Love and Connection vs. Fear and Judgment
The first of the Twelve Principles of Attitudinal Healing outlined by Jampolsky (2000) is that the essence of our being is love.
I admit that the first time I read this, I was unable to suppress a deeply sarcastic eye-roll. I’m not, generally speaking, a lighthearted, mystical, or even optimistic person. I’ve been known to tell students in my Personality Theory class that I tend to be a behaviorist with an existentialist’s outlook (i.e., life is hard and then you die) who is prone to occasional flights of humanistic and/or transpersonal fancy (e.g., I’d really like to believe that people are basically good and capable of growth). As a rule, I don’t believe in the paranormal or the metaphysical. At the same time, it was C.G. Jung, or rather a pop band’s reference to synchronicity, that got me into psychology in the first place. I’m simultaneously captivated by and annoyed with the Jungian concepts of the collective unconscious and synchronicity. They are, after all, unscientific, untestable ideas that violate my empiricist values. But they are also very, very cool to think about and hard to ignore when they appear to assert themselves. What if we really are all connected across time and space through a shared archetypal language? What if that consciousness drops breadcrumbs for us to follow that help us generate meaning? What if our essence is eternal?
In Teach Only Love, Jampolsky argues that the mind is without limits and our true nature is spiritual rather than physical. I can say that and even attempt to wrap my head around it but my tendency is to feel and experience myself and my world within the boundaries of my body. I feel physical pain and illness as well as pleasant sensations. More of my energy is consumed with my experience of emotion, however. I have spent days, weeks or months angry or anxious or depressed. I’ve spent even longer than that believing that I would only be happy when I had found someone to love. For most of my life, I have believed that my emotions are more often than not under the control of external factors. If I’m angry, it’s because of something someone did to me. If I feel loved, that love has been supplied by someone else and could just as easily be taken back. We also have a tendency to see certain emotional experiences as finite. This is why we compete with one another for affection or time and feel cheated when we don’t get enough.
In her description of the first of the Principles, Patricia Robinson describes love as “a pure energy that flows through us. If it is not blocked by pain, anxiety, anger, all manifestations of fear, we can recognize the essence of love and learn to feel peaceful inside” (p. 6). When we are fearful in relation to others, we look at them with judgment and conditionality. They have to earn their way into our lives. When they let us down by breaking our rules, we are infuriated and threaten them with withdrawal. Essentially, we attempt to hold others hostage to conditional love which Jampolsky describes as “neither dependable nor permanent, and its temporary nature causes us to carry the underlying fear that we are about to be abandoned” (p. 61). Conditional love is about controlling people not connecting with them.
I argued in my last post that US culture is highly judgmental, harsh, and critical. We hurt each other for fun and sport and attempt to wave our hostility off with “just sayin’.” We seem to crave competition and vengeance. We function in a way that is the antithesis of love. Jamolsky states that “…we rarely choose peace over conflict and happiness over fear because of the sacrifices we believe this choice must entail. We also believe that there is satisfaction in revenge, that we can be right by proving someone else wrong, that to humble someone who is being difficult will give us ‘a little peace and quiet'” (p. 61). What we fear is losing our coveted separateness and independence and we will fight like cornered beasts to protect it.
Where does this leave us? It leaves seeing ourselves as vulnerable, separate bodies that have to compete in a hostile world to control other seemingly vulnerable, separate bodies. Love is seen as a quantity that is in short supply. Sounds like a recipe for near constant fear, sadness, and anger even in our closest relationships. Perhaps especially in our closest relationships.
The alternative to living in fear and judgment is to allow ourselves to be aware of love and connect with others with authenticity. Connection based on love isn’t contractual or judgmental. It isn’t focused on differences. “Love overlooks differences, for it notices something of far greater importance: how much alike we are because how much like love itself we are. Once we see this honestly, we quickly begin to lose our fear of others…” (Jampolsky, p. 72).
Do I perceive myself and others in a way that invokes conditionality? More frequently than I would like to admit. I have a temper. I whine and complain a lot. Actually, I piss and moan a lot. When I’m with my kids and my husband … well, you know. Thankfully, I can choose again. I would like to learn to chose to see myself as I really am and become capable more often of connection. I asked a friend who is a beautiful and loving soul once how she always seems to know what to say when people are suffering. She said, “I simply remind them of who they really are.” I will remember that the essence of our being is love.