Issue 94 –
Falling In Love: Part 2
Changes in Our Selves
Hal & Sidra Stone
When we fall in love, the pusher that usually sets our pace is overridden. Suddenly, everything that was ever so important can wait a bit while we spend hours on the telephone or squeeze out a few more minutes for a romantic dinner or find just the right gift for the beloved. We may discover, much to our surprise, that we have a Dreamer who likes to spend hours thinking lovely thoughts, or a Romantic who reads poetry, takes long walks, watches the sunsets, and engages in many other similarly non-productive activities. We may even discover a self-indulgent self that loves to spend great amounts of time and much money on non-essential items.
Before she met Bob, Susan’s pusher was the general manager in her life, and Susan was careful to use all of her time productively. Then she fell in love. She now decides to take time from her busy schedule to go to the hairdresser, to shop, to have her nails manicured . She spends money on perfume and somehow finds the time to indulge in long hot baths. She discovers that she most assuredly has a luxury loving self that had been totally disowned, pushed out of the picture by her ever eager pusher. Before she fell in love, Susan was totally unaware that any part of her might enjoy these activities.
When we are deeply in love, the critic, who up until now has evaluated our appearance and our productivity in life with a fairly jaundiced eye, suddenly seems to disappear. Instead, we look into our lover’s eyes and see ourselves mirrored back in all our beauty. For this magical period, we are lovely just as we are, and whatever it is that we do is just fine. Even our usually unattractive idiosyncrasies become charming when mirrored in the eyes of someone who loves us unconditionally. As the critic loses its power, we are free to create, enjoy, explore, and feel. As we no longer feel the power of this critical presence in our lives, we can become more creative and more loving, to say nothing of less stressed!
Someone once said that the most beautiful songs that are ever sung are those sung to infants by their mothers, songs that will never be heard by anyone else. And this may well be true. Because when we have fallen in love with a child who in turn loves us unconditionally, we want to communicate with it from our very hearts, and there is no critic commenting upon the quality of this communication.
A woman in her late twenties, Mary has been doing a good but apparently uninspired job at her work. She falls in love and suddenly her work flourishes. She becomes relaxed, creative, humorous, and almost brilliant. Her critic has taken a back seat and no longer paralyzes her with self-conscious indecision. Mary has gained access to her natural courage and spontaneity and is able to use them freely without undue interference.
Somehow, when we are in love, the perfectionist becomes less important because now the world does not need improving. It is beautiful just the way it is. We look at it through the proverbial rose-colored glasses. We change our focus completely and even see the flowers growing on garbage heaps. We, too, are spared the perfectionist’s scrutiny, and we can go about our lives in a more relaxed fashion.
For example, everything had to be done just right for Esther. She could not leave anything half done or undone. She could not go to bed at night until all the dishes were done, the latest bills were paid and the checkbook balanced . Of course, her house was always spotless and her office well organized. She never left anything on her desk at night. Nothing was less than perfect.
Then Esther fell in love. Everything in her life began to look pretty good to her. Now, not only does everything seem pretty fine just the way that it is, but her priorities have begun to change, and her perfectionist seems to have disappeared completely. Her new boyfriend, Andrew, is more relaxed about everything and she, too, has become more relaxed. Her own inner “Andrew” has emerged. Esther now works well but not compulsively. She is able to view her life in a more balanced fashion, approaching tasks in a relaxed manner. For the first time, she has some choice about how, and when, she wants to do things.
Surprisingly enough, when we are in love, we no longer need the pleaser because everything we do seems to please our beloved and we are free to be totally ourselves. Now we are able to trust ourselves and our own tastes and desires, since they are accepted so unconditionally by the person who is most important to our vulnerable child. We might even develop a selfish self. This is particularly likely if we have had a tendency to spend a good deal of time in the good parent or the pleaser. Since we want to spend much of our time with the loved one, we will, of necessity, do less for other people in our lives and will have to say no.
As a devoted and dutiful daughter, Angela has learned to ignore her own needs. Then she falls in love. She is no longer able to put her mother’s interests ahead of her own because this new relationship is too important to her. Therefore, she must separate from the dutiful daughter part of her and claim time for herself, thus incorporating her selfish part.
When we fall in love, the rational self, which has been evaluating life and setting up expectations that are sensible and realistic (in its view), begins to look too narrow in its approach . Up until now, it has decided which feelings are appropriate in any given situation, rejecting those that seem immature, volatile, or, worse yet, overly optimistic. As we experience the rush of excitement that often accompanies falling in love, we may find that the sober view of the rational self recedes into the background, and in its place we find a cock-eyed optimist.
Laura had learned not to expect too much from life. Her childhood had been difficult and her mother had disappointed her with great regularity. Even when she first met Larry, she was afraid to let herself go completely. But, somehow, his love and persistence worked their way through her reserve and touched her deeply. She fell in love. To her great surprise, she found that she no longer analyzed every aspect of their relationship. Instead of her usual cautious and rational approach, she was excited and optimistic. As her optimist emerged, Laura realized that she had a wonderfully spontaneous sense of humor that had never before appeared in her life.
The emergence of these disowned selves brings with it a double gift of psychological energy. First, as we have seen, each new self brings a new kind of energy into our lives. The brain research reported by Michael Gazzaniga suggests that there are actually different brain modules for different subpersonalities or selves. Thus, we are likely to be activating unuse d portions of our brains with each disowned self that comes to the surface. Secondly, an enormous amount of psychic energy is used to keep disowned selves disowned or repressed. The process of disowning or repressing is an active one that robs us of vitality that can be experienced in other areas of our lives.
Thus, as Laura brings forth her optimist, she not only adds to her life all the humor, hopes, and enthusiastic perceptions of the optimist, but all the energy that was required to keep these perceptions from awareness. Each time in the past that Laura’s optimist might have said, “That’s great!”, her rational self would have had to use an equal and opposite energy to push it down and replace that thought with, “Don’t get too excited, you’ll just be disappointed. Things never work out.”