The Path to Love

A lover asked his beloved,
Do you love yourself more than you love me?
Beloved replied, I have died to myself and I live for you.
I've disappeared from myself and my attributes,
I am present only for you.
I've forgotten all my learnings,
but from knowing you I've become a scholar.
I've lost all my strength, but from your power I am able.
I love myself...I love you.
I love you...I love myself."

A Gift of Love" by Deepak Chopra

So often have I heard – “To love someone you have to love yourself,” and the question on my mind was always – “WHY?” Why is it that I need to love myself in order to be able to love someone else, and what does loving yourself entail? How do I know whether I do or do not love myself?  I mean, if I am certain that I do – this is great! I am ready for love, baby! But what if I find myself falling short of total love for myself? What’s then? Can this insufficiency be remediated or am I forever doomed to a loveless existence? “Forever” is an awfully long time. This was a bit of a concern for me…

Love, intimacy, relationships, and sex, are the things I dedicated most of my life to studying, experiencing, and understanding. If for some it's cars, bungee jumping, shoes, traveling, sports, and food, my passion is the passion itself. The emotional intensity of an intimate connection with a beloved human being is beyond anything else I have ever experienced. I was super motivated to get to the bottom of the issue: Why is loving myself so important for my ability to fully and genuinely love another?

First, I had to get clarity regarding the meaning of “self-love.” If I like my eyes, does it mean I love myself? If I don’t like my singing voice (and trust me when I say you would not like it either), does it mean I do not love myself? Does an objective judgment of my shortcomings mean a lack of self-love? I know for a fact that I cannot sing, I am a rather average driver, my memory for faces is poor (which got me into all kinds of awkward situations on numerous occasions), my athletic abilities fall far behind those of some of my buddies, my math skills are rather unimpressive, etc. Does saying these things mean I do not appreciate who I am?

Loving who I AM is different from loving what I HAVE or DO. Having the body that you want and enjoying your physique is different from loving who you are. Let's say you have a beautiful body, everyone can see how attractive you are, and you get plenty of attention from people due to the simple fact that you are hot. Great! Maintaining a good shape and a healthy, attractive body is something we can choose to do. Your body is something you DO and HAVE, not who you ARE. If, let's say, for any number of reasons, you temporarily gain a few pounds and find yourself to be out of shape, it does not necessarily change who you are. It is likely to change your perception of your body, but not of who you are. This leads us to conclude that our body is not who we ARE.

What about your behavior? Let’s say you walk down the street and notice someone donated $100 to a homeless person on the side of the road. You might think this person is good-hearted and very generous. Then you come to know that this person is a very wealthy drug dealer and is making on average $10,000 a day. This information is likely to change your idea of who this person is - a dangerous mobster, who is probably responsible for many crimes in the area. Your attention shifts and you notice two neatly dressed and well-behaved girls standing next to this individual – undeniable resemblance makes it obvious these are his or her daughters. The girls are laughing and enjoying the company of their parents. You also become previewed to the fact that this person spends a significant amount of time and money helping the elderly parents, paying for their health expenses, house maintenance, food, and vacations, to make sure they enjoy their old age.

We are so very tempted to make a swift judgment regarding this person based on their behaviors; however, different behaviors lead us to different, and at times opposite conclusions. So is this person good or bad, immoral and callous, or loving and caring? We are capable of behaving in many ways with different people and in different circumstances. One of the key principles of hypnotherapy and neurolinguistic programming (NLP) is that a person is not his or her behavior. This leads us to conclude that our behavior is not who we are either.

So what about our personality? Is our personality who we are? Our culture and language tend to equate the two. For example, we say I AM intelligent, funny, outgoing, stubborn, etc, clearly describing personality traits as who we ARE.  However, the only way to infer one’s personality is by the behaviors we produce, the choices we make, and the things we express. Although personality traits are slower to change than our more external attributes, such as our behavior, I would argue that all of the above is shaped by a deeper and broader structure we can call our Mind.

Our Mind is the source of our full potential, both, manifest and latent. This is the force shaping our interaction with our environment, our preferences, desires, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, etc. We can only infer the Mind based on our observation of our manifest impact on our environment - behavior, emotions, thoughts, etc. This is similar to the quantum physicist's ability to infer the existence of dark energy and dark matter solely based on the behavior of the observable matter in the Universe. Our Mind is the invisible structure filled with the "stuff" of our lives to gain a coherent and describable form.

The ancient Greek aphorism “Know Thyself” was pointing to exactly that – know your Mind. Our appreciation of that larger part of us is true self-love. Becoming aware of this deeper part of us and maintaining this awareness throughout our daily lives is a huge step in the right direction. My own affirmation sounds something along the lines of: “I am always grounded in self-love and self-appreciation.” It reminds me of my true value which lies beyond what eyes can see.

So how would self-appreciation translate into successful dating and, hopefully, great relationships? The answer is complex, however, the essence of it was elegantly summarized by Anais Nin, who insightfully pointed out – “We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Our self-appreciation will look back at us through the eyes of our beloved. This is the common magic we all possess – once we change our inner tune, the melody around us changes.

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