Issue 93 –
Falling In Love: Part 1
Drs Hal & Sidra Stone
The beginning of a relationship is indeed a magical time of wonderful feelings, great excitement, and apparently limitless possibilities. This can be true of any relationship that touches our souls. It can be true of a romantic relationship, a friendship, a relationship with a teacher, therapist, or guru. It can even be true within families.
What happens when someone falls in love? As we have said before, people are made up of many parts or selves. But each of us has a specific group of primary selves – an elite ruling group. It is this group of selves that constitutes our personality as we and those around us know it.
This group of subpersonalities, or selves, is led by the protector/controller, a self that has spent a lifetime figuring out how to get along in the world. This protector/controller has evolved a code of behavior that is appropriate to the family, the culture, and the subculture in which we have grown up. It has gathered about itself a group of selves that support it in its efforts to lead a safe life, a life that enables us to fit smoothly into our surroundings and that is approved of by other people who are important to us.
This group of primary selves helps us to fit into the world around us so that our sensitive, secret vulnerable child will, hopefully, never get hurt. Therefore, this group is usually fairly conservative. It is headed by a very careful protector/ controller, which keeps its eye on family, friends, and work associates to check out which behaviors will be rewarded and which should be avoided. It gathers about itself other selves like the perfectionist (who knows how things should be done), the critic (who shows us where we fall short of the perfectionist’s ideals), the pusher (who helps us to move along faster , always faster), the good mother or father (who makes sure that we take care of everybody else), and the pleaser (who does as others wish). These selves usually make up the elite group that dominates our lives. We identify with these selves; it is this group of selves which constitutes our personality as we view ourselves and as our friends see us.
As we have said before, for each primary self there is a complementary, or opposite, self that is disowned or kept out of consciousness. For instance, if our protector I controller is conservative and cautious, we might disown our gambler or our liberal. If we identify with our good mother or good father, we will disown our own selfish child. If we identify with our sensible, well-adjusted self, we will disown our emotional self. Our vulnerable child, the part of us that carries our vulnerability and sensitivity, is not only disowned but is usually hidden away someplace safe-like in a concrete bunker buried 60 feet beneath the cement basement floor.
When we fall in love, everything goes – topsy turvy! Most of the protector/controller’s carefully worked out rules get suspended. Somehow, our vulnerable child escapes from its “safe” hiding place and comes out to take a peek at the world that, for this wonderful period of time, seems safe enough and most definitely welcoming whenever the beloved is near. The usual crowd of primary selves loses its power and the door is left open for new selves to emerge. We go through our lives for a magical time, without our usual caution. We are able to see and hear things that we had never known before. It is as though we have entered into a new world.
The New World
When we fall in love with someone, a lover, a teacher, a therapist, our newborn son or daughter, suddenly the world is full of new possibilities. We notice a beautiful vista to the side of the road because our consciousness is changed. The castle may have been there all the time, but we never saw it before. We have a new lover and suddenly we notice the flower shops in our neighborhood. Our therapist tells us about the importance of dreams, and we notice that we dream every night. We have a baby and the entire world looks fresh and new. A beautiful song in the fifties put it quite well: “There were birds in the air but I never heard them singing, never heard them at all till there was you.”
The world is actually new to us because we are literally perceiving it through new eyes. Until now, we have lived a life governed by a small group of primary selves; we have perceived it through their particular sensory apparatus, understood it to their way of understanding, and evaluated it according to their particular values. We have identified with them and their values, and their frame of reference has been ours. Now, as we fall in love, this balance of power is disrupted. These dominant or primary selves that have governed our lives lose power because there is little threat to our well-being. For the moment, we are not in danger of being hurt and our vulnerable child is happy and safe with the beloved. As these primary selves lose power, the complementary disowned selves emerge naturally. Let us see how this might happen.