Relationships … It’s All About Love
Love makes the world go round …. All you need is love! The Beatles and philosophers knew what they were talking about. If you have wealth and health, but you don’t have love, whether for yourself or for/from someone else, romantic or friendship, life is not as whole as it could be. We are social animals, and as such, our functionality within society depends on how we relate and get along with others.
“No man is an island. No one is self-sufficient; everyone relies on others,” from a sermon given by John Donne, a 17th century English author.
Here’s an interesting tidbit: The first Monday of the new year is dubbed “Divorce Day”, because that is when lawyers receive the most enquiries regarding the lawful breakup with a partner. The year-end holidays are a stressful time which highlight what is already broken in a relationship. The “January blues” (the lull after the holiday excitement) also gets blamed for couples re-evaluating their commitment to each other.
“The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are,” Stephen R. Covey
Love Is An Inside Job
So many of us have problems attracting love, keeping love, or staying in love (romantic or friendship), and it can all be traced back to having emotional blocks to love.
The first action to finding love is to change external factors about ourselves: losing weight, toning our bodies, buying a new outfit, cosmetic surgery, or a hairstyle change. However, emotional blocks to love are internal, and part of the mindset. In fact, being attractive is not enough to maintain love.
The most common emotional blocks to love are a fear of being rejected, a fear of being hurt, and telling yourself that because of previous rejection and hurt, you cannot ever trust and love someone again. Feeling that you’re not good enough, not lovable enough, will also hamper your love-attracting abilities. All these fears and feelings of inadequacy have at their base the fear of rejection and the need for connection. This fear is rooted in our caveman days. If the tribe rejected you, you would die of exposure, hunger, falling prey to predators, etc. Having good, solid connections with multiple tribe members, would reduce the chances of being rejected by the tribe by keeping you in line and socially accepted by the tribe.
Another tidbit about the link between the need for connection and addiction: Addiction has been linked to a lack of connection with the people in the tribe. In fact, Johann Hari (British journalist and TED Talk speaker) astutely concluded that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but connection!
Most people with relationship issues have unfulfilled needs rooted in their childhood. These people constantly search for someone to meet all their needs (the equivalent of an external band aid) instead of taking the responsibility to meet their own needs. This plays out as follows: They believe that they’re unlovable, that it was their own fault that their needs were not met (because they are so unlovable). Whoever they find will not really love them, and will always abandon them. If this person does not abandon them, they will push them away, thus fulfilling their own abandonment prophecy. Do you see the pattern? These people will attract the same type of relationship over and over again, because that is what is familiar to them.
Don’t rush into any kind of relationship. Work on yourself. Feel yourself, experience yourself and love yourself. Do this first and you will soon attract that special loving other. – Russ Von Hoelsche
Self-Love … The Real Inside Job
Anita Moorjani, in a discussion with the late Wayne Dyer, said that loving ourselves means valuing ourselves. By loving ourselves, we are able to attract the good in life so much easier, easier than by avoiding negative thoughts and embracing positive thoughts. If we do not love ourselves, we feel that we are not deserving of the good things in life such as money, health, nurturing relationships, and therefore, push it away subconsciously. The negative thoughts are not to be blamed, but our own feelings of deservedness and worthiness are what determines the quality of our lives. The most important relationship that you will ever have is the relationship you have with yourself. Love yourself like your life depends on it, because it actually does. Relationships are indeed all about love.
Within relationships we all take on different roles. These roles are usually rooted in the roles we played as children within the family unit. In relation to the acquired relationship roles, children adopt an ego control drama based on the control dramas adopted by their parents, who adopted their control dramas from their parents, and so on. This happens because the mirror neurons in the brain mirror the behaviour that the child sees – the literal case of “monkey sees, monkey does”. When children play these ego control drama games, they see which type of drama works best with which person, and then they will use this(ese) technique(s) for the rest of their lives.
Which Role is Your Go-To Identity Within the Family Unit?
