DR. ATHENA STAIK, PH.D.
April 2, 2023
The permission to fully love and embrace your human self and life is no small matter.
Paradoxically, you need your own love and acceptance to fully and genuinely love your life and those you love.
Why? Several reasons.
First, you need your own love to sustain and grow you through inevitable challenges.
You need your own sense of value, to love yourself and life, to keep the lights of hope and belief in yourself shining when you face the challenges life brings to grow you.
it is impossible to be in a relationship and not hurt each other. It is par for the course. And growth necessitates pain. Tensions naturally arise when two different persons, each bringing unique strengths, issues, gifts, intelligences, and energy to the relationship; however, your relationships are essential schools where, by regularly attending, you choose to learn and grow.
Instinctively the body rejects pain and tensions. Yet avoidance of tension, i.e., talks on issues, is the cause of many relationship problems, much personal suffering. An "infant protest" seems to take over, and many find themselves wondering "when pain and problems will ever go away"! We tend to think others have it easy, and we're the only ones with problems or pain.
In the words of one of the most brilliant psychologists of the 20th century:
"Neurosis is the avoidance of legitimate suffering." -- CARL JUNG
The real problem is not tension, pain or fear. Indeed, these are necessary to grow and strengthen you, build your courage and stamina, resiliency.
The main problem is an inability to handle our own or a loved one's fear and pain. Pain is a critical part of all growth, learning. It allows you to transform fears into assets and invites you to stretch out of old comfort zones to realize new possibilities.
The cliche “no pain, no gain” is more than a guideline; it is a law of physics. Pain and fear are critical action signals. They prompt us to take action, stretch and grow out of an old comfort zone for example.
Growth is the result of facing pain and courageously handling our fears. You need your own love to remain meaningfully connected throughout the pain, the ups and downs you experience, the fears your courageously face along the way in your personal life. The human quest to love and be loved is a most challenging, yet most fulfilling one.
Second, you need your own love to face the challenges of learning the most complex life lesson: building mutually nourishing relationships.
Nature seems to love partnerships, and bring together two persons in love relationships, friendships and other partnerships, that have opposing tendencies along several dimensions, especially in how they react to pain or stress.
A love relationship seems to be a top notch school to awaken two persons to fully participate in nature's plan to let go of old comfort zones, and stretch to discover the capacities each has to consciously love both self and the others.
Whereas nature loves stretching partners to value the distinct strengths each brings to the relationship, both their own and the others, most partners enter love relationships with rose-colored lenses, looking for a "soul mate" or the "perfect" one to make them happy forever after.
The challenges of harmonizing, building mutual understanding and respect, learning to value the other's opposite style of handling stress, etc., are enormous. Each partner is faced with learning how to simultaneously love and take care of their own feelings, growth, healing and happiness, as they also lovingly participate in the other's healing, growth and happiness.
Genuine love is a mutually enriching relationship that forms as a result of two persons, each loving themselves enough to engage in the uncomfortable processes of nourishing both their own growth, so that they may courageously endure and lovingly participate, by their actions, in the growth processes of the other.
Ideally each person grows and becomes ever more consciously aware and self-reflective, getting to know and understand themselves, first and foremost as human beings.
Each learning how to feel upsetting emotions without getting triggered, how to maintain your own sense of feel good when challenging moments arise. This protects you from taking things personally, engaging in blame patterns, harsh criticisims, etc., all of which erode and weaken relationships.
No life task is as complex to learn as the wisdom of building mutually nourishing relationships. You need your own love to remain meaningfully connected throughout the ups and downs you experience, the letting go of old ways and the welcoming of new, the fears you courageously face along the way in connecting to those you love.
Third, no one but you, is responsible for your health, wellness and happiness; others are responsible for theirs.
The expectation that it's your partner's or parent's or friend's job to make you feel happy is the cause of much strige in most relationships. Many go around feeling unloved because of this or that, or the love they feel they didn't get in their childhood, from parents, or their ex or current partner.
We will always want key others to love and value and esteem us, to be sure. In adulthood, the only love we absolutely need to be healthy and happy is our own love.
This helps us face the ongoing disappointments when loved ones fail us, and they will, as we fail them at times. And you do so as the agent of your life, resolving to take optimal actions, to learn from choices, and never blame, wallow in self pity, and other behaviors that prevent us from growing wiser from our experiences.
Genuine love is a conscious love, an intent to express love through action. It is an awareness and an intent to express love in actions that mutually nourish self and the other, and strengthen the relationship.
Neither pain, nor differences, nor disagreemens are the problem. Not loving yourself enough to accept that the pain, differences and disagreements you experience are there to grow you is the problem. Without painful experiences, how would you realize the powerful reservoir of resources you have inside, to build the courage and strength you need in order to create something more beautiful than you could ever have imagined?
In a couple relationship, it takes two persons, each committed to fully engage in processes of healing and stretching to love and discover ever more authentic ways of loving and giving and receiving with our whole heart — and conscious mind.