Love: We all want it, but we can’t get it.
Love: “An intense feeling of deep affection.” Oxford English Dictionary (2018)
Affection: “a feeling of liking for a person or place” Cambridge English Dictionary (2018)
In my past, I thought I could never feel love. I thought I was a sociopath. What I felt was a constant sadness. A persistent loneliness. A hole so deep that I could draw no strength to fight life’s battles. A constant storm in my reality, where I was the captain of a ship on a never ending voyage across the oceans, in stormy waters, with no sight of land, constantly sea (love) sick.
Love is drawn from my emotions. From my feelings. From myself. The reality is that I never loved myself. My own shame and guilt, got in the way of seeing who I really was and loving that person. My own shame and guilt got in the way of seeing who I really was. When I did act on this, it would be out of sight, and not part of my reality. This meant that I could only live on the edges of life; sleep with guys who would accept my reality of shame. Not the guys I wanted to have a meaningful relationship with. They were all platonic ‘relationships’, seeking a hedonistic high from random hookups. The total number of people in the category is in the 100’s.
What I have experienced and witnessed is many gay men, who act from a sense of shame, behave in the same way.
Talk to many gay men in the gay community, and they’re all seeking relationships; but for many, the struggle to find that meaningful relationship that is real. The Velvet Rage by clinical psychologist Alan Downs describes the struggle out of shame that gay men face. The struggle is similar to what many gay and non-gay people face: a lack of a role model, a proscribed value system in conflict to our beliefs, a homogenous societal belief system and a hyper-commercial reality – in which everyone is striving to be better than before. But how do we create a reality that we can love?
In life’s ‘plan’, we don’t move from point A to B overnight. Instead we take a series of next best actions that guide us to B. What often surprises us is that we actually end-up and point C, D or E, in an opportunity that we were never expecting, which can bring us great joy.
I once went on a trip around Europe – I was travelling from Rome to Nice and I decided to stop in Florence – not expecting much of the city. I was moving from point A to C via B. Florence is now probably my favourite European city. I also chose to take the slow train between Florence and Nice – and the most wonderful views of cliffs falling into the sea, with towns and villages lined up and down the coast. The point is that de-tours can bring joy. The choices that we make, and the following actions, keep us moving forward to our point B.
Love is Confident and Vulnerable
You know that feeling when you love someone, they’re struggling and you offer advice. You are so convinced that your advice is right, that you’d do anything to help them achieve what it is you think is right for them.
I was convinced that Mr Love needed a new job to get over his own depression and build his self-esteem and self-worth. I was convinced it would change his life – I helped him apply for jobs, re-wrote his CV and had a good nag at him to do something. He didn’t at the time, but after our break-up found a new job, and he is so happy with it.
How often do you do this for yourself? What would it feel like to follow your own advice that you believe i?. When we choose to take that action: this is love as confidence – taking action to get what we want.
How about we take the advice from others? When we don’t know what it is we love? Accepting love is vulnerable love – accepting that the love we need isn’t something we can understand or get for ourselves, and accepting and actioning advice from others.
To receive is to give, and to give is to receive, as they say.
Love: Complex Neuro-chemistry
Our brain is a complex mental map of thoughts, skills, memories and attributes which form working patterns that make us respond in a repetitive way to situations, tasks and threats. Our own experience and thought processes (hello anxiety) help us to define what action we need to do next.
In short our actions are based on everything we have ever stored in our heads, consciously and sub-consciously.
We take two types of decision: what we think and what we feel about any given situation.
What we think comes from the upper part of the brain – the frontal lobe. This part of the brain does the thinking and reasoning and stores long term memories. We can take conscious decisions to do something.
What we feel comes from our hypothalamus, which is located at the base of the brain and the bottom of the temporal lobe. The hypothalamus instructs the adrenal gland to release hormones – to stimulate a feeling. This is done sub-consciously based on the complex mental maps of memories in the mind.
Feeling happy, in love, rewarded? Your brain has flooded your brain with hormones based on memory. You’re entire life you have been building a repository of things you love – a love map. Subconsciously. Without even knowing it. Without realising it.
Most often love is irrational; we can’t explain why we love it, but we love it anyway. This is because our brain has told us there is something similar on our love map – and triggers an emotion. So that person you really fancy and think you really shouldn’t – well all your life there is something you love about them from your experience.
I said to a housemate last night that I learned more from Christina Aguilera’s Dirrty video about sexuality than what I had been taught – and those rubber chaps, mud wrestling and thrusting – well I love all of that now.
Love: Making Sense of Our Emotional Reality
I’ve previously spoken about our identities, ego and what drives our decision making. We are often in conflict with our thoughts and emotions. Our ego provides us with the opportunity to rationalise and comprehend our reality. Our emotions tell us, if it is something we love.
The problem is that we can trick ourselves into thinking our reality is everything we wanted. That life is great; I have a wonderful boyfriend, a wonderful home, wonderful holidays and a sexy body.
But our emotions tell us there is something wrong with this reality. What we think we love, isn’t what we really love. We also can’t explain what it is what we want; it’s unclear, and we don’t know where to go. We can’t explain our identity.
This can be frustrating. We think it is, what we have, is what we wanted all along, but it isn’t. The reality is that we need to confront our emotional reality, and continue to experience the new and take note everytime we experience joy and love.
Alan Downs explains this in the Velvet Rage. We need to discover what it is we love. We need to make choices to move from A to B and eventually we’ll land somewhere we love. But these choices need to be based on emotions – what our gut tells us. This is because we cannot face our entire past in one go – what we like is based on our love map – our experience of what it is we loved – and there’s no way you can tell what that is overnight or in a sentence.
I’ve recently been taking mindfulness classes. In one of these activities I do a body scan and realise the being of my entire body. What I believe this is doing is pushing the mind away from the thinking into the feeling by focussing on what I feel in the extremities. Just as I am in the body, I am shifting thinking from the top of the brain to the bottom of the brain.
This is just one of the ways you can begin to comprehend your emotional reality.
In short, love is about taking action to move towards what you love, as well as experiencing random moments to discover what it is your love. It isn’t a conscious emotion that immediately tells you what it is – it is ambiguous.
Some people say that love will find you – well the reality is, you find love. You’re brain already knows what it is you need – you just need to follow your gut and emotions over each and every choice.
This can mean some hard choices.
When I was a child, I drowned at the age of 4. I was in fear, panic, in pain. But I made a choice. I accepted my reality and came to peace with myself, and understood the outcomes of those consequences. I chose to do nothing and chose death, knowing what would come.
It was the bravest decision of my life.
Luckily I lived, but in comparison, some of my current choices pale in significance. I’m struggling with whether I love my career or not – my emotions tell me to run, I am making choices, there is a big one to come.