Issue 95 –
Falling In Love: Part 3
The Gift Of Selves
Drs Hal & Sidra Stone
What a marvelous gift of selves is brought by the beloved when we fall in love! This gift is brought in two ways. The first, as we have already seen, is the natural release of a number of disowned selves when the status quo is disrupted and our primary group of selves is relieved of some of its power. As the primary self loses power, the complementary disowned self usually emerges.
The second way in which we gain access to new selves begins with the psychological mechanism of projection. We literally project upon the other person qualities that may or may not be his/hers. When we first fall in love, these projections are all positive. The beloved represents much that we want to be. As we see these attributes in the other person, the selves within us that would match these attributes become activated. It is as though an energetic resonance is set up and the two energies become synchronized.
At first , we are not aware that we have the matching self within us. We may feel simple and see our beloved as wise; we may be fearful and see the other as brave; we may feel mundane and see the other as romantic and creative.
The beloved can be anyone, not just a lover. When this process of projection occurs in a patient-therapist relationship, it is called transference. The therapist or teacher is seen as having a wide variety of attributes that mirror the selves that are not accessible to us because they are either unconscious or disowned.
An unconscious self is just that-a self that has not been made conscious-while a disowned self is one that has been actively pushed out by an opposing primary self. The disowned selves that are projected upon the beloved are often emotionally charged. There is a reason that these selves have been disowned and the primary selves have had an interest in keeping them disowned. We want to be safe in life, and these are the selves that might be unsafe. That is why it takes a powerful experience like falling in love to upset the orderly progression of our lives. Let us see how this process works.
Eleanor had been raised by very rational parents who were not affectionate. She often felt rejected and learned at an early age that if she cared too much, she was likely to get hurt. Eleanor learned to bury her natural exuberance and eventually became an extremely successful businesswoman. She was proud of her level-headed, sophisticated, and rational approach to life. She never took emotional chances ; in fact, she disowned her emotionality completely. She hid her vulnerability and lived a life that was self-sufficient, taking very good care of herself in every area of life. She was even sure to have many boyfriends, so that she did not get too involved with any one of them.
When Eleanor fell in love with Steve, everything changed. Steve was an unabashed romanticist who worshipped intense feelings. She found this aspect of him absolutely charming; in fact, it was the quality in him that most attracted her.
In order to build a bridge to him and to give him the depth of emotional contact that he required, she needed to gain access to her own buried emotions. She found that she had within her an emotional teenager, a part that had never been allowed in her life before. She discovered that she was surprisingly reactive to Steve, happy when he called, miserable when he did not. She knew what her feelings were and she loved to talk about them. She loved being in love. This previously disowned teenager brought with her a new aliveness that had never before been a part of Eleanor’s experience of life. She was not always happy, but her life was truly exciting and intense. It was the kind of life that she had so often envied in others.
When John was a child, he played make-believe games and wrote short stories. He was a dreamer, and he loved to create for the sake of creativity. His parents were hard working people who saw no use in his daydreaming. They would chastise him for being foolish and wasting time . He was told that he was to be productive at all times. He was teased and embarrassed whenever he spent time daydreaming and, fairly soon, his creative self was disowned. John learned to work hard; he got the recognition that he wanted from his parents, and he soon forgot all about his childhood enjoyment and the many happy hours he had spent playing pretend.
When he fell in love, John chose a writer who specialized in fiction. He had no thought that he could write, too. Instead, he idolized her and her ability to use words and to create. As she wrote poetry to him, he longed to speak to her in her own language, to connect in a deeper way. He wanted this so badly that he no longer felt the embarrassment about his creativity that he had learned in his family home. His own creative self re-emerged and he began to write poetry and short stories. He then remembered the happiness he had felt as a child, and he was able to regain access not only to this happiness but also to the poet’s view oflife that was naturally his.
A woman of the 1950s, Barbara learned that in order to be taken care of, she had to disown her own strength and her natural abilities in the business world. She did this so well that she identified fully with her helpless child and married a strong; very domineering man who demanded complete control of her life. After they were divorced, she fell in love with Andy, a sensitive man who greatly admired her sophistication and power. In response to his encouragement, she was free to become as powerful as she wished, and she developed a most impressive businesswoman self that brought with it many rewards.
Thus far, the selves we have examined have been disowned selves. Another way in which we encounter new selves during the process of falling in love is when we bring forth a previously unconscious self. We do this when we develop a completely new self through the contact with the beloved. Because we love and admire the other, we are willing to learn something new or to try out a different way of being in the world. We may eat sushi for the first time. We may have been brought up in a completely disorganized family, and when we fall in love, we might well choose someone who knows how to organize life. We learn the necessary skills from the beloved and add them to our own repertoire. It is not that we disowned sushi, we just hadn’t tried it; it is not that we disowned organization, we just did not know how to organize.
As an academician, Georgia did not have much time for physical activity in her life. She met Brad, who was an avid scuba diver, and he encouraged her to learn to dive. She earned her certification with her usual thoroughness and was extremely happy with her new skills.
Ernie had been raised in a working class home and had not been exposed to the cultural activities available in his city. He entered therapy with a female therapist who at some point mentioned that she had gone to a symphony concert. Although he had never done so before, Ernie decided to attend a concert, too, in order to see what it would be like. He enjoyed himself thoroughly and discovered a love of classical music that remained long after the therapy ended.
Keeping the Gift
These gifts are priceless. Each new self adds immeasurably to our enjoyment of life and to the intensity with which we live. Of greatest importance, each new self enhances our consciousness and represents a step forward in our personal evolutionary process.
Unfortunately, many of us confuse the gift with the giver of the gift. When the falling in love part of a relationship is over–or, for that matter, when the relationship itself is over-we return the gift to the giver. We feel that somehow these new selves are not truly ours, and we go back to our old patterns of living. Sadder still are those amongst us who retrench further and allow even greater power to our previously dominant selves, because they have “proven” to us again that we need to go through life according to their rules, so that we will remain safe and avoid disappointment.
If, instead, we treasure the gifts that have been given in a relationship, if we treasure the new selves that have emerged during this magical period, then the relationship has added something new to our lives. In this way, each relationship leaves behind an expanded consciousness and the gift of new or enhanced selves .