Faced with the recent events in America that has sparked protests around the world against racism amidst a pandemic and consequent economic turn down, I feel even more strongly about LOVE.
I’m not sure why I chose self-love as the overarching topic for 2020, but it turned out to be perfect and necessary. I have been calling it self-love, but of course, it could have easily been called love. The reason, I called it self-love, is getting people to understand that love starts with oneself. If we don’t love ourselves, or don’t feel worthy, we cannot love others. Love needs to emanate from the heart.
I know, for some this may sound too spiritual or new age. However, there’s something in this (supported by science too). Let’s just get a few things straight first:
When I talk about love and self-love, I don’t mean
- Sexual love
- Romantic love
- Not even egocentrism
The type of love I mean is not a new concept. In fact, it has been around for millennia and mentioned in ancient texts. One well known example would be from the Roman poet Virgil, who wrote around 39 BCE: “Love conquers all; let us too surrender to love”.
Virgil’s words, expressed in modern terms, and including what we now know about the human brain, mean to recognise that we have the capacity to choose love over other emotions or automatic reactions.
What are automatic reactions?
Automatic reactions can refer to recurring thoughts that are just recycled in our brains and these are literally the same thoughts over and over again. It’s easy to imagine that such thoughts are not very helpful for problem solving.
Automatic reactions can also mean that we react emotionally without thinking first. The most common automatic emotional reactions stem from negative emotions such as fear and anger. Allowing emotions to rule our behaviour tends to make things worse. Please understand that I don’t mean to suppress emotions. On the contrary, I think, it’s very important to feel the emotions, reflect on them, but not act on them.
In recent years, some new theoretical models have been proposed by psychologists and some of these models have made it into mainstream media. You may have heard of the reptilian brain and the frontal lobes. Psychologists posit that some of our automated responses are located in the so-called reptilian brain and that these don’t require sophisticated thought processes that would be found in the frontal lobes.
Some psychologists also claim that humans build schemas over time, adding similar experiences to already existing snippets of memories, that grouped together form clusters that various short-cuts derive from. These schemas or clusters are used to make thinking easier and more effective, so that we don’t have to spend too much time to work out things. This is useful in times of danger as it would make sense to be able to very quickly react to a new, but potentially dangerous situation.
Living on autopilot
However, because these shortcuts are so convenient, we often run on autopilot and avoid thinking thoroughly. Some people spend most of their daily lives on autopilot and not really living but barely surviving. This lifestyle can come in various nuances. Whilst some people live in poverty and their only focus is to get food and shelter, others in the middle classes and even upper classes – regardless of race – are doing the same thing on other levels: living on autopilot and not taking a moment to stop and reconnect with their own essence – love – or their capacity of complex thought processes.
You may wonder, and I often struggle with this, how people living in poverty, disadvantaged communities, impoverished countries etc. can even conceive the idea of love in the sense I have been discussing it. Although, there will be a higher percentage who do not get to experience love as the core of their being, some people will be able to, even in the most detrimental circumstances. Human beings are amazing, they are resilient, and they can engage their frontal lobes. This doesn’t mean that they don’t need support. My point, that love needs to start within, does not mean we can all be content to be hermits or loners and completely self-sufficient. On the contrary, we are social beings and we need support from others. We need love from within and from others.
Awareness is important
The practice of awareness is the best antidote to automated reactions. The very nature of awareness is to observe what is going on. From the place of awareness, we can find out a lot about ourselves (and others of course). For example, we can find out how we are treating ourselves. Are we loving and kind toward ourselves? This is a question that we can use in any situation. It will be very helpful, if we wish to get away from being on autopilot or being run by our emotions.
The protests against racism have touched many people. Some white people have – maybe for the first time – realised the privileges they have compared to people of colour. Guilt and fear came up for many. Whilst these feelings are important to be felt and not suppressed, it is also important to move through these feelings to finally arrive at the core, love.
Humans have the capacity to change, they have the ability to choose love and to engage in new thinking patterns. It is possible, because of our enormous frontal lobes. These lobes have developed so that we can think differently and express ourselves in so many ways. The protests, and especially the fact that they are still necessary, are sad, but there’s also light as so many people are getting behind a cause that hopefully soon will lead to equality and greater love overall.
Forgiveness is necessary
From the place of love, we can also do one very important thing, and this is forgiveness. Forgiveness, true forgiveness can only happen from the place of love, anything else is not the real thing. By forgiveness I don’t mean to excuse destructive behaviour. Forgiveness does not mean to condone or ignore atrocities that have been committed by humans to humans, it means to forgive the person at the level of love, with love being our very essence beyond race, culture, political orientation, upbringing or socio-economic status.
Once we can accept to love ourselves so deeply, we can also love others and finally forgive ourselves and others. And that’s why LOVE is the answer.
P.S. If you struggle with finding love within or forgiveness, please contact me for a complimentary session.