According to Marisa Peer (Rapid Transformational Therapist), within a family setup, we accept different roles in order to create our niche so that we can belong and be indispensable to the group. The first role is that of the infirm. The child/parent with allergies, asthma, intolerances, eczema, psoriasis, IBS, colitis, finicky eating, etc. think that they are not loved, but then notices that whenever they are sick, the fighting stops and attention is focused on them. These individuals manifest their stress as multiple illnesses and become hypochondriacs as adults, because this is a very effective strategy to get attention. I am not referring to serious illnesses such as genetic illness or childhood cancer, but to dis-ease (psychosomatic) types of diseases. If this behaviour is successful within the family group, it will also be applied to social circles/tribes outside of the family.
The second role taken on by someone in the dysfunctional family in search of love and belonging, is that of the achiever. This person will become very good at something: straight A student, amazing athlete, always the best at what he/she does. Back in our tribal days, the best hunter, the best dwelling builder, the best medicine man/woman, spear maker, or food gatherer, was indispensable to the tribe. The modern day translation of this is the one who is in the office first and the last to leave, takes on the majority of the workload for the group, picking up the slack for everyone else, and always pushing themselves. This results in burnout because burning the candle at both ends is not sustainable.
The third role taken on by individuals in search of love and acceptance is that of the altruist. This person feels that he/she does not receive attention, care, love, help, so they take on the role of the helper, the caregiver, the assistant, the organizer, and taking care of everyone else’s needs. The problem is that altruists have no balance: they give and give without receiving or taking. This results in depression and feelings of unworthiness. This is the people-pleaser. A high percentage of altruists become nurses and therapists.
The fourth role taken on by individuals in search of love and acceptance within the group, is that of the rebel. The rebel will demand attention, whether positive or negative attention, it doesn’t matter. They want to make sure that they get noticed, so they throw tantrums, are loud, bang stuff, and do what they are not supposed to be doing. Those with substance abuse issues usually fall within this category. The rebel is so focused on getting attention – any attention – that they never learn to make true inter-personal connections with others nor intra-personal connections with themselves.
Whichever role you took on as a child, you probably are still playing at as an adult. In your adult relationships, you will look for people who play opposing roles. The infirm will look for someone who is an altruist, as will the achiever. The rebel will look for someone who is an achiever. Children need their parents to love them so that they can be taken care of. However, as an adult, you can survive on your own and your nuclear family becomes your extended family. You no longer need to cling to your role. You are now in control and you can meet your own needs. Those who cling to the belief that others should meet their needs are considered high-maintenance within the relationship, and those relationships never last.
Ego Control Dramas
The ego thrives on control and approval: controlling desired outcomes and ensuring approval from people and situations. Control dramas create systems that two or more people participate in, and therefore, affect our relationships.
Dr. Deepak Chopra gave a talk for Hay House called “Radical Well-Being”. He discusses the concept of ego control dramas rooted in limbic dysfunction caused by experiences in infancy. If a baby is not given Attention (to listen), Affection (caring), Appreciation (to notice the good things in others), and Acceptance (don’t try to change the other person), the limbic brain goes into dysfunction. The limbic brain is very important to our well-being, because it regulates autonomic and endocrine functions based on emotional stimuli, and subsequently reinforces behaviour. Dr. Chopra says that childhood experiences create the set point for happiness as we grow older. That set point for happiness influences our biological state (are you naturally happy or not), and depends on the degree to which you received the 4 A’s as a baby and child. The happiness set point in the brain determines 50% of the happiness experienced daily.
According to Dr. Chopra, children who did not receive the 4A’s in sufficient amounts, react to social situations as follows (ego control dramas):
- They try to control the situation by being nice to the person from whom they want something.
- The second ego control drama after being nice is to be nasty, such as throwing a temper tantrum.
- The third ego control drama is to pout, be stubborn, or to withdraw.
- The fourth ego control drama is to play the victim (“you don’t love me; you love my siblings more”; etc.).
Once you become aware of your passive or aggressive tendencies to complain, to condemn, to criticize, to withdraw (aloof), or to play the victim, the behaviour previously programmed by the environment (“monkey sees, monkey does”), can be changed. Conscious effort and repetition can rewire the brain more positively, which in turn raises the happiness set point.
Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs
Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), a 20th century American psychologist, created a theory of motivational psychology called “The Hierarchy of Needs”. These are innate human needs that start with basic survival and progress until culminating in self-actualization. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
- Physiological Needs: Survival – Homeostasis, food, water, shelter, sleep
- Safety Needs: Security – Personal security, financial security, health and well-being
- Social Belonging: Connection – Family, friendships, intimacy
- Esteem: The Self – Status, recognition, attention, strength, competence, self-confidence, independence, freedom
- Self-Actualization: Spiritual & Higher Self – Utilizing abilities & talents, pursuing goals, seeking happiness, mate acquisition, parenting
While observing monkeys (or primates – the literature varies), Maslow perceived that the monkeys exhibited different behaviours depending on the level of the need that had to be met. The lower down on the pyramid the need (survival-based), the more urgent, aggressive, agitated, or violent the behaviour of the seeker (fear-based behaviour). The higher up on the pyramid the need (the closer to self-actualization), the more inter-personal, inter-relational, trusting, and collaborative the behaviour (trust-based behaviour). Maslow noticed the same behavioural patterns in humans.
Tony Robbins’ Six Human Needs
Anthony (Tony) Jay (Mahavorick) Robbins, American life coach, author, and philanthropist, took Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and developed the Six Core Human Needs. These needs are the needs of the personality: Certainty, Variety, Significance, and Love & Connection; and the spiritual needs: Growth, and Contribution.
- Certainty: This is the need to feel secure and safe in the now and the future. Life has to stay the same – certainty – an impossible expectation. The individual whose most prevalent human need is certainty will constantly try to control their environment and avoid new situations. This individual is motivated to avoid pain and painful situations, and to gain pleasure and certainty. Pitfalls to avoid are falling into a rut, procrastination, obsessive compulsive behaviour, over-eating or over-exercising.
- Variety/Uncertainty: This individual is the adrenaline and dopamine junkie, the rebel, the risk-taker, and diametrically opposed to the individual who is driven by certainty. Novelty, unknowns, and change are the name of the game! These individuals may change jobs and relationships as frequently as their underwear. They are loads of fun but tough to live with. They have a need for the unknown. Pitfalls include feelings of overwhelm, substance abuse, creating drama and problems just to create variety, and self-sabotage.
- Significance: This individual has a need to be recognized, to feel unique, important, needed, and special. They are leaders, goal-oriented, and become masters in their field. They keep checks and balances by constantly checking how they measure up to others. They have to know more, suffer more, reach higher, be better than those around them. They associate with people who they view as lesser than them. They make great achievers and the most tortured of martyrs or victims. Pitfalls include some rebellion, putting others down, gossip, lying or skewing facts, promiscuity, and martyrdom.
- Connection/Love: Close and loving relationships drives this individual. At the positive end of the spectrum relationships will be very fulfilling for this individual. They are very supportive, show unconditional love, and do well in interdependent relationships. At the negative end of the spectrum this individual will sacrifice themselves to care for the needs of others in order to maintain a partnership or friendship. Pitfalls include unhealthy relationships, connecting to others through problems (e.g. drugs, dramas), neediness, manipulation, and self-harm to control others.
- Growth: When growth is the individual’s foremost need, they will strive for constant improvement in all aspects of themselves such as their capacities, capabilities, and understanding. Teaching what they learn will cement and expand their knowledge base. The eternal vie for growth has to be balanced to avoid falling into the pit of perfectionism. The cost of perfectionism is increased stress, and reduced rest and relaxation. Pitfalls include not applying what they learn and perfectionism.
- Contribution: Winston Churchill said: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Contribution helps us to connect with others, our community, and our tribe through service, helping, supporting and giving to others. Contribution should not, however, come at the expense of neglecting the self or those closest to the individual. Pitfalls include giving in order to get, and not learning the balance of giving and taking.
What is the order of your six basic needs or the order of the needs in those closest to you? How do you (and those closest to you) fill your needs? If you understand how you relate to the world through these basic needs, you can achieve your goals by implementing behaviours that take advantage of your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Understanding how others relate through the mirror of the six human needs, will strengthen your relationships.
Now that we have looked at the roles each one of us take on within our families, we will look at how parents influence the personalities of their children. Parents’ parenting style influences the roles their children adopt in their relationships throughout their lives. Dr. Mary Pipher, in her book “Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls”, mentions two broad family dimensions and how the interaction of these family dimensions affect the role teenagers take on within the family and how they relate to the outside world:
Two Family Dimensions
- Affection Based Dimension: The parents are accepting, responsive, child-centered versus rejecting, unresponsive, parent-centered.
