One of the biggest topics in therapy is also one of the biggest topics in life: relationships. Love, to be more specific. The amount of time we spend analyzing, pondering, ruminating, obsessing, fantasizing, and reflecting on this topic is staggering. If our romantic pining could be measured in physical reality, I’m sure we could each circle the globe several times over.
Why do we do this to ourselves? While there is no simple answer to this question, I believe it has a lot to do with our need for connection. We are meant to be in relationship…not just romantic partnerships, but all kinds of relationship. And when a connection isn’t there, or love is unrequited? Well, that energy has to go somewhere. Thus, we pine, we yearn, we wait…for someone or something outside of ourselves to fill that void. In many ways, it seems the pursuit of connection takes the place of the real connection.
In this state of love-limbo, it is easy to feel as though your heart is no longer your own. It can seem as though the reins of Love have been given to the object of your affection…but it occurs to me that this is a dangerous thing to say. The human heart is an amazing source of personal power, energy, and connection. How interesting that the common vernacular around romance always includes ‘giving our hearts away’…when it seems that is really the last thing we should do.
For all of us, but for women in particular, there is an expectation that we will regularly give of ourselves without expecting much in return. We are conditioned to believe that the more we give out, the more we will receive…and in an energetic, “Law of Attraction” kind of way, that is true. But what if we keep giving, pursuing, and pining, with no return? When is enough, enough?
I can’t help but wonder how much this focus on the love object, the Other, is really a misplaced longing for connection to spirit. We want to bond, we long for intimacy and understanding…and we forget that our hearts are already pre-filled with love. Our heart is our connection to spirit…or at the very least, that is how we most directly experience it. Asked to describe what joy or love or happiness feels like in the body, most of us will point to our chests, saying “It feels like my heart is going to burst,” or “I feel light and tingly,” or “My chest feels warm and expansive.” Our heart center is our emotional compass…but too often, we forget that we already know the way.
A few months ago, I had a revelation in the middle of the night. I’d been feeling blocked, scared to move forward with some huge personal and professional changes. I’d also been spending a lot of time in the fantasy portion of my head, struggling to create a relationship from crickets and crumbs. Something shifted in me that night, causing me to close that metaphorical door and decide to move on. Within an hour, I noticed I was feeling restless. My chest felt hot to the touch, and my thoughts were jumbled and racing…which was distressing, until I realized I was experiencing a rush of creative energy. I was having ideas again, my heart felt full, and I was excited. Could it be that I had spent so much time imagining the possible-maybe-someday occasion when I would get to start to connect and love openly, that I didn’t realize I was already, inherently, able to do so? Yikes. Instantly, I knew it was so.
Like most people, my ideal life is one where I have it all…love, companionship, intimacy, creativity, friendship, community, purpose, deep spiritual meaning and connection…and great coffee! But in the interim, in the absence of ‘all of the above,’ it is important to remember that we are not empty. Something is not necessarily missing. Pining is a sign that we have forgotten who we are, believing we need romantic validation from someone else in order to feel whole. I can see now that my heart has always been mine…a lesson learned, paradoxically, by falsely believing I had given it away.