Lucky to Have Suffered

The old adage goes you can only love someone else as much as you love your self.  While there is some obvious truth in that statement, I learned a lot from others about love between a man and a woman.  My greatest teachers have been a few special women who have loved me deeply.  In spite of having beneficial self-forgiveness today, I will always lament that I was unable to love them with the same depth they loved me. Emotionally a child within, the ability to return the love received was just not possible then.  My gratitude is deep for those women who schooled me in how to love in a deep and profound way that I benefit from today.  No amount of positive self-talk could have replicated this experience and the wisdom gained.  It was a gift of intimacy, not of will-power.  I will always be grateful.

I remember other women who met my vulnerability with disinterest when I was in my late teens and 20’s.  In memory strongest from then are those who said they loved me deeply when the statment was grossly untrue.  Something tender shriveled within me and I thought I might never be able to share the real me again.  My response thereafter was to create an exterior that matched what I thought others wanted me to be.  This came from just being myself and feeling it did not work.   So I created a false self that let me feel safe and accepted—but at significant cost. Psychoanalytic theorist Donald Winnicot said, “Only the true self can be creative and only the true self can feel real.” Consequently, the person women fell for was, at least in part, my projected false self; the one that could not honestly love fully in return.  And there is my flaw and dysfuntion that then prevented me loving adequately in return.

In an article on Ken Page, a New York author and psychotherapist wrote:Imagine taking a pet you love and putting it in a yard with an invisible electric fence. When it tries to move outside its allowed space, it gets stunned by an unexpected shock. It will only take a few jolts before your pet gets the message: if it goes too far, punishment will be instantaneous. In a short period of time, your pet won’t act as if the borders even exist; it will simply avoid them. If pushed closer to the danger zone, it will exhibit increasing signs of anxiety. The world outside the fence just isn’t worth the pain.

Now imagine turning off the charge from the invisible fence, and then placing a bowl of food outside its perimeter. Your pet might be starving, but it will still be terrified to enter into the newly free space. And when it finally crosses the line, it does so with trembling; anticipating the pain of new shocks. It is the same with us; even though we yearn for the freedom of our true self, some deep reflexive instinct still tries to protect us from being hurt again.

Yep, for most of my adult life I was that much like that poor, frightened pet in the example.  The lack of love in childhood, seeing almost nothing but dysfunctional relationships then and picking troubled women who hurt me in my early adult life all worked together to condition me to be like the pet example.  I became part real and a partially “put-on” person to avoid being hurt.  I ended up not only being unable to love intimately,I got hurt anyway.

Being anything but what one truly is never works in the long run.  With the education of being loved in the past, especially by the two women I was married to, and years of recovery from codependent and love avoidant issues I am so very different now.  I can really love! Today my heart is open fully and I am in love with all I am for the first time probably in my entire life.  The questioning of whether I should or not is gone.  My doubts about myself are greatly diminished.  The shame I feel about my past is healing.  And most of all, I feel truly worthy of being loved.

My ability to love fully was learned in large part through relationships that instructed me in the worth of my most vulnerable self.  My gratefulness for the love shown me by those exceptional women is great.  I only wish I would have had the ability to have reciprocated what I was being given.   A., B., R., K. and A. … from the bottom of my heart, thank you for loving me.

Dean Ornish, MD in “Love and Survival. The Scientific Basis for the Healing Power of Intimacy” wrote: love and intimacy are at the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well… I am not aware of any factor in medicine — not diet, not smoking, not stress, not genetics, not drugs, not surgery—that has greater impact on our quality of life, incidence of illness and premature death from all causes.

In less than four lines just above is a simple explanation why I am the happiest today I have ever been.  With the tempest of self-loathing inside gone except for a little short-lived and controllable storm once in a while I am psychologically and physically the best I have even been.  I could mourn all the years behind me when I was not so, but instead I choose to live my life with gratitude “in the now” with belief in the good that is ahead.

I believe that I was lucky to have suffered. Some people don’t realize that in suffering there is great potential, because if you are deprived for any reason… and if you set your mind in the right direction, you will find that the only way to survive is for you to excel, by being better… Talal Abu-Ghazaleh