- Control Strategy Dimension: The parents are undemanding, low in control versus demanding, high in control.
Within the interaction of these two dimensions (type of affection given and type of control strategies used), the following behaviours are the outcomes for teenagers:
- Low-control & Low-acceptance Parents (aloof) = Teenagers who have a variety of behavioural issues, including delinquency and chemical dependency.
- High-control & Low-acceptance Parents (authoritarian) = Teenagers who are socially inadequate, lacking in confidence.
- Low-control & High-acceptance Parents (indulgent) = Teenagers who have high impulsivity, low responsibility, low independence.
- High-control & High-acceptance Parents (strict but loving) = Teenagers who are independent, socially responsible, confident.
We are all born with two driving needs: to find connection and to avoid rejection. When you believe that you’re not enough, you set yourself up for rejection. You avoid talking to strangers and disconnect yourself. We look at the external world to validate the beliefs we hold about ourselves. Thoughts are electrical and vibrate at a certain frequency. The frequency that we broadcast through our thoughts attract back to us people with similar thoughts. This frequency also affects thought patterns in the people around us. That is why an agitated person agitates those around him/her, or why a calm person can calm down agitated people in his/her vicinity. Nervous energy blocks connection with others. Presenting yourself to the world knowing that you are enough and lovable, will attract people who accept you as confident, knowledgeable, worth listening to, and easy to fall in love with.
“First you make your beliefs, and then your beliefs make you. So make your beliefs amazing, all of the time.” – Marisa Peer
As mentioned before, in our caveman days, rejection by the tribe would have killed us. That is no longer true. We will experience rejection from lovers, friends, bosses, family, even strangers, but the trick is to not take it personally. Rejection makes us emotionally stronger and more resilient. Actually, rejection gives us the opportunity to step back and evaluate the lesson, to see where we should change, or whether to go into a new direction. Rejection is God’s protection. Use rejection to move forward or bounce back. Marisa Peer says that, “it is the bounce-back factor that makes you bullet proof against rejection. The only person that can reject you is you”.
The combination of low self-esteem + the fear of rejection = a high maintenance person. This person constantly needs approval and praise, acts needy and clingy, is demanding, and constantly needs proof of your love for them. Their constant fear of rejection feeds their belief of being unlovable and unworthy, putting the onus on their partner/friend to meet all their needs.
So how do we rejection-proof ourselves? According to Marisa Peer, raise your self-esteem by telling yourself that you are enough and by praising yourself. You praising yourself is more powerful than receiving praise from other people. Your mind believes what you tell it. When you praise yourself, use vocabulary that provokes amazing images in your mind and makes you feel phenomenal. Tell yourself that you are kind, worthy, enough, amazing, lovable, and have great coping skills. However, be careful not to link self-love to transient external factors such as weight, dress size, physical attributes, intelligence, a job, a relationship, etc. It is important to love yourself just the way you are, and focus on your internal beauty and strengths.
In order to rejection-proof yourself and to have beautiful relationships with all people, you have to meet your own needs. It is not your fault that your parents, circumstances, external life, did not meet your needs as a child. However, if you can read and understand this, it has become your responsibility to meet your own needs. No one else can do that for you except you yourself. The quintessential me, myself, and I is responsible to meet my own needs.
Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships… the ability of all people, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world, at peace. – Franklin D. Roosevelt
We all have unmet needs and we are all imperfect, resulting in imperfect relationships. We cannot fix other people, only ourselves. Learn from each failure by meeting the unfulfilled need within yourself. What makes you lovable is being real, warm, and down to earth. Connect with people, truly connect, deeply and profoundly. This will nurture your soul and raise your happiness set point. Loving others starts by loving yourself. Having compassion for yourself allows you to have compassion for others. Love is not blind; infatuation is. Love sees all and is big enough, compassionate enough, empathetic enough, kind enough, and accepting enough to envelope the good with the bad, the perfect with the imperfect, the joy with the pain. In order to love you, I have to love myself first. Relationships … it’s all about love.