Throughout history, love existed in the human imagination more than it was ever experienced.
It became the leitmotif of fairy tales, poems, movies and myths. I would even go as far as saying that it has been the cornerstone of our collective storytelling. The core around which we built the meaning of life, as years and centuries went by.
That’s one facet of love: the narrative. This narrative has, over time, created certain guidelines we abided by. For example, the one that true love must conquer everything else and thrive no matter what. Or, that there is a special person out there, with whom each of us is meant to experience true love.
But one of the guidelines prevailed more than the others. It was the underlying, unspoken message of all our love narratives.
Something that no one would question, as everybody was too absorbed with their quest of looking for love to question the basics. Love was placed so high on the ladder of human desires that it became the ultimate goal even among all chaos, war and disease bothering humanity. We were never concerned with making peace as much as with our search for the passionate, ever-absorbing and, quite honestly, addictive feeling.
But one condition we have been putting on all our love might well have been the very thing that prevented us from experiencing it.
This condition was that we needed another human to experience love. And not just any human. It had to be “The One,” who would magically enable us to transcend reality. The One, who would make us feel hurt, ecstatic and infinite all at once. And if, for some reason, we couldn’t seem to find The One — or The One was forbidden, like for Romeo and Juliet — then love was simply out of our reach.
And correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that this became a major tragedy for many.
Even though all of it was just an artificial narrative — humans believed it. Being prone to learning from stories as we are, we took the narrative as true, and so it became our reality. For long centuries, we couldn’t experience love unless we found The One.
Luckily, today the narrative is opening to new possibilities — and so we are entering the new paradigm of love.
The Self-Love Movement
You may be fed up with all the talk along the lines of “you have to love yourself before you love anyone else.” Why is it, though? It is worth asking the question, because it’s this talk precisely that opens the door to the new paradigm of love.
It is a possibility to experience love on our own, even when The One is not around. I think that’s a cool possibility, no?
One reason the self-love movement triggers discomfort in me personally is that I still don’t know how to fully love myself. I mean: it is a fucking hard thing to do, taking the upbringing I received and the world I grew up in. And this is not to say that I had a particularly traumatic childhood. I just think it is common and natural not to love ourselves in the culture that encourages us to… well, do quite the opposite.
Because we live in a capitalist society, the focus is on “not enough” rather than on “we are abundant.” We keep our eyes on the room to grow — both economically and individually — more than we look at who we already are. Since we are kids, we are encouraged to always better ourselves and outcompete others. And while this is not in itself “bad” — it has consequences.
Striving for top grades and feeling disappointed when I got a B+ while my best friend — an A. Being told that a girl shouldn’t do this and that if she wants to be seen as “nice” or “graceful.” Getting laughed at by other kids when I had acne, grew first armpit hair or said an awkward joke. Being told that no one will like me if I keep being who I am.
I am quite certain that things like that happened not just to me — but to you too, and to most of us who were raised in this system. At the same time, I don’t believe it is anybody’s fault that we had to experience that. It’s just the cultural baggage that we are collectively carrying at the moment.
But this doesn’t change the fact that these experiences imprint us with something less than self-love. They put a mark on us that we have to live with — until we are finally ready to heal ourselves.
This is why the self-love movement is a great opportunity for every boy and every girl on this planet to come out of their shell. Not all at once, of course. First, we dip a toe in the ocean of what may be possible if we get past our insecurities and embrace ourselves exactly as we are. Then, step by step, we discover that the monsters we thought were waiting for us out there are just in our heads.
Finally, we may come out clean about who we are.
Loving (With) Others
Once we are at peace with who we are, we also get to experience love — as opposed to telling stories about it. And that’s where another major surprise awaits us. What Shakespeare would call “love” when writing Romeo and Juliet may not be synonymous with our experience of it.
The fact that we are now able to feel love on our own turns it all upside down. We start naming particular feelings as “love” — or we may even go as far as saying that “love is pure vibration.” No matter how we verbalise it, the shift is profound when we start seeing love as a given that we discover– rather than something that needs to be manufactured.
The consequences extend far. Once the universal nature of love becomes clear and we experience it enough times to know it to be true — there is no other reasonable choice than ceasing to ask other people for love. This pursuit becomes futile as we realize that love never came to us from “out there”. No matter what we used to believe all our lives, we now grasp it that to feel love, we merely need to tune into the resonance that existed long before us.
But until we learn how to experience love on our own, we think we need specific circumstances for love to manifest. These may include receiving flowers, having great sex, getting married or having particular types of conversation with a particular person that we “chose.” But as long as we remain in that conditional state, I don’t think we really get to choose the people we love.
Instead of choosing, we are being unconsciously driven by the desire to feel our addictive feeling. We look for another dose of our drug. And we cling to anyone whom we perceive as capable of “giving us” what we are so desperately running after.
When we know we can experience love regardless of whether we are with somebody or alone — then we finally get to choose. That’s when we take the steering wheel of our life in our own hands. We become in charge. That’s also when we start being loving with others — rather than trying to “love them” or “being loved.”
Love becomes a state of being, rather than a doing.
Expressing Love As We Please
As we transition into a new paradigm in the 21st century, there is one more important change. We are free to express our love as we please in the physical, tangible realm.
We had it so constrained by our culture for such a long time — so we may initially be confused about how to use this new freedom of ours. After all, having no choice is sometimes easier than too many choices. So we do best to take a breath and transition gently, experiment mindfully and look at our expressions of love with curiosity.
In more down-to-earth terms: for centuries, we had a one-size-fits-all agenda to follow when we were “in love.” First of all, there were only certain types of love that were allowed or even imaginable.
Romantic love was reserved for man-and-woman couples only. The man was expected to be the dominant side and initiate affection, sex and marriage — although not necessarily in this particular order. Love needed validation from the elders or even the whole community. And these are just a few of the countless rules that were indisputable.
For most of our history, love was an important tool in maintaining the social status quo. That meant that it was often controlled by people outside of the love equation, leaving relatively little say to the subjects of it. The physical manifestations of love had to abide by the ruling narrative. The role of self-expression was virtually non-existent in all of that.
Looking at how much personal freedom we have today, I can say that you and I really live in good times for love. Just take a look at all the polyamorous relationships sprouting around. At the couples who decide not to marry and either spend whole life together or simply part after their journey together is complete. At the parents who decide to raise their kids in a myriad of unconventional ways, offering them both the freedom and the responsibility that were unimaginable in the old paradigm.
Surely, we are experimenting. We may not always know what’s best for us. We get lost. And that’s fine; as humans, we always get lost sooner or later, either way. Then we find ourselves for a brief moment — just to become perplexed again.
But this whole process of losing and finding ourselves is way more beautiful when we have the freedom to go through it with love. The kind of love that we get to choose.