Updated: Aug 7
During a recent conversation with a friend, it came up that genuine love is freely held, freely given, and formless, yet self-love involves healthy boundaries. This means that while we may hold genuine love for someone, we also may hold healthy boundaries for ourselves in relation to them. Healthy boundaries are a part of being self-loving.
I frequently hear from clients on the one hand, how their ex betrayed them, lied to them, kept hurtful secrets from them, or treated them poorly (in many cases, extremely poorly), and on the other hand, how much they love them and don't want to break up. Why is that? What's behind this inner conflict?
There's not one answer to that question, but let me share this: If someone says they love you and they treat you kindly sometimes, yet in unloving or hurtful ways most other times, it means they have a distorted and mistaken notion of what genuine love actually is. It also means they struggle to access genuine love inside. And it likely means they are living their lives out of subconscious coping strategies rather than true presence...but they don't yet realize it. This holds true for you as much as it does for them.
Strategic love points to inner wounds and habits that thwart genuine love. These are generally put in place to protect ourselves when we are young and vulnerable. While they served us once upon a time, as adults, they become obstacles.
From a place of active coping strategies, accessing genuine love is challenging, if not impossible, because our strategies are how we compensate for the places we fear we are not good enough inside. And believing we are not good enough means we are unable to genuinely love our whole selves...which then means we aren't able to share genuine love with others because we can't share what we don't already have.
Some people believe they are being genuinely loving of others simply by virtue of showing them kindness. I'm guessing that most of us could say we've been that person at some point in our lives. What I have learned is that such actions, when born out of our (subconscious) coping strategies, are not genuine. They are deeply rooted in something else, something that bears strings and is ultimately self-serving. Some people might even describe such actions as controlling or manipulative, despite how they appear on the surface.
As I said before, we can't share what we don't already have. There is a big difference between the energy of genuine love versus strategic love. Genuine love flows freely out of an inner experience of genuine compassion, self-love and a sense of inner wholeness, fullness, and thriving. When we are full and overflowing with pure love inside, we want to—and more easily and joyfully do—share that same sense of love with others. In relationships, this expresses as such things as sacred relating, and genuine joy, compassion, kindness and empathy.
In contrast, strategic love flows out of an inner lack of genuine compassion and self-love, and a sense of scarcity, self-judgement or rejection, and survival. When we are full and overflowing with an undercurrent of fear and/or self-rejection inside, we grasp for and cling to the things we believe will relieve it. In relationships, this expresses as such things as unhealthy attachments, distress, neediness, withholding, blaming, passive-aggression, pleasing, control, manipulation, and selfishness.
Few people I know are willing to look deeply enough within themselves to resolve the distortions of love they live with. It's a journey not everyone chooses to make, and certainly not one we generally master in a lifetime. It demands a great courage and a precise dismantling of the conditioned habits that (subconsciously) hold our coping strategies and protections in place. And it demands this over and over and over again.
Choosing this journey takes the heart and spirit of a warrior, which is where the term spiritual warrior comes from. It refers to the battle within, the one between the conditioned self (our ego, ego mind, ego self, pain body, subconscious psyche, fear, conditioned mind...call it what you will) and the higher self (our essence, intuitive mind, divine self, intuition, pure love, intuitive self, infinite wisdom, genuine self, infinite self, original face), the finite and infinite parts of who we are. And this, my friends, is the journey of spiritual awakening and evolution.
I've heard it said that choosing this path is not for the faint of heart, yet in my experience, making this journey is much easier and more fulfilling than living a life controlled by our hidden fears and strategies. Just ask any of the women in my H.E.L.P. program tribe. They are, as I am, living examples of what that journey looks like and the inner fulfillment it offers, even as messy and ugly as it is at times.
The path may feel like a scary rollercoaster ride at first, as the car we're riding in clanks and climbs its way upward along the tracks, filling us with anxiety at the unknown realm beyond the next hill's crest. Then suddenly, we are cast wildly downward into the dark, hidden regions of our being. With dedication, eventually the tracks beneath our car and the ground beneath our feet level off, and we come to coast along the path, enjoying the ride and the beautiful scenery around us.