If you see yourself as a lover of love but seem to always seem to end up being hurt and disappointed by your lovers or in some way sabotage or lose interest in your lovers, you must read this. I have written a lot on my blog about psychology of sexual fantasies and even on love. This exploration, I believe, is the single most important post I will ever share. Read it slow and reflect on it.
In Seven Loves: An Introduction, I briefly explored the concept known as the Triangle of Love. In short, we considered how passion, intimacy, and commitment interact to form seven types of love: friendship, infatuation, empty love, romantic love, companionate love, fantasy love, and consummate love. I left off with the suggestion that most of us tend to see romantic love as our ultimate destination. In this exploration, I will explain why this is a problem and, more often than not, leaves us broken and unfulfilled. I will also offer a couple possible solutions.
Romantic love gives us the sensation of being possessed by love and intoxicated by our lover. As we soar to new heights of enlightenment, we realize we have finally found the ultimate meaning and fulfillment of our soul in our lover. Life takes on a new splendor and intensity that seems to open our eyes to the meaning of love…even life. The world is brighter, we feel alive and vibrant, and are completely engulfed in love’s magical spell. Our love is intense, overwhelming, and all consuming. It may even be impossible that anyone has ever loved like this before. This is kind of love that inspires movies, novels, and songs.
Romantic love, unfortunately, is a transitional space. After its zenith, we come to a fork on the road in love’s journey. At this juncture, one road ahead leads to consummate love (our true destination). The other road (which includes trying stay in this transitional space) will lead to disillusionment and despair. Many of us, myself included, have taken the road to disillusionment too many times. Why does it happen over and over? Perhaps a better understanding of romantic love will help me and others in the journey for consummate love.
Primary references in this exploration of love are the writings of psychologist, Carl Jung and the book, WE: The Psychology of Romantic Love by Robert Johnson. WE explores the origins and meaning of romantic love and shows how a proper understanding of its psychological dynamics can revitalize our most important relationships.
Once we have been intoxicated by romantic love, we don’t want to lose that feeling. It is like a drug-induced euphoria. We also know the feelings that comes over us as this high dissipates. Damn it. Where is that feeling of divine, transcendent ecstasy and the intense emotional connection we felt early on in the relationship? They don’t talk or write as much, they don’t come over as often, they don’t do this or they don’t do that anymore. We become frustrated, lonely, and even angry at them for failing to lift our spirit…for failing us and not living up to their promises. This love was supposed to be different. Ultimately, we crash and burn. Then, we start the cycle over again in search of another high – courtesy of romantic love.
When we strive to rise above and beyond ourselves into something unified, extraordinary, and limitless – like the feelings around romantic love – we are having divine aspirations. When we look for this in love, we treat love as religion and our soul delivers. It is the nature of the soul to flow towards perfection.
As this relates to love, it is helpful to consider sexual archetypes. In men, the sexual archetype of an ideal woman is his Anima and she is unique to each man. For women, her ideal man is Animus. Within this ideal, each person has an innate sense of what it would mean to join as soul mates forming a divine couple.
The problem occurs when we project our inner spirituality (Anima) on people in the outer world for fulfillment. Anima is infinite perfection. She is everything I want and she never disappoints. When I project her onto a real woman, Anima does what is in her nature. She pulls this lovely finite and imperfect being towards the infinite and the great archetypal themes: splendor, timeless beauty, betrayer and the betrayed, lover and beloved, warrior and priestess, conqueror and conquered, protagonist and antagonist, dominant and submissive, etc… Anima is filled with infinite extremes and contrast.
Anima is perfection, and given our lives are just brief blips on the timeline of humanity, she may demand that her existence is unique – it would be impossible for anything as perfect as her to have ever existed before. And, we believe her. Wrong. Anima has existed in every living soul across all of time.
We project Anima/Animus on another person and want to think our experience is unlike any other before and that no one can understand or grasp its intensity and depth of what we share. It is impossible that two people have loved like this before. We are kidding ourselves. It is part of the human experience and hundreds of millions…even billions have felt what we are feeling. It is part of nature. Through our soul projecting, we each create our own cosmic drama and epic love story into the outer world. Our emotions and physical reactions are real way but what is are reacting to, at its core, is an illusion.
The problem with soul projecting is that no person can sustain the projection of another’s soul indefinitely. I cannot be someone’s eternal light, source of spiritual fulfillment, and eternal bliss. I am imperfect and finite. I cannot expect someone else to be this for me either. Yet, we all do it. I call you my soul mate, and you call me your soul mate. For a time, we burn like wild fire with love and passion for each other. It feels like we are walking hand-in-hand in the garden of the gods – we are a divine couple. We each sustain the divine projection of one another’s soul for a time but inevitably, like wild fires do, we burn out.
So, how do we handle Anima/Animus? Do I ignore her? Or, do I keep projecting her on women and riding the emotional rollercoaster on a Don Quixote-like quest for divine love and ecstasy? I can’t ignore my Anima. She is a real part of my inner, spiritual world. Rather than ignoring her, I can celebrate, express, and tend to my Anima through my romantic and erotic thoughts, meditations, dreams, and art. Many of us may be doing this, knowingly or not, on WordPress through our writings or art and find it very fulfilling. In a very real way, we are tending to our inner world and spirituality.
I will also catch traces of Anima in the outer world. I should embrace and savor those moments for what they are – projections of my soul bursting forth in the outer world and being projected on real person. However, I must recognize the source of this intense spiritual release and have the awareness that this woman can’t sustain this projection as an infinite state of being. We can learn from the wisdom and spirituality of the ancient Greeks. Even their most ecstatic god, Dionysus, was celebrated in two states – present and absent. One cannot sustain transcendent Dionysian ecstasy – even Dionysus. The timeless pattern of energy expenditure and renewal and coming and going was recognized in Dionysus.
In the context of love and sexuality, some of us crave romantic love more than others. We long to feel the presence of transcendent spiritual and physical ecstasy – the presence of Dionysus. To ourselves, we say that we deserve this type of love. We demand it of our lovers and, eventually they fail us, we drive them away…it happens over and over. Our lovers fail to carry the projection of our soul – Anima/Animus.
What can we do about this pattern? We must begin by really understanding what we are doing. We must recognize our inner dream and actually take steps to set it free in the outer world in a realistic way. It will require open, trusting, and non-judgmental communication with our lover. And, it will require our lover to do the same with us.
Many aspects of a relationship may be good but perhaps the sexual energy isn’t where we would like it to be. After a thoughtful conversation, a lover may be willing to role play aspects of our Anima/Animus and we can do the same for him or her. Even then, as real as those worldly sensations feel, we must embrace them as transient with the expectation that it will rise and fall over time. Expecting anyone to live up to our soul’s divine perfection (Anima/Animus) with consistency as a way of life only leads to disillusionment.
If we can accept this, we can savor the moments where we taste perfection without the disillusionment that comes with expecting divine ecstasy as a state of perpetual being. If we are able to see the truth in romantic love and recognize the dance of illusion, we may escape the burn out and disillusionment that destroys our relationships. If we can achieve this we are on the road to consummate love.
We need to communicate the importance of our inner aspirations to our lover in a way that is real and sustainable rather than expecting infinite divine ecstasy as the norm and feeling hurt and rejected when our lover fails us. We also need to be as acutely aware of our lover’s needs and inner aspirations as we are about our own desires. Love isn’t all about me and it isn’t all about you. Consummate love is all about us.