abilities, etc., onto their partner. Then when the break-up happens, they feel diminished. I teach my clients to identify those traits they are projecting and start recognizing and nurturing them from within. Own them.

In reality, all of our actions, emotions, thoughts, and perceptions are choices. Our love currency is a choice. In order to attain a higher sense of love in this life, we should question ourselves: Why do we need certain kind of love or love in a particular way? Couldn’t we fill ourselves up with the love of our highest power? Couldn’t we give ourselves more love? Shouldn’t all love be equal?

Ultimately, before we marry anyone, we should marry ourselves. Before we enter into a relationship, we should have a relationship with ourselves that is based on love, not motivated by fear. Because we’re not just a work of art, we’re the whole museum.

Copyright © 2010 – Susan Just. All Rights Reserved.


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