So, I left my Theories of Personality class crying yesterday and when I was traipsing through the library to get to my office, my friend asked me if I was OK and here’s what I said: “I’ve been teaching college for 28 years at 3 institutions and this was the best class in my life!” And I meant it. It gave me chills and the warmest feeling in my heart. Damn I love my students! 😃
Anyhoot, we are talking about Erich Fromm and discussed the “Art of Loving” and while doing so, we reviewed the 4 elements Dr. Fromm said were necessary for true love:
- Care – the active concern for the life and the growth of that which we love.
- Responsibility – the voluntary act (not obligation) to be ready to respond to the psychic needs of the other person.
- Respect – (literally means ‘to look at’) ability to see a person as they are and to be aware and accepting of their growth. Seeing the person as a unique person who is NOT an object for use.
- Knowledge – the knowing of a person on a deep, intimate level in which you can ‘see’ when they are hurt, angry, upset, etc. even in the face of their denial.
Each of these is difficult to define and can differ depending on the people involved and their circumstances. Seen in these terms, love is hard work, but it is also the most rewarding kind of work. Do you agree? I sure as fuck (ma? Are you there? 😬) do!
Dr. Fromm also goes on to state: Love is an art and has to be practiced like any other art; it requires discipline, concentration, patience, and a supreme concern to master the art. Those are some pretty hard things to do, aren’t they?
Well, my students started discussing this and they had such insight and examples from their own lives and relationships. And of course, I had a few tidbits to share as well.
Why is it we work so so hard at other ‘love’ relationships in our lives, but when intimate, partner relationships get tough, we walk away? It’s almost like relationships are expendable nowadays. Not ‘happy’? Go find someone else. Not ‘getting along right now?’ Go find someone else. ‘Arguing?’ Go find someone else. I mean really…isn’t it easier just to jump on an app and find another person to be with? It’s a hell of a lot easier than working…trying…being patient. Right?
Heh? SO…when O was a little guy and he was sick and cranky and I was ‘unhappy’, I should have walked away? When he was a teenager and we argued about various things, I should have walked away? When he comes over and starts yapping about religion where his views are different than mine (vastly different 🙄) I should walk away?
Of course not! Duh! I love my son. Unconditionally. I have always cared for him (and it’s hard for him to understand why I still have the need to care for him even at 28). I feel a responsibility towards him and respect the amazing man he has grown into. Finally, I’ve learned to understand him…know him. And I reap those rewards everyday.
But, if these things happen in an intimate relationship, we don’t feel the need to put in the work to solve them. What does walking away do? It changes the situation, but not the people. And it’s the people who are important.
My students and I went on to talking about whether or not you need to love yourself to love others, or to have others love you. Our consensus: Oh yea!
Look, I don’t always like me…in fact, there have been times that I’ve hated what I’ve said or done. But I still love me. We all have too. We come into this world alone…with our own little souls. And we’ll leave alone…with our own little souls. When it gets right down to it, we ultimately have to depend on ourselves. People come and go. Ma and Pop will leave this earth someday (even though I have forbade them both to NOT too 😳) and it will crush me to pieces. I know it will. My son has forged a new life and I’m a part of it, but not the central piece of it that I used to be. My sissy has her own life and beautiful grandbabies to be with and take care of. In other words, people in our lives change roles…leave us…pass away…and fundamentally speaking, we have ourselves in the end.
If love is an art…a discipline…a concept to be learned and practiced like Fromm says, then can’t we do that in terms of loving ourselves even more? Can’t we learn to care for ourselves more? Carve out more time to do what makes us happy? Allow ourselves to try things that will help us grow? Take the time to explore the creative side we all have?
And what about responsibility? Don’t I need to face what is happening in my life at any given time…with kindness? Don’t I have a responsibility to myself to be the best person I can be…to myself and to others?
Respect? I think this is the piece that really grew in myself after the breakdown I experienced. I was this ‘thing’. This object. This ‘something’ that I felt had no value…no purpose…no hope. So I attempted suicide. So I cut myself. So I didn’t eat. So I didn’t shower. So I just ‘didn’t.’ Why wasn’t I still seeing ME in the midst of all that was happening? Luckily, I started too. I’m ME. Kristi. A person that deserves to be seen and loved. By others…and by me.
Further, I’m learning more and more about myself as I purposely focus on that. I’m learning I’m not a bad person because I have fucking (sorry, ma 😐) bipolar. I’m not a failure because I’ve been married 3 times (shutty 🙄). And, I’m not a horrible person because I make mistakes.
In other words? I’ve learned to treat myself like I treat others. It’s a process. A journey. It’s not selfish or narcissistic or boastful. It’s loving yet another person in my life who happens to be me.
You know, being dumped as many freaking times as I’ve been has always made me feel less than. That happened yet again a few weeks ago…being ghosted after a year of being together and after 35 years of knowing each other. That hurt. Bad. But are the dumps all my fault? Have they happened because I’m just a bad person? Nope. I’ve come to realize that the blame doesn’t rest solely on me. It rests on both people…in the context they are living in…with the baggage they carry…with the issues they have.
I do believe what Dr. Fromm says: Love is an art and has to be practiced and nurtured in order to grow. I know I can do this…I have for all of the people I love in my life, including me. If I ever find someone (🤨 ) that will see things the same, then that will be fucking fabulous (sorry again, ma). But, after class yesterday I also learned this: if I don’t, that’s ok too. Because love is in my life so much with my family and friends and students and neighbors. And…maybe most importantly of all…because it’s in